During the first few years of President Donald Trump’s first term, ESPN’s sports coverage often included political commentary. Now, ESPN’s current president is acknowledging that fans don’t want politics with their sports, according to the Los Angeles Times.
ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro admitted during an interview with the LA Times that one of the most significant things he has accomplished since taking over in March of 2018 is getting the divisive politics off the network’s shows.
Stephen Battaglio of the LA Times writes:
So far, Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger is happy with Pitaro’s progress. Appearing at a recent investors conference, Iger credited Pitaro with dialing down the political discourse on ESPN’s debate shows and its signature program “SportsCenter,” as well as lifting ratings.
And later in the piece:
Pitaro has also satisfied ESPN’s more traditional fans by steering commentators away from political discussions on-air and on social media, which heightened during President Trump’s criticism of NFL player protests against social injustice during the playing of the national anthem.”
Without question our data tells us our fans do not want us to cover politics,” Pitaro said. “My job is to provide clarity. I really believe that some of our talent was confused on what was expected of them. If you fast-forward to today, I don’t believe they are confused.”
One of the more high-profile political conflicts ESPN has faced in the Trump era involved former personality Jemele Hill. Hill called Pres. Trump a white supremacist in a tweet, leading the White House to suggest that Hill be terminated for her post. Hill was a host on the 6 p.m. edition of SportsCenter, one of the network’s most visible shows, at the time.
Hill has since moved on to The Atlantic where she is a staff writer, and she hosts a podcast titled “Jemele Hill is Unbothered.”
Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protests also brought the intersection of sports and politics to the networks airwaves, sparking debate that some believe alienated fans and hurt ratings.
(H/T National Review)