ESPN host Dan Le Batard skipped his Monday morning radio show after a weekend conversation with network president Jimmy Pitaro over Le Batard’s on-air criticism of President Donald Trump, according to John Ourand of Sports Business Journal.
What’s the news?
After the crowd at a Trump campaign rally in North Carolina chanted “send her back” last week in reference to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Le Batard violated ESPN’s policy prohibiting on-air personalities from discussing politics on the network. Le Batard attacked the chant, the president, and even ESPN for not having the courage to delve into political issues.
Ourand reported that Le Batard and Pitaro spoke over the weekend, and the two men could not reach common ground on the issue of discussing politics on the air.
“Dan Le Batard will not be on the radio today,” Ourand tweeted. “He expects to be back on it tomorrow. He will be on ‘Highly Questionable’ this afternoon. Le Batard and ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro were in contact much of the weekend. Sources said Pitaro would not waver from his policy of no pure-play politics. Le Batard told Pitaro that he was not in the right frame of mind to do his radio show Monday.”
Why does it matter?
ESPN’s decision to shut down political talk from it’s on-air talent was a business decision. The audience made it clear through ratings that when they turn on ESPN, it’s for sports, not politics.
The network also didn’t like the heat that came when former host Jemele Hill called President Trump a white supremacist on Twitter, a remark that put the network directly in Trump’s crosshairs.
I support ESPN’s stance on this. As someone deeply immersed in politics on a daily basis, the last thing I want to hear when I turn on ESPN to relax is political conflict.
I understand that sports talk personalities are not detached from events outside sports, and they sometimes feel a responsibility to use their platforms to speak out against what they feel is wrong. But, they’re also entertainers, and they’re paid to deliver a specific product to the audience.
I don’t think it’s “cowardly” for ESPN to tell its talent to keep their politics to themselves, as Le Batard suggests. I, for one, hope that ESPN can remain one of the few places I can reliably turn to when I want to take some time away from the often-distressing world of political current events.