ESPN Host Blasts Network For Discouraging Political Talk

Jemele Hill tweets support host's criticism

ESPN Logo (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for ESPN)
• July 19, 2019 10:40 am


ESPN host Dan Le Batard ripped ESPN's "weak-a—" policy that its hosts refrain from discussing politics and blasted President Donald Trump and his supporters for the "send her back" chants during his radio show yesterday.

Le Batard called the chant "un-American" and accused Trump of instigating a racial division. "We here at ESPN haven't had the stomach for that fight because Jemele [Hill] did some things on Twitter and you saw what happened after that," he said. "And then here, all of a sudden, nobody talks politics on anything unless we can use one of these sport figures as a meat shield in the most cowardly possible way to discuss these subjects."

"We don't talk about what is happening unless there's some sort of weak, cowardly sports angle that we can run it through when sports has always been a place where this stuff changes," Le Betard continued. He described the lack of political focus as a "weak-a— shield."

Last year, ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro, who had been in the job for less than half a year, clarified that the network is not a political outlet after its tolerance for political commentary appeared to damage its brand and ratings. "I will tell you I have been very, very clear with employees here that it is not our jobs to cover politics, purely," he told the Washington Post.

ESPN became embroiled in controversy when former writer Jemele Hill was suspended for calling President Trump a "white supremacist" and telling her Twitter followers to consider boycotting companies advertising with the Dallas Cowboys after she objected to team owner Jerry Jones's stance on players kneeling during the national anthem. Hill left ESPN last August and currently works for the Atlantic.

Hill tweeted her support of Le Batard this morning, calling his criticism "courageous, accurate commentary."

"ESPN isn't a political network, but to me (and Dan), racism isn't political. It is right and wrong. Silence or tolerance of racism IS racist, because that means on some level, you're OK with other people being dehumanized," she wrote in a tweet thread.

In May of this year, Pitaro reiterated the network's apolitical stances, and Bob Iger, CEO of Disney (which owns 80 percent of ESPN), praised the change.