Editorial: ESPN- The Worldwide Leader in Sports and Politics

Anthony Gabbianelli, Sports Editor

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Photo Courtesy of Matt Dempsey on Flickr

Politics are inescapable at this point when it gets to the news. It’s fair. That’s what news outlets like NBC, Fox and ABC should be covering, which they have every right to do. They have their own views on politics but once again, they cover all types of news so this is perfectly fine that they give their take on the situation. Even their reporters and anchors shed their personal views on politics. Then there are networks that devote themselves and their employees to one specific news genre, like ESPN.

ESPN, or “The Worldwide Leader in Sports,” as it promotes itself, has for many years covered sports and has expanded the sports news genre as a whole by bringing interesting, small-town stories to the eyes of their viewers. ESPN’s programming that has its own personalities has even produced household names, like Keith Olbermann, Dan Patrick, Stuart Scott, Linda Cohn, etc. They are reporters and anchors who knew how to capture their audience and bring them back for each new SportsCenter episode. Now with a huge shift in media and how people get their news, a lot of news outlets have accommodated and started reporting on stories that became popular on social media. ESPN followed suit.

ESPN is now just a disgusting cesspool of the news outlet it once was. They still cover sports, but they also cover fantasy sports, memes, fashion and whatever the latest social media trend is. While ESPN has covered worse things, its politics really infuriate its viewers who have responded.

Over the last couple of years, over 13 million viewers dropped ESPN from their cable subscriptions. While the biggest factor for this is the accessibility of news through social media, it’s also the new political ESPN that hurt the worldwide leader in sports.

While the sports news giant is hurting itself by changing for a new millennial audience that doesn’t even watch cable or know what cable is in the first place, the very employees that ESPN hires might be hurting them more than they think. With social media comes people’s opinions, and most of these opinions, especially with President Donald Trump in office, are very political. The reporters and anchors of ESPN have argued with fans, hecklers and even each other over different societal views, like whether or not the Earth is actually flat, if the theory of evolution is a fact or fiction, but mainly anything political has been the forefront of all the banter online.
The most recent incident that even got a response from the President of the United States on Twitter is one that involves SportsCenter co-host, Jemele Hill. Hill went to Twitter and voiced a very strong opinion about our current president, saying that he is a “white supremacist.” While many news outlets took this story and made it a top topic of the show, the main question in all of this was, “Why is a sports anchor not talking about sports?” While this may baffle some, people who cover sports can also talk about whatever they want, and it may not always be about sports. For example, while I may be the sports editor of The Montclarion, I have helped cover other non-sports stories, some even involving politics. But there’s a huge difference between me and Hill. I’m not hired by the biggest sports news outlet in the world and if I were to spread my political view online, I wouldn’t be punished for it.

Hill received no punishment either, but the outcry of the people who follow her speaks for itself. She wasn’t suspended, she had no cuts in her pay or anything like that, and she wasn’t pulled off the air. She was untouched by the executives of ESPN for being political online, but ESPN received a lot of flak for not doing anything about the matter.

It especially hurts the network while all of this is happening, ESPN’s executives suspended legendary anchorwoman Linda Cohn for being honest. Back in April, Cohn went on a radio show and addressed the very big and obvious problems ESPN is facing. She gave her opinion, which was backed up with facts, and received a one-week on-air suspension.

It’s at this point where a line must be drawn. An opinion is an opinion; everyone has one. That’s why I’m writing this. Cohn knew exactly what she was doing. She gave her opinion, which was supported by facts, and got suspended. Hill takes to Twitter, where anything can go viral. There’s no way to know whether or not a tweet will take off or cause consequences. There is a clear problem that ESPN refuses to address.

Reporters and anchors should be allowed to express their opinions, but they should not be made public if said opinions do not relate to their beats. Cohn, with facts backing her, gave an opinion about where she works. That’s fine. Business in sports should be covered, and Cohn should be asked about the status of ESPN. Someone with her expertise and experience would be great to hear from. However, Hill covers sports and should stick to it. Her political opinion doesn’t pull in an audience.

While this issue seems to resonate with ESPN more than any other news outlet, it should confront this problem publicly. The executives of ESPN have fired other reporters for expressing their right-wing views before, but making an accusation like this is unacceptable. ESPN tries to keep its left-wing views to themselves, but their own employees, like Hill, make statements online like this.

Sports should be an escape from the real world, and an opinion that doesn’t have any relevance with sports should not be made on a show where sports headlines are discussed. Players might make statements that pertain to politics, but those should not be discussed on a network that recaps games and discusses how a player or team prepares for the next big game. Let CNN or CBS cover those remarks and let ESPN go back to covering sports.

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