Whitlock confirmed this week that he is leaving FOX Sports to return to ESPN, seven years after leaving the network. In an interview on Bill Simmons’ BS Report, Whitlock elaborated on his new role at ESPN and said he would be creating the “black Grantland.”
“For lack of a better description, I hope this isn’t offensive — but I’m going to get to do something along the lines of a black Grantland,” Whitlock told Simmons.
Whitlock says his meeting with ESPN president John Skipper convinced him to return to the network. He said he “fell in love” with Skipper and the vision Skipper had for him.
“Man, that was like music to my ears. I would love to work with some young people and to really have a chance to influence sports culture and the sports world with some young people … we’re going to try to be original thinkers,” Whitlock said of his project.
Whitlock is pumped up for his new gig and called getting his new job the greatest days of his professional life.
One of the reasons for Whitlock’s move to ESPN, aside from Skipper’s vision for him, was that he did not feel like his vision for his column aligned with FOX Sports’. It sounds like FOX Sports wanted to make Whitlock more of a multimedia personality, whereas Whitlock still wanted his column to be his top priority.
Whitlock says he is looking forward to engaging minority sports fans through his new project, and he wants to mentor young minority writers. He also likes that he will be going to a place with a bigger audience, which will result in at least one change for him. Whitlock says he will partially change the way he runs his Twitter account because he is on a bigger stage. He believes you have to act a little differently when on Broadway compared to off Broadway, where you do different things go get attention, like showing a little nudity.
Lastly, Whitlock says he always believed that returning to ESPN would be tantamount to selling out, and that’s why he was resistant to the move. But after seeing Nate Silver and Keith Olbermann leave for the network, he no longer felt that was the case.
Both Simmons and Whitlock are looking forward to the launch of FOX Sports 1 and 2 because they embrace the competition. Simmons believes FOX Sports inspired ESPN to make some of their recent moves, and he believes competition will force the network to “fight to keep the lead.”
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