Report: ESPN made clear to Dan Le Batard politics talk is not OK
Dan Le Batard’s comments on his radio show Thursday admonishing Donald Trump for his “send her back” attacks and criticizing ESPN’s no-politics policy will not open the network up to more political commentary.
Le Batard was absent from the first hour of his show Friday. There was speculation that he missed the hour to talk with ESPN leadership before returning for the rest of the show.
In an article on Front Office Sports, Michael McCarthy wrote that if ESPN were to get rid of Le Batard, DAZN, which is headed by former ESPN president John Skipper, would be eager to hire the host. McCarthy also reported that ESPN made it clear to everyone internally, including Le Batard, that their no-politics policy has not changed.
From McCarthy’s article:
ESPN declined to comment on whether Le Batard would be suspended for calling his own network “cowardly” for banning political discussion. But one ESPN source said: “We are making it very clear to everyone internally, including Dan, that our policy hasn’t changed.”
Le Batard openly challenging the policy creates a problem for ESPN. New president Jimmy Pitaro made the new approach to politics a priority when he took over. He cited research that shows their audience does not want political talk. Not disciplining Le Batard could make it seem to some like ESPN is inconsistent given the suspension handed to Jemele Hill for Trump criticism in 2017, though that came under a previous leadership regime. No discipline could also be viewed by critics as ESPN taking a political stance and supporting Le Batard’s comments, further confirming their belief that the network has a liberal political lean.
Le Batard could — and seemingly is arguing — that he is commenting on racism, not politics, but that creates a question about where one draws the line between acceptable topics and not. What if another host wants to comment on feeling threatened by progressive politics? That is why ESPN is trying to emphasize its no-politics stance.