For the last five years sports cable network ESPN has been pushing left-wing politics into its sports coverage, but has the whole time refused to admit what it was doing. Now, a new network president is finally admitting that he was hired to eliminate the left-wingism and get the sports network back to covering sports.
Jimmy Pitaro took over ESPN this year and has initiated a campaign to get the network back to being the premier sports news network in the world.
The ESPN chief recently spoke to Sports Business Journal and said that the network’s leftism was even upsetting casual fans of the network’s coverage:
“A good chunk of it (decisions and direction of the network) is based on data. And what I’ve heard consistently from day one of getting this job is the more we lean in to politically charged commentary the more we are alienating not just our core fan, but our casual fan.
And as we talk about expanding our audience that’s a problem for us. Core and casual fans are tuning in to ESPN, and again this is backed up by data, they are tuning in to ESPN because they love sports, they love ESPN, but also during divisive times like we’re living in today, they are tuning in to us for an escape. As an escape. And so every time we lean too much into that politically charged commentary we are alienating our fans.
And so, that is clear and convincing data that I’ve seen repeatedly. And so we’ve been very vocal that is not what we do. That is not who we are.”
— Sports Business Journal (@sbjsbd) October 17, 2018
That is a major departure from past network presidents and officials who all insisted that there was NO leftism problem at ESPN.
Indeed, ESPN’s one-time ombudsman, Jim Brady — who has since been fired and his position eliminated — published an extensive article in 2016 where he essentially concluded that ESPN had no problem at all with left-wing politics.
It was the company line for five years that there is no left-wing politics at ESPN. But, as you saw above, the new president is now admitted that he was hired to fix the problem they all claimed didn’t exist.
Pitaro isn’t alone, either. His own boss, Disney CEO Bob Iger, also recently admitted that Pitaro is being tasked with cutting out the left-wingery at ESPN.
In September, Disney’s chief praised Pitaro’s work to guide ESPN’s coverage back toward sports and away from politics in comments reported by the Hollywood Reporter:
I have nothing but praise for the job Jimmy Pitaro has done at ESPN. There’s been a big debate about whether ESPN should be focused more on what happens on the field of sport than what happens in terms of where sports is societally or politically. And Jimmy felt that the pendulum may have swung a little bit too far away from the field. And I happen to believe he was right. And it’s something, by the way, that I think John Skipper had come to recognize as well. But Jimmy coming in fresh has had the ability to address it, I think, far more aggressively and effectively. He has brought back some balance.
This is also a departure from the former party line that ESPN had no left-wing sports problem.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.
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