Accuracy in Media

ESPN continued its descent into what one Twitter user called MSNBC with footballs when Jemele Hill, a co-host for one of the network’s shows, made her feelings about the president clear.

“Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists,” Hill tweeted.  

The pushback came immediately. “Said the black supremacist,” one user replied.

“This is a.) why Trump won & b) why ESPN is circling the drain,” another said. “ESPN this is the type of people you employ?” a third asked.

The Worldwide Leader in Sports, as calls itself, had it all a few years ago. Its brand was so powerful, Disney — which owns ESPN — used it to force cable systems to carry other Disney-owned channels, such as ABC Family, Disney Jr., and ESPNU.

It charges more than $7 per subscriber – nearly $10 when all the ESPN channels are added in. Most networks get $2 or less per subscriber. With that money, ESPN bought an enormous amount of content – it owns virtually all TV rights to the Big Ten and SEC conferences, the two biggest revenue generators in college football.

Cable companies passed on those charges to consumers, and accordingly, cable has since begun to unbundle in a variety of ways, all of which hurt ESPN.

That’s what led to the layoffs in April, in which more than 100 people, many of them popular, veteran on-air personalities, were shown the door. As Joe Nocera of Bloomberg wrote at the time, the network “has a multitude of problems, but the basic one is this: It pays too much for content and costs too much for consumers.”

Adding to the network’s problems has been a plunge in ratings across the board, especially on its flagship news program, SportsCenter. Some, such as Fox Sports’ Jason Whitlock and Clay Travis, suggested this may have something to do with the network’s increasing liberal bias.

It has openly supported the sideline national anthem protests of Colin Kaepernick and others. The network fired Curt Schilling, who is a New England hero for his pitching with the Boston Red Sox, for a Facebook post critical of letting transgender men into women’s bathrooms. And it created and bestowed a “Courage” award at its ESPYs awards show for Caitlyn Jenner.

A survey conducted in May and paid for by ESPN found 30 percent of its viewers thought the network operated with a political slant. Of those, 63 percent said the network was too liberal and 30 percent said it was too conservative.

Think Progress, the blog of the far-left Center for American Progress, detailed the network’s increasing political commentary.

“ESPN is not a political network,” the piece by Lindsay Gibbs states. “ESPN covers sports. It just doesn’t pretend that those sports happen in a vacuum. That means ESPN will cover stories like Colin Kaepernick’s protest during the national anthem, a team of WNBA players wearing ‘Black Lives Matter’ T-shirts during warm-ups, and the domestic violence allegations against a potential NFL draftee.”

‘The word ‘politics’ has become too all-encompassing,” Hill said in the post. “[Co-host] Mike [Smith] and I aren’t … breaking down the Affordable Care Act. That’s politics. Understanding somebody’s right to speak out against injustice, oppression and police brutality isn’t a political matter. It’s right or wrong.”

“Sorry, we don’t tolerate bigotry here,” Smith added. “Why are you taking offense to us suggesting that African-Americans – breaking news – have been treated differently and unfairly for the entirety of this country? That’s not a hot take.”

To which Gibbs added, “Of course, what Hill and Smith are touching on here is that when people complain about anything getting ‘too political,’ it’s a safe bet the criticism is actually that it’s too liberal. [emphasis author’s] And that usually implies it’s too diverse or too outspoken about inequality.”

ESPN is unlikely to respond to Hill calling the president a white supremacist, even though Schilling was fired for far less. ESPN is losing money, even with the hundred workers thrown overboard in April.

And it’s not because the network is too liberal or that its erstwhile sportscasters spend much of their shows celebrating liberal causes.

“Speaking out against injustice, oppression and police brutality” is not political. And if it is political, it’s only because “we don’t tolerate bigotry here because – breaking news – African-Americans “have been treated differently and unfairly for the entirety of this country.”

None of that is political or liberal or in any way related to ESPN’s financial collapse. And calling President Trump a white supremacist who has surrounded himself with white supremacists is sure to help.

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