ESPN, which has been accused of liberal media bias in recent months leading up to the 2016 election, is suffering from external and internal politics in light of President Trump’s election. Here’s what public editor Jim Brady had to say on it:
As it turns out, ESPN is far from immune from the political fever that has afflicted so much of the country over the past year. Internally, there’s a feeling among many staffers — both liberal and conservative — that the company’s perceived move leftward has had a stifling effect on discourse inside the company and has affected its public-facing products. Consumers have sensed that same leftward movement, alienating some…
For most of its history, ESPN was viewed relatively apolitically. Its core focus was — and remains today, of course — sports. Although the nature of sports meant an occasional detour into politics and culture was inevitable, there wasn’t much chatter about an overall perceived political bias. If there was any tension internally, it didn’t manifest itself publicly.
That has changed in the past few years, and ESPN staffers cite several factors. One is the rise of social media, which has led to more direct political commentary by ESPN employees, even if not delivered via the network’s broadcast or digital pipes. Another is ESPN’s increase in debate-themed shows, which encourage strong opinions that are increasingly focusing on the overlap between sports and politics.
There have also been concrete actions that have created a perception that ESPN has chosen a political side, such as awarding Caitlyn Jenner the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2015 ESPYS despite her not having competed athletically for decades, the company’s decision to move a golf tournament away from a club owned by presidential candidate Donald Trump and a perceived inequity in how punishments for controversial statements were meted out.
I asked ESPN President John Skipper whether the perceived political shift many ESPN employees and consumers have felt is real and, if so, whether it was a conscious decision on the network’s part.
“It is accurate that the Walt Disney Company and ESPN are committed to diversity and inclusion,” Skipper said. “These are long-standing values that drive fundamental fairness while providing us with the widest possible pool of talent to create the smartest and most creative staff. We do not view this as a political stance but as a human stance. We do not think tolerance is the domain of a particular political philosophy.”