Defying credibility, The Hollywood Reporter's Marisa Guthrie today tries to make a case that ESPN is more conservative than you think. In her story, "ESPN's Internal Political Divide: Bristol Tradition vs. 'Woke' Reformers," she claims much of the leadership in Bristol, Conn., is conservative, though the "independent" network is often characterized as a pinko lefty operation.
Guthrie writes it is ironic that ESPN is a target of critics on the right when "much of the leadership in Bristol is actually conservative." If that's true, these so-called leaders do not appear to have much, if any, influence on the political leanings and direction of The Worldwide Leader in (Liberal) Sports. Guthrie continues by quoting an unnamed ESPN executive:
“The network itself takes a terrific knock for being some kind of pinko lefty operation. [Former ESPN President John] Skipper was a progressive guy, he was about diversity and inclusion and made some decisions that frankly put a target on ESPN’s back. ... At this point, Bristol, Connecticut, is not a bastion of liberalism. And it's laughable that that's the perception."
The official city government site of Bristol reveals that the mayor and five of six city council members are Democrats. Either it's no bastion of conservatism, or conservatives are horrible at getting out their voters there.
Guthrie recalled the subject of politics coming up a few months ago at a meeting for ESPN staff held by then new President Jimmy Pitaro. "When he was asked by staff about charges of a liberal bias at ESPN, he pushed back. The company, he told employees, is not 'a political organization. Of course there will be an intersection between sports and politics. We will cover that fairly. But we are focused on serving the sports fan.'”
Pitaro's leadership is beset by "a time of internal division at the network, which is caught in the crosshairs of the Trump culture wars and the worsening economics of cable TV. And the network's detractors on the right have executed a misdirect — framing the network's market challenges as a culture problem. Among the dozen or so ESPN staffers (out of 8,000 employees) who spoke to THR for this story, virtually all express concern about the network's direction. 'It's a demoralizing place to be,' says one high-profile on-air talent of the mood."
Guthrie also cited the struggles that African-Americans Michael Smith and Jemele Hill experienced in less than a year as co-anchors of SportsCenter6. An unnamed senior executive said: "From the second they started they were up against internal crap, the traditionalists shitting on them, and they faced harsh criticism externally. It was panic from moment one. And the network didn’t do a good job of defending and supporting them.” In a tweet last fall, Hill, who called President Donald Trump "a white supremacist," "became a lightning rod with critics dubbing the show 'WokeCenter,'" Guthrie wrote. Smith, who launched an angry on-air tirade or two against Trump, left soon after.
Stephen A. Smith of ESPN is portrayed as something of a Trump supporter. But he has called the president's behavior "juvenile" and, in a Fox News appearance, spoke against the president. ESPN TV's Outside the Lines show reported on domestic violence and concussion issues, which Guthrie cites as evidence of conservatism.
Practically the only conservative voice viewers see on ESPN is Will Cain, a lone wolf. The list of liberally biased personalities and writers on ESPN's vast network is a long one, including, among others: Keith Olbermann, Max Kellerman, Bob Ley, Jeremy Schaap, Katie Barnes, Michael Wilbon, Woody Paige, William C. Rhoden, Howard Bryant (who's on a crusade to vilify sports patriotism as "political"), Clinton Yates, Jeff Rivers and Dominique Foxworth.
ESPN's so-called "conservative credentials" also include these positions: anti-Trump, pro-Obama, strongly supports gun control and the LGBT agenda. Next week ESPN is planning to run photos of naked athletes. Three years ago, ESPN gave the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage to Caitlyn Jenner (in photo above) at its ESPY awards program. ESPN's parent company, Disney, supports Planned Parenthood and sanctuary cities. All of this evidence is indicative of a solidly progressivism organization.