Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you most likely know that ESPN just went through massive layoffs. The reason behind the layoffs? Don't miss the politics factor.
How many times have you or someone you know said the following, “Why doesn’t ESPN just stick to sports?” or “Since when did ESPN become a political channel?” Well, apparently Linda Cohn, who has been with the network for over 25 years, thinks politics IS partly to blame for the layoffs. In an interview this past Friday with WABC’s “Bernie and Sid Show,” Cohn spoke about the loss of viewership the network has been experiencing.
Cohn, when asked if she feels there was a “distaste” among viewers for politics invading the programming decisions, said she feels it that is “definitely a percentage of it....I don’t know how big a percentage,” she said, “but if anyone wants to ignore that fact, then they’re blind. And that’s what I meant about the core group of what made ESPN so successful.”
Cindy Boren of The Washington Post elaborated:
Whether ESPN got there first or was merely led by athletes, who are increasingly becoming vocal about politics and social justice, doesn’t really matter in the face of criticism that has become a nearly constant presence. ESPN was ripped almost two years ago for giving Caitlyn Jenner its Arthur Ashe Courage Award over Lauren Hill, the Mount St. Joseph basketball player who had brain cancer. The criticism continued over its coverage of Colin Kaepernick last year and his protest of the national anthem. The network roamed farther and farther away from coverage, running near-constant debates with “hot takes” that can alienate viewers. Fandom can be polarizing enough without politics creeping into things.
Despite ESPN’s claim that their lack of viewership and recent layoffs are the result of streaming online video platforms, one thing is for certain – just as the news media couldn't suppress a tone of panic and loathing over Donald Trump and helped sink Hillary Clinton, ESPN seems to be following in their footsteps by choosing politics over audience-building.