FINALLY: ESPN Says It Will Shut Up About Politics
ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro says the sports network is done with politics.
Ratings for the network have been plunging for the last few years as ESPN has waded more and more into politics. But the former president of the network John Skipper resigned in 2017, and Pitaro says they are going to listen to viewers.
“Without question, our data tells us our fans do not want us to cover politics. My job is to provide clarity. I really believe that some of our talent was confused on what was expected of them. If you fast-forward to today, I don’t believe they are confused,” Pitaro told the Los Angeles Times.
“Pitaro has also satisfied ESPN’s more traditional fans by steering commentators away from political discussions on-air and on social media, which heightened during President Trump’s criticism of NFL player protests against social injustice during the playing of the national anthem,” The Times wrote.
One of ESPN’s commentators, Jemele Hill, wrote on Twitter that “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.”
Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) September 11, 2017
Trump jumped into the fray, writing on Twitter “ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming). People are dumping it in RECORD numbers. Apologize for untruth!”
ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming). People are dumping it in RECORD numbers. Apologize for untruth!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 15, 2017
Viewers got turned off to having their sports — an escape from the world, at least for a few hours — inundated with politics.
Forbes reported in 2017 that “social media consumer sentiment” at ESPN dropped “from 62% all the way down to 41% positive in the last month alone.” The network has also lost some 15 million viewers on cable.
“It’s clear that wading into politics has had a negative impact on ESPN’s consumer happiness levels. Even prior to this month of pain, ESPN was already on the decline, losing viewers at a growing rate. Now they seem to be alienating the viewers they do have by their own actions and the actions of those in the sports world,” Andy Swan wrote then.