ESPN on Friday again reminded employees about policies concerning talking “pure politics” on-air. The network said, basically: Do not do it.
The memo was sent after ESPN radio host Dan Le Batard on his Thursday show ripped President Trump and took a few shots at his own network.
“It’s not about the message,” reads the memo from Norby Williamson, ESPN executive vice president, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s about the use of [the] ESPN platform.”
He goes on to say that their mission is to give fans what they want: just sports and “distraction from heavy issues.”
“If someone feels strong about something, please come to us, and we’ll have a thoughtful discussion on how and where they can address,” the memo stated.
Le Batard blasted Trump for egging on his supporters during a recent rally when they began to chant “Send her back!” referring to Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.
“The ‘send her back’ chant and the ‘go back to where you came from’ chant are so antithetical. It is so wrong what the president of our country is doing, trying to go down getting re-elected by dividing the masses at a time when the old white man — the old, rich, white man — feels oppressed, being attacked by minorities, black people, brown people, women. That’s who we’re going after now,” he said.
Le Batard then turned his sights on ESPN.
“We here at ESPN haven’t had the stomach for that fight, because Jemele [Hill] did some things on Twitter and you saw what happened after that, and then here all of a sudden nobody talks politics on anything unless we can use one of these sports figures as a meat-shield in the most cowardly possible way to discuss these subjects,” he said.
Hill was suspended in 2017 for violating ESPN’s social media policy multiple times, including one instance where she called Trump a “white supremacist.” Hill, who longer works for the network, applauded Le Batard via Twitter on Friday. Other personalities previously suspended for talking politics or bashing ESPN were Bill Simmons and Curt Schilling.
Disciplinary action toward Le Batard is unclear, but his Friday show did begin without him for the first hour. However, he later joined.
ESPN’s policy allows for talk of politics when it intersects with sports, such as athletes declining an invitation to the White House, but clearly, Le Batard’s segment was beyond that scope.