Dan Le Batard Calls Out ESPN Over Its No-Politics Policy
Dan Le Batard was absent from the first hour of his ESPN Radio show on Friday morning, but it is unclear whether that was directly related to comments he made on Thursday's show that broke the network's policy that personnel avoid on-air political talk if it does not intersect with sports. ESPN's Jon Weiner opened the show on Friday noting Le Batard's absence by saying, “Dan is eating. Big breakfast. Buffet style: eggs, pancakes, bacon, sausage, delicious.” He added Le Batard could be gone for a "segment or two." Weiner: "I'm just telling you right now. He is eating, and he is eating a big breakfast.” Following the first commercial break, Weiner reiterated Le Batard was still eating at the “big buffet, I don’t know what to tell you.” Coming back from the second commercial break, Weiner again said, "It’s a big buffet, what can I tell you. And he’s hungry.” Le Batard made his first appearance on the show at the top of the second hour, with Weiner noting, “He’s done eating.” However, neither host addressed the Le Batard's absence in the first hour and immediately began taking calls from listeners (“The Dan Le Batard,” ESPN Radio, 7/19).
CAUSE OF THE ISSUE: In Philadelphia, Rob Tornoe notes Le Batard on Thursday challenged the company's edict of "avoiding any talk of politics unless it intersects with the world of sports" when he "denounced President Trump's political rally in North Carolina" the previous night. ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro has "pushed the network's personalities away from discussing Trump and politics unless it directly involves the world of sports" since he came on board in March '18. However, Le Batard on his national radio show said that ESPN personnel "haven't 'had the stomach' to fight the network's new policy after the departure of former 'SportsCenter' host Jemele Hill." He said people at ESPN do not mention politics "unless we can use one of these sports figures as a meat-shield in the most cowardly possible way to discuss these subjects." Tornoe notes it is unknown if Le Batard will "face any punishment from the network over his comments" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 7/19). Le Batard said, "We only talk about it around here when Steve Kerr or [Gregg] Popovich says something. We don’t talk about what is happening unless there’s some sort of weak, cowardly sports angle that we can run it through" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/18).
FORGETTING HISTORY: In DC, Des Bieler noted Le Batard claimed ESPN's policy "was all the more misguided because 'sports has always been a place where this stuff changes." He mentioned the "civil rights era efforts" of athletes like Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown and Bill Russell. Le Batard: "We won't talk about it, unless [Seahawks QB] Russell Wilson is saying something about it on his Instagram pace. Then we have the power to run with it. Weak-ass shield" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/19). In Phoenix, EJ Montini references Jackie Robinson, Jesse Owens, John Carlos and Tommie Smith and writes sports "often IS where this stuff changes" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 7/19).