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Volume 26 No. 30
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ESPN's Le Batard Not On Radio Monday After Talks With Pitaro

ESPN host Dan Le Batard did not appear on his radio program today, but is expected to appear on his afternoon studio show “Highly Questionable.” Le Batard made the decision to skip today’s radio show after spending the weekend trying to convince ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro to relax his no-politics edict for ESPN talent, sources said. Conversations came after Le Batard took aim at President Trump last week. Over the weekend, Pitaro would not budge on his policy, which he put in place soon after he was named ESPN president in March ’18. Le Batard told Pitaro that he was not in the right frame of mind to do his radio show today. Pitaro agreed to let him take today off, but ESPN sources expect Le Batard to be back in front of the radio microphone tomorrow (John Ourand, THE DAILY). NBC NEWS' Dylan Byers cited two senior ESPN sources as saying that the company has "no plans to change the policy" (NBCNEWS.com, 7/22). In N.Y., Andrew Marchand reports ESPN on Friday "sent out word to employees that the political policy stands." ESPN "did this in the form of an e-mail to key editorial decision makers, not a company-wide memo" (N.Y. POST, 7/22).

TALKING POINTS: In DC, Ben Strauss wrote for ESPN, the "pitfalls of the moment are probably familiar to any corporation that has had to navigate the Trump era." Former ESPN ombudsman and current Poynter Institute VP Kelly McBride said, "A corporate response to Trump is almost impossible. I would think they will do something in terms of discipline. It’s a little weird they didn’t react immediately, but maybe what they’ve learned is that if they do, they elevate Dan and they feed the controversy as part of the Trump news cycle. Strategic silence is what it’s called. So maybe they say nothing and in a couple of weeks Dan will take a vacation" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/20). 

LET THEM SPEAK? In Miami, Greg Cote wrote in "real life, sports and the coverage of sports have become interwoven with politics and inseparable from issues of race and equality." Le Batard "dared to remind us of that." Cote: "I say good for him. Let’s see if ESPN feels the same" (MIAMI HERALD, 7/20). In DC, Sally Jenkins wrote ESPN’s "anti 'pure politics' edict is just following the dictates of its focus group research." While that "may be smart business, all it does is make for dumb discussion." It "ensures that when a broadcaster goes politically rogue, there won’t be accompanying intelligent discussion." Here is the "problem with audience 'data': It can lead to a sameness and predictability that are the opposite of entertaining." It is "likely that ESPN’s audience wants to hear something fresh and unexpected that it didn’t know it wanted." It is "just possible that audience would be open to politics, as long as it’s smart and not one-sided" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/20).