Le Batard Returns To Air Waves, But Quiet On Controversy
Dan Le Batard’s ESPN radio show today began awkwardly in the host's first appearance back on the show since reports of his conversations with ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro over the weekend. The show opened to the sounds of David Bowie's "Rebel Rebel" with Le Batard wearing a hat that read, "Dope." He was slow to speak, seemingly looking for the right words to say to begin the broadcast. Le Batard uttered somewhat quietly, "I’m a little scared here, I’m nervous. I’m walking a bit of a tightrope." The show’s staff then began playing up tempo, happy music to which Le Batard exclaimed, "Come on!" Le Batard: "I ain’t going to lie, I’m scared." Then Le Batard asked what they should discuss because he has "been consumed" and has "not followed sports the last four days." Coming back from the first commercial break, Le Batard said: "In the interest of full disclosure -- I shouldn’t even say full disclosure, partial disclosure, as much disclosure as I can give you -- just know that I am legitimately scared doing this right now, which isn’t the best place for us to live. So I just need to get through the next two days." The show's staff once again interjected and began regular discussion (“The Dan Le Batard Show,” ESPN Radio, 7/23). In N.Y., Andrew Marchand prior to Le Batard's show wrote the host now must either "kowtow to what he described as 'cowardly' corporate policy," or talk politics, "risking his multimillion salary and one of the largest platforms in sports media." Le Batard "skipped the first hour of his Friday program," and yesterday he "DNPed entirely -- the talk show host’s decision." He is "still doing his more formatted TV show full-time." Regardless of what is going on behind the scenes, Pitaro "still expects Le Batard to follow the rules, like everyone else at ESPN" (N.Y. POST, 7/23).
WALKING A FINE LINE: THE RINGER's Bill Simmons, who knows something about battling ESPN execs, discussed the Le Batard situation on his podcast and said the ESPN host is a "really proud guy who I feel like at some point he looked at it and said, 'I have a platform. I’m on live radio right now and I’m just going to use the platform for this and I know there’s going to be repercussions.'" Simmons: "Is that a good thing? Yes, it is a good thing. On the other hand, it’s going to cause a shitshow for him and it’s not something that’s going to go away. ... You become a story -- for lack of a better word -- within the company and it’s you versus ESPN." If the net disciplines Le Batard then "everybody gets even madder," but if they "don’t discipline him then it’s basically they’re saying, ‘Our policies mean nothing. It’s now a free-for-all, say what you want.’" More Simmons: "It doesn’t seem like it’s going to go that well and doesn’t play out in a great way for his future there because once you go down this road now anytime he says anything there’s going to be blog posts and news stories. ... He’s not one of those guys that’s going to be like, 'I’m not saying anything'" (“The Bill Simmons Podcast,” The Ringer, 7/22).