ESPN and sports commentator Jason Whitlock have parted ways.
After hiring Whitlock in August 2013 to be the founding editor for a still-yet-to-launch website (The Undefeated) on the intersection of race and sports—a talent acquisition that was also part of a spending spree to counter the launch of Fox Sports 1—ESPN has bought out the remainder of Whitlock’s contract. This ends the second go-around for ESPN and Whitlock, who worked from ESPN from 2002 to 2006 as an ESPN.com writer and frequently opinionist on its studio shows. The buyout was quietly negotiated a couple of weeks ago.
When contacted by SI.com on Sunday afternoon, an ESPN spokesperson forwarded the following from the company, “We have mutually agreed to part ways, which was Jason's preference following the shift from his role as Editor-in-Chief. Jason is a talented print and television commentator, and we wish him success in his next chapter. ESPN remains fully committed to The Undefeated and plans continue toward an official launch.”
The troubled editorship and eventual ouster of Whitlock as the lead editor of the still yet-to-launch site has been well chronicled, from the New York Times to multiple longform pieces by Deadspin writer Greg Howard.
Here was ESPN’s statement at the time of Whitlock’s removal. Whitlock continued to appear on ESPN’s airwaves throughout this summer on Pardon The Interruption, where he is a favorite of executive producer Erik Rydholm and on-air staffers Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon. It’s expected Whitlock will continue to appear on that show in the near-term.
What’s next? Well, given Fox Sports National Networks President Jamie Horowitz is a Professor Emeritus of the Morton Downey Jr. College of Television, given Horowitz shares mutual professional friends with Whitlock, and given the recent report from Sports Business Daily media reporter John Ourand that FS1 is looking for more opinionated hosts for its afternoon block, Whitlock appears to be a lock to re-join Fox Sports, where he worked from 2007 to 2013. FS1 is rebranding its afternoon format around Colin Cowherd and provocative sports talk in an effort to turn around low ratings. Whitlock could serve as a partner with Cowherd on a still-to-be built late afternoon show or co-host his own show. Will FS1 viewers watch a bloc of programming featuring ex-ESPN talkers? Time will tell.
A Fox spokesperson declined to comment.