U.S. Senator Roger Marshall (R., Kan.) wrote a letter on Tuesday to United States Attorney General Merrick Garland requesting that the U.S. Department of Justice investigate ESPN for its role in Texas and Oklahoma's move to the SEC.
"I write today to ask the DOJ investigate ESPN's role in the potential destruction of the Big 12 conference and if any anti-competitive or illegal behavior occurred relating to manipulating the conference change or ESPN's contractual television rights," the letter read.
In the letter, Marshall references several articles without specific attribution that detail ESPN "manipulating all this." Marshall is referring to Texas and Oklahoma not planning on renewing its grant of media rights with the Big 12 in 2025 and the two schools subsequently accepting an offer to join the SEC.
He also says that ESPN will directly benefit from both programs being in the SEC because it holds the television rights for the SEC.
The Big 12 issued a cease and desist letter to ESPN, a current media rights partner of the conference, on July 28 and accused it of violating Section 20.2(c) of the Telecast Agreement with the Big 12 that states the network will not "take any actions likely to impair, or [that are] inconsistent with the rights of the league under the agreement."
In the letter, the Big 12 accuses ESPN of attempting to sway Big 12 members to at least one other conference. The unnamed conference was the American Athletic Conference, according to Sports Illustrated's Ross Dellenger.
ESPN later released a statement that the cease and desist letter was "unsubstantiated."
"The accusations you have made are entirely without merit," ESPN's letter said Thursday. "To be clear, ESPN has engaged in no wrongful conduct and, thus, there is nothing to 'cease and desist.'"
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