New ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro says the network "isn't a political organization."
When asked how he felt about his anchors weighing in on things such as race, politics and culture, Pitaro said the following:
"We are not a political organization. We are a sports-media company. And our focus is on serving the sports fans. There will always be intersections between sports and politics. When that news happens, we are going to cover it.
"I will tell you, regarding our employees specifically, we provided them with guidelines. There is general understanding and alignment in terms of what our best path forward is within the company. … I’m a big believer in the value of social media, and we need to engage with our fans through social media in a thoughtful way, and we are doing that. We have taken and will continue to take a very open approach, and what I mean by that is we are going to make sure we are present everywhere our fans are."
The first part of that quote is a classic case of double speak.
Pitaro said ESPN is not a political organization and the network's focus is on serving sports fans. OK, that's a nice sentiment and it probably made those who think ESPN is "too political" a little happy. However, Pitaro also said when sports and politics mix, the network will still cover it. Well, guess what? That's what ESPN has always done because sports and politics mix ALL THE TIME.
Colin Kaepernick is still unsigned after being blackballed and it looks like safety Eric Reid is headed that way. Steve Kerr speaks out about political issues all the time. So does Gregg Popovich. So does LeBron James. NFL owners can't get on the same page when it comes to players standing for the anthem. And the icing on the cake: we have an unhinged President who tweets about many of these things.
These are the times we live in and nobody can escape it, especially the sports world. This means ESPN will have to do what it's been doing all along in terms of coverage. Throwing out a line like "we are not a political organization," might make for a juicy quote, but no rational person thinks ESPN is a political organization. People may not want to hear about those stories on ESPN, but they are all legitimate stories for ESPN to cover.
As for the social media part of all this, if LeBron tweets about not shutting up and dribbling, does ESPN really expect nobody on its staff to weigh in on Twitter? How is that even realistic? Is an anchor not allowed to share an opinion on gun control on Twitter? Again, not realistic.
It's nice for ESPN to say that it's focused on serving sports fans, but that doesn't mean the network can escape politics.
2. Speaking of sports and politics, here's a story that should've gotten much more coverage than it did. Nevest Coleman wrongfully spent 23 years in prison. He said if he ever got out, he wanted his old job back with the White Sox. Last year he was freed and cleared. Yesterday, the White Sox gave him is old job back.
3. Happy news to report: The Diamondbacks' bullpen cart made its triumphant return last night.
4. Considering the Jets originally had the sixth overall pick, this is not good math.
5. Here's a fun video of female long drive champion Troy Mullins, with the help of Skratch, pulling a prank on a bunch of kids.
6. Broadcast details are still to come, but the WWE is holding a show titled the Greatest Royal Rumble in Saudi Arabia on April 27. The card will not only feature the first-ever 50 man Royal Rumble, but also a rare John Cena vs. HHH match. The last time those two met in the ring was 2010.
6. If you were a subscriber to my "Off The Board" podcast, please subscribe now to the SI Media Podcast, which you can do right on iTunes. I will no longer be hosting Off The Board, just the SI Media Podcast, which will feature a new episode every Thursday. You can also subscribe below as well as listen to the latest edition with author and ESPN historian James Andrew Miller.
7. RANDOM WRESTLING VIDEO OF THE DAY: WrestleMania IV took place on this day in 1988. This Hulk Hogan promo (and performance by Gene Okerlund) for the event is top notch.
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IN CLOSING: Jalen Rose's grandma vs. Sister Jean is just weird to me.