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On the heels of Dan Le Batard's comments, ESPN's "stick to sports" policy gets tested by Stephen A. Smith.

By Jimmy Traina
July 25, 2019

1. Well, well, well. What do we have here?

So on the heels of Dan Le Batard causing a stir at ESPN last week by speaking out against the "send her back" chant that broke out at a Donald Trump rally, Stephen A. Smith has weighed in on a recent incident in New York City where people were throwing water at police officers.

Yes, there are differences here. Le Batard gave his monologue on ESPN Radio and ESPN TV. Smith threw out his opinion on Twitter. Le Batard mentioned Trump was stoking racial division, while Smith's tweet does not mention the president. But the treatment of police in this country has become a political issue and one that has gotten connected to race. Just look at the replies to Smith's tweet. Le Batard also ripped ESPN in his monolouge, while Smith did not, so that is a factor too.

However, ESPN has made it clear that its policy is very simple: employees should stick to sports only. The truth is, Le Batard and Smith gave pretty standard opinions that really aren't all that controversial. Le Batard denounced racism and Smith spoke out about people throwing water on police officers. Because we now live in a world with only two sides and everything is your side against my side, people want to spin both of these takes. Neither opinion should be that radical or divisive.

But ESPN is now citing "market research" to back up their policy of "sports only" from their talent, even on social media. The network's president, Jimmy Pitaro, has been adamant that he doesn't want his people opining on things that aren't sports-related. The network made sure to spread the message earlier this week that internally, the highers-ups made it clear to all its employees that its policy has not changed.

Now, should Smith be disciplined or even spoken to about his tweet? Absolutely not. But after ESPN's hard-line stance about "stick to sports," does the network have any choice but to address Smith's tweet?

This is why ESPN's blanket "no politics talk" policy is silly and shortsighted. The definion of "politics" is too broad and it doesn't allow for any context or common sense. If you applied context and common sense, there'd be no problem with what Le Batard or Smith said about the specific issues they brought up.

2. If you want even more coverage of the ESPN vs. Dan Le Batard saga, check out this week's SI Media Podcast wtih New York Post sports columnist, Andrew Marchand. We went in-depth on the topic.What was Le Batard's biggest mistake? Why did ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro choose not to suspend Le Batard? What does Le Batard's future at ESPN look like? Should all sports shows have a "no politics talk" policy? We tackled all those questions and much more.

You can listen to the podcast below or download it on iTunes, Spotify or Google Play

3. J.J. Watt started his day by delivering a knockout blow to Darren Rovell.

4. The Yankees are doing something very unusual this season: They are having fun. After embracing their new "savages" moniker, they are now handing out stuffed animals in the dugout. Edwin Encarnación was gifted a parrot after going deep last night.

Encarnción rounds the bases after each dinger as if he's walking a parrot and it's glorious.

5. Will Pat Fitzergald blame phones when nobody shows up to Pac-12 games in the future?

6. The Cleveland Browns are the darlings of the NFL. What a time to be alive!

7. RANDOM YOUTUBE VIDEO OF THE DAY: Via @Monsoon_Classic on Twitter comes an all-time great Dusty Rhodes promo in which he pleads with son Dustin to take him on as his tag team partner. Unbelievable work from Dusty here.

Be sure to catch up on past editions of Traina Thoughts and check out the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast hosted by Jimmy Traina on iTunes, Spotify or Google Play. You can also follow Jimmy on Twitter and Instagram.

IN CLOSING: We are exactly six weeks away from the first game of the NFL season.

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