Ugly Dispute Involving Multiple ESPN Anchors Goes Public: TRAINA THOUGHTS

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1. ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro has taken every opportunity he's had over the last few years to say "stick to sports," even though that was never a realistic option.

Pitaro always made sure to throw in the obligatory, "ESPN will cover politics if it ever intersects with sports," line, even though politics are always part of sports.

Obviously, things have gone to another level in this country over the past couple of months as far as politics and social issues are concerned. 

ESPN could no longer ignore things and publicly scold employees for voicing their opinion on matters much more important than sports. Keep in mind, this is the same company that made sure to give Dan Le Batard a talking to because he, the son of immigrants, spoke on his radio show about Trump supporters chanting "send her back" at a 2019 rally.

Well, that Le Batard dust-up seems like a walk in the park compared with the latest controversy surrounding ESPN.

According to The Wall Street Journal, SportsCenter anchor Sage Steele claims she was kept off a recent network special on race by colleagues Elle Duncan and Michael Eaves.

The WSJ says Steele went to management to voice her displeasure with being kept off The Undefeated Presents Time for Change: We Won’t Be Defeated, which aired June 24. ESPN management denied Steele's claim that she wasn't used on the special because of Duncan and Eaves.

Here's what Steele told the WSJ: “I found it sad for all of us that any human being should be allowed to define someone’s ‘Blackness.’ Growing up biracial in America with a Black father and a white mother, I have felt the inequities that many, if not all Black and biracial people have felt—being called a monkey, the ‘n’ word, having ape sounds made as I walked by—words and actions that all of us know sting forever. Most importantly, trying to define who is and isn’t Black enough goes against everything we are fighting for in this country, and only creates more of a divide.”

Here's what Duncan and Eaves told the WSJ in a joint statement: “We wish we had more than an hour to include more of the many strong voices we have at ESPN; however, we are hopeful that this doesn’t distract from the important message conveyed that night.”

Some takeaways:

1) ESPN fired Adnan Virk because he leaked some meaningless information to Awful Announcing. This leak seems way more egregious, and ESPN must be livid.

2) Obviously, Steele confirmed the WSJ report with her quote. It will be fascinating to see how ESPN handles this. The network denied Steele's claim, but then Steele went public with an on-the-record quote that contradicts her bosses. If Steele's claims were true, the network wouldn't want to discipline her. They'd just want the matter to go away quietly. But with Steele publicly contradicting management, it doesn't seem the issue with go away quietly.

3) This is now a he said/she said situation. Steele says Duncan and Eaves kept her off the show. ESPN says they did not. He said/she said battles usually don't end well.

4) No matter how hard ESPN tries, it will never ever be able to just "stick to sports." 

2. A brand-new Sports Illustrated Media Podcast dropped this morning, and this week's guest is Joe Buck. The longtime Fox play-by-play man talks about calling Saturday night's Yankees-Nationals game. Buck will be in Denver while his partner, John Smoltz, will be in New Jersey for the game, which takes place in Washington.

Buck reveals whether he'd have any issues calling a game from a ballpark right now, explains why he likes the new rule that puts a runner on second base to start extra innings, and discusses piped in crowd noise and cardboard cutouts of fans in the stands.

We also talked about what makes Andy Cohen and Howard Stern such great interviewers, how he views his online hate these days, why he likes podcasting and much more.

You can listen to the podcast below or download it on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher and Google Play.

3. When the NBA returns, TNT will be using only Kevin Harlan and Ian Eagle for play-by-play duties. The network's lead NBA voice, 79-year-old Marv Albert, has decided to pass on the bubble. Thanks to the condensed schedule, Harlan and Eagle will each have a day where they call two games each.

4. One of the big themes of the 2020 MLB season was going to be how often Astros batters would get plunked. We'll see how that plays out now during this shortened campaign. Three Houston players were hit by pitches in an exhibition game against the Royals on Tuesday, including Alex Bregman. However, the star third baseman wasn't playing into the narrative that he got thrown at for cheating.

5. He's not wrong.

6. RANDOM VIDEO OF THE DAY: Happy 80th birthday to the iconic Alex Trebek. Here is the opening to Trebek's first day as Jeopardy! host in 1984.

7. SPORTS VIDEO OF THE DAY: WWE superstar Shawn Michaels turns 55 years old Wednesday. When you hear Michaels's name, three things usually come to mind right away: the Montreal Screwjob, his ladder match with Razor Ramon and kicking Marty Jannety through the window on the Barber Shop. However, I'd put Michaels mocking Hulk Hogan up there with any of those memorable moments.

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