Grantland wasn't the only ESPN property to suffer a thunderous takedown this year. There was also the KO of The Undefeated, a website intended to produce hard-edged journalism about race and sports but pinned to the canvas before it had a chance to step into the ring. Pegged by pundits as the "Black Grantland," The Undefeated began in 2013 under then ESPN writer and talking head Jason Whitlock, an often blustery and outspoken media juggernaut. Despite its hype, however, the website failed to lock in a launch date and published just five articles in its two-year run under Whitlock.
In June, Whitlock was ousted as the head of The Undefeated (he left ESPN for good in October), seemingly confirming concerns about his divisive management style. In October, ESPN announced it had hired Washington Post managing editor Kevin Merida (below) as the site's new editor-in-chief. Since then, however, The Undefeated has published only one article. It still has no official launch date.
Lost in the website's failure to get off the ground were the opportunities to produce timely, thought-provoking journalism and social commentary. Case in point: As November's strike and protests by the University of Missouri football team made headlines amid allegations that the school's president had failed to address racial incidents on campus, The Undefeated lay dormant. The one article by an Undefeated writer in November was about South Carolina State defensive end Reggie Owens rescuing a family from a car accident. A feel-good story, but hardly a front-line dispatch on race relations in sports.