FS1 host Jason Whitlock is calling out ESPN for political correctness by satirically renaming the sports network EPCN.
After two tours of duty with ESPN, the controversial Whitlock — the former Kansas City Star columnist — is back with Fox Sports.
With Colin Cowherd, another ESPN expatriate, Whitlock is the co-host of Speak For Yourself, an offering on the Fox Sports 1 TV channel airing weekdays at 5 p.m. Eastern time, which appears to be the network’s answer to ESPN’s popular Pardon the Interruption.
Longtime Stephen A. Smith First Take sparring partner Skip Bayless also jumped to FS1 to ESPN and now is the co-host of Undisputed opposite Shannon Sharpe.
Whitlock left the Bristol, Connecticut-based ESPN for the second time in the fall of 2015, several months after losing his gig as editor-in-chief of the long-form sports journalism site The Undefeated, which has been described as the “black Grantland.” The Undefeated finally launched officially on May 17, 2016, although the sports network shut down Grantland in late October 2015, five months after the departure of high-profile editor Bill Simmons, whose HBO show was canceled in early November.
In October, as the Colin Kaepernick take-a-knee national anthem protest continued to produce media chatter especially on ESPN, Kaepernick critic Whitlock claimed that the progressive movement’s intervention into sports is responsible for the unprecedented decline in NFL TV ratings and that the sport culture, by its nature, is conservative.
In an email interview with the Sporting News published yesterday, among other things Whitlock suggested that Speak for Yourself is different from the typical ESPN roundtable because “I think we can score with great chemistry and a non-PC point of view that is in conflict with EPCN,” and which provides an opening for ratings-challenged FS1 to make a move.
“Whitlock believes ESPN has become too politically correct in its coverage of race, sports and social issues. He thinks it’s costing ESPN viewers and providing an opening for FS1 to reach red-state viewers mostly ignored by national networks. ‘Sports culture is not PC or far left. There are no safe spaces in the field of competition,’ he wrote. ‘I think we can differentiate ourselves from EPCN by discussing sports in a way that is authentic to sports culture and sports fans. You can be authentic without being distasteful or disrespectful. Sports culture has long been patriotic, tolerant of diverse backgrounds and perspective and celebratory of meritocracy.'”
For whatever reason or combination of reasons, ESPN has reportedly lost 621,000 subscribers in the month of November alone, and approximately 7 million subscribers in the past two years, according to Outkick the Coverage. Some financial analysts believe that parent company Disney should spin off the self-named Worldwide Leader in Sports, which is on the hook for billions in sports-league programming rights amidst apparently declining revenue.
With controversial opinions all over the map, Jason Whitlock in the past has been alternatively accused by his detractors — many of whom make their feelings known on Twitter — of playing the race card, as well as being a sellout and an Uncle Tom.
“Over the years, Whitlock has taken several unpredictable and often unpopular positions, especially when racial issues intersect with sports,” the New York Times detailed in September of 2010.
He has also recently scolded the social justice warrior tendency of many Twitter users.
About a week ago, ESPN public editor Jim Brady acknowledged in a very lengthy essay that his previously apolitical network has seemingly become overly politicized.
“As it turns out, ESPN is far from immune from the political fever that has afflicted so much of the country over the past year. Internally, there’s a feeling among many staffers — both liberal and conservative — that the company’s perceived move leftward has had a stifling effect on discourse inside the company and has affected its public-facing products. Consumers have sensed that same leftward movement, alienating some…
“‘We’ve done a great job of diversity,’ said longtime ESPN anchor Bob Ley. ‘But the one place we have miles to go is diversity of thought.’ Many ESPN employees I talked to — including liberals and conservatives, most of whom preferred to speak on background — worry that the company’s politics have become a little too obvious, empowering those who feel as if they’re in line with the company’s position and driving underground those who don’t.”
Ex-ESPN baseball analyst Curt Schilling has argued that he’d still have his job there if he’d articulated liberal positions rather than conservative ones, even if the former generated controversy.
Whether you agree or not with Jason Whitlock’s contention that ESPN has become too PC, have your viewing habits changed with regard to the sports network?
[Featured Image by John Amis/AP Images]