A fear of the Deadspin website became pervasive at ESPN, journalist Jason Whitlock claims, resulting in the Worldwide Leader in Sports going full-on politically correct.
To minimize any further negative or hostile stories about it posted by Deadspin (which is or was under the Gawker umbrella), the ESPN culture adopted Deadspin‘s progressive agenda and abandoned its former risk-taking approach to programming, he insists.
In this context, Whitlock bemoaned how risk-averse media industry executives lapse into a panic anytime what he described as a Twitter lynch mob surfaces.
“[A]ccording to Whitlock, Deadspin‘s campaign to liberalize ESPN has not only worked, but it has helped lead to the near death of the 38-year-old sports network.” Breitbart News noted.
Whitlock and fellow Fox Sports employee Clay Travis are both longtime critics of ESPN’s leftward drift that needlessly, in their view, forced politics into sports content and turned off a large segment of the viewing population.
In the aftermath of the latest round of ESPN layoffs, Whitlock published an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal about ESPN’s ongoing challenges given massive cord-cutting and being on the hook for billions of dollars in rights fees to various sports leagues.
Drowning in red ink as a result of the subscriber losses and onerous financial commitments, ESPN laid off about 100 employees, mostly anchors, analysts, and ESPN.com writers in late April. Most of its highest-profile, social justice-oriented TV personalities are still on the job, however.
After two tours of duty with ESPN, the contrarian Whitlock — the former Kansas City Star and Huffington Post columnist, and Ball State University football player — rejoined Fox Sports.
With Colin Cowherd, another ESPN expatriate, Jason Whitlock is the old timey fedora-wearing co-host of Speak For Yourself, an offering on the ratings-challenged FS1 TV channel airing weekdays at 5 p.m. Eastern time, which appears to be Fox network’s answer to ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption.
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 2010.
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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 2016.
Deadspin published a number of stories that blasted Whitlock for the way he handled or mishandled his responsibilities at The Undefeated.
In the WSJ piece, Whitlock noted that his two stints at ESPN were BA (Before Deadspin) and AD (After Deadspin), and there was a big difference that resulted in the network’s capitulation.
“Deadspin significantly elevated the price of implementing change at ESPN. The often-caustic blog mastered search-engine optimization and Twitter’s ability to gin up faux outrage. Its writers trolled ESPN talent and executives, getting plenty of attention along the way…On the plus side, Deadspin‘s exposure helped end ESPN’s sexually charged frat-house atmosphere. But it also extinguished the network’s risk-taking culture and infused it with strict obedience to progressive political correctness….Rather than sue Mr. Denton’s bullying internet pirates into submission the way tech billionaire Peter Thiel did, ESPN chose to acquiesce and adopt progressive ideology and diversity as groundbreaking business innovations. ESPN is the exact network Deadspin desired. It’s diverse on its surface, progressive in its point of view, and more concerned with spinning media narratives than with the quality of its product…”
In an interview with SiriusXM host Luke Thomas in which he further expounded on the Deadspin affect on ESPN, Whitlock maintained that going after ESPN was a way for Deadspin (which did a victory lap after Curt Schilling was fired) to move the rest of the sports media industry in a progressive, far-left direction.
He also insisted that ESPN is making a mistake from a business perspective with so much focus on politics rather than gamecasts and highlight reels,
In discussing the WSJ opinion piece, Jason Whitlock told Travis on the latter’s radio show today that if someone in the sports media world who thinks the Colin Kaepernick take-a-knee National Anthem protest was inappropriate, “if you argue that in this new environment…you’re either a racist white person or an Uncle Tom black person…”
ESPN has “mistaken progressive ideology and progressive diversity [with] business innovation,” Jason Whitlock concluded.
[Featured Image by John Amis/AP Images]