Former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry created a buzz on social media when she appeared to suggest that the Worldwide Leader in Sports harbored a political motivation for including her in the recent staff layoffs.
In April, the sports network, which has lost a vast number of subscribers to cord cutting. gave about 100 public-facing employees, including on-air anchors, commentators, and website writers their walking papers.
“In response to a Clay Travis tweet calling out ESPN for arguing it’s not liberal-leaning, McHenry said: ‘I mean I’ve been openly Conservative… look how that ended up…,'” the Sporting News detailed.
McHenry’s tweet has since been deleted.
The increasing political content on ESPN has taken a toll on viewership, and by extension, revenue, according to some media industry observers such as Clay Travis of Fox Sports Radio and Outkick the Coverage and Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports 1.
“McHenry’s political reasoning comes at a time when ESPN’s supposedly liberal-leaning content has been widely debated, even inside Bristol,” the New York Post noted.
Although ESPN claims that it doesn’t take sides in politics, chat shows such as SportsCenter, Around the Horn, Pardon the Interruption, SportsNation, and others seem to speak in one voice when addressing social issues.
“McHenry has been both vocal and closeted in her political views,” the New York Post added. Last December, McHenry, 31, posted (and then deleted) a picture to her Instagram account of her with U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan at a GOP event.
In an essay on the ESPN website published in December of 2016, public editor (i.e., ombudsman) Jim Brady conceded that the network has moved in a leftward direction, alienating some viewers. In mid-April, Brady wrote that this trend will continue with management’s blessing. In a late April tweet, Brady asserted that ESPN’s financial challenges are mainly the result of cable unbundling, but politics also factor into the scenario as a secondary cause.
In two follow-up tweets, Britt McHenry seemed to suggest that she may explain what she had in mind at some point in the future.
The relatively unknown Britt McHenry made national headlines in December 2015 when a video of her condescendingly ranting against a towing company office worker went viral.
ESPN suspended her for one week after the incident, and she followed up with a lengthy apology.
Parenthetically, in more tough times for sports journalists, Fox Sports just eliminated about 20 writing jobs in favor of a concentration on producing videos for its website, Bloomberg reported.
“Fox is opting to divert those resources into producing online video that complements on-air shows, can be packaged into advertising sales across the web and TV, and has the potential to go viral on social media.”
Do you think that it’s plausible that ESPN took politics into consideration when deciding which employees to lay off, Britt McHenry or otherwise?
[Featured Image by Alex Brandon/AP Images]