The way ESPN treated longtime SportsCenter anchor Linda Cohn versus the at-best mild reprimand that Jemele Hill received speaks volumes about ESPN management.
In general, that is the contention of Fox Sports Radio host Clay Travis, a vocal critic of what he considers the ESPN’s liberal agenda and collapsing business model.
Describing himself as a radical moderate who has never voted Republican, ex-attorney Travis has derisively renamed the Worldwide Leader in Sports “MSESPN” and has argued that it is bleeding subscribers, in part, because it has become, in his words, a social justice warrior network with disproportionate coverage of, for example, Caitlyn Jenner, Michael Sam, and Colin Kaepernick. Last December, ESPN’s public editor acknowledged his network’s leftward movement.
On Monday, Jemele Hill, the co-host of the ratings-challenged 6 p.m. Eastern time SportsCenter (SC6) took to Twitter to accuse President Trump of being a white supremacist and that he only won the presidency because of his skin color. ESPN subsequently issued a tweet that Hill’s comments didn’t reflect the position of ESPN and that the network had addressed the matter of her inappropriate actions with her. Hill reportedly earns a seven-figure salary from ESPN.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders indicated on Wednesday that Jemele Hill’s social media activity constituted a fireable offense. Travis previously told Tucker Carlson that Hill’s job was safe, however, because her tweets actually reflected the political views of top ESPN execs.
ESPN released a statement after Jemele Hill called Donald Trump a white supremacist on Twitter https://t.co/xKQ0pquhtG— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) September 12, 2017
Against this backdrop, it turns out that ESPN allegedly suspended Linda Cohn, a 25-year ESPN employee, for comments she made on a New York City radio station last spring. Remarking about the April layoffs at the media company, Cohn explained to “Bernie and Sid” on WABC that overpaying the sports leagues for broadcast rights was one challenge. She added that the coverage of social or political issues was responsible for a percentage of the audience erosion, the New York Post reported at the time.
Although it wasn’t publicly known until now, Cohn was benched after the radio interview, according to what ESPN insiders told Clay Travis confidentially, as Travis wrote on his Outkick the Coverage blog on Wednesday. “Outkick cried hypocrisy over Hill not getting such a timeout,” The Wrap noted.
Travis explained what happened based on what he says is inside information.
“According to multiple sources inside ESPN — Cohn declined comment when reached by Outkick — ESPN president John Skipper called Cohn and screamed at her for having the gall to share her opinion in public and told her to stay at home instead of coming to work that weekend. Why was Cohn to stay at home? So, according to an irate John Skipper, she could have time to think about what she had said…Word of Linda Cohn’s suspension raced through ESPN’s corridors with many employees furious over Skipper’s treatment of the longtime legend at the network. Especially when so many at ESPN disagreed with the direction of the network in general and felt compelled to keep their mouths shut lest they also say something that angered their bosses.”
ESPN will not offer comment on Linda Cohn. A source said she was not "formally suspended" though mgmt was upset with her comments in April. https://t.co/K7r1RFVnXW— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) September 13, 2017
Travis was the first journalist to break the story that ESPN had pulled play-by-play announcer Robert Lee from the University of Virginia football telecast because of his name’s similarity to the Civil War general. The scoop, which made nationwide headlines, was similarly leaked to him by ESPN sources.
So @espn suspended Linda Cohn for saying ESPN was talking too much politics. Didn't suspend Jemele Hill for saying Trump was a racist.— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) September 13, 2017
As the Inquisitr has chronicled, for whatever reason or combination of reasons, Disney-owned ESPN reportedly loses about 10,000 cord-cutting subscribers every day and lost about 13 million subscribers in the past six years. Cable and satellite providers charge each customer $7 a month for the ESPN channels, so the loss of income for ESPN — which is on the hook for $7 billion to $8 billion in telecast rights fees due various sports leagues — is massive. The red ink resulted in the above-mentioned April layoffs of about 100 public-facing employees, including on-air anchors, commentators, and website writers.
In the same blog post, Travis quoted an ESPN anonymous employee who weighed in on the perceived double standard.
“If I’d said Obama got elected because he was black is there any way I’d still be employed here? No chance. But Jemele can say Trump got elected because of white racists and no one does anything? They protect the people they agree with politically. They give them better jobs, more money, everyone can see it.”
On his very NSFW Outkick the Show Periscope broadcast, Travis explained that he is fine with Jemele Hill expressing her political views as long as other ESPN employees who hold conservative views are free to do the same. He argued, though, that ESPN leadership only allows “left-wing sports talk.” He also revealed that at one point he sought to launch a new radio show with Jemele Hill as his on-air partner.
ESPN suspends Linda Cohn for saying political talk is bad, endorses racist Trump bashing. Buckle up! https://t.co/glb0FRSFuV— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) September 13, 2017
Travis also disagreed with Hill’s premise, insisting that a president with a diverse cabinet and Jewish grandchildren, along with his support of gay marriage years before Obama publicly endorsed it, hardly fits the white supremacist profile. In addition, he put forth the theory that the “college football coalition” — consisting of the states in the SEC, Big 12, and most of the Big 10 — delivered the presidency to Donald Trump.
In a follow-up tweet late last night, Jemele Hill apologized to ESPN for her comments about President Trump and ESPN has accepted the apology, so it appears that any possibility of a suspension is off the table.
[Featured Image by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for DirecTV]