Ex-ESPN President John Skipper Reveals He Was Extorted Over Cocaine Purchase Which Led To His Resignation

Ex-ESPN president John Skipper said that his substance abuse led to him being extorted in December by his cocaine dealer.

John Skipper says cocaine extortion is reason for resignation from ESPN.
Chuck Burton / AP Images

Ex-ESPN president John Skipper said that his substance abuse led to him being extorted in December by his cocaine dealer.

John Skipper resigned from his position as President of ESPN on December 17, 2017. In an interview with James Andrew Miller of the Hollywood Reporter, Skipper spoke out for the first time around the circumstances surrounding his exit from a company that he worked with for 27 years.

When he resigned, he made the following statement, reported ESPN.

“I have struggled for many years with a substance addiction. I have decided that the most important thing I can do right now is to take care of my problem.”

The news came as a huge shock to ESPN employees, especially since he had just given a passionate speech about the future of the company and signed a new contract, said Sports Illustrated.

The substance addiction that he spoke about was a cocaine addiction. Skipper said he never used heroin or opioids. He described his cocaine use “over the past two decades has, in fact, been quite infrequent.”

Skipper then revealed that a person that sold him cocaine in December extorted him.

“They threatened me, and I understood immediately that threat put me and my family at risk, and this exposure would put my professional life at risk as well.”

So he did what he had to do. He discussed the situation with his boss, Robert A. Iger. After the conversation, Skipper resigned his post and made the announcement publicly.

John Skipper reveals his cocaine addiction.
  Mark Lennihan / AP Images

Since then, he has received therapy and treatment for his cocaine addiction. And although he has regrets and sadness about losing his job, he is optimistic about getting back into the sports business in some shape or form.

Although some sources speculated sexual misconduct being the reason behind his resignation, Skipper stated that those rumors are “categorically and definitively untrue.”

The person who extorted Skipper remains unnamed. However, it’s worth noting that extortion is a felony in every state in the United States, according to FindLaw. In this case, the extortion was an attempt to collect money under the threat of a harm to reputation. The laws differ according to state, but in some states, the sentence can be a maximum of two to four years in state prison.

In the interview, Skipper did not mention anything about pressing charges against the person who attempted to extort him.

There are some instances when substance abuse is categorized as a disability, which gives employees protection under ADA laws. However, it doesn’t appear that the ADA laws would have applied to John Skipper.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights details that typically, employees who break company policy cannot attempt to avoid being fired by enrolling in a rehab program. The ADA law also allows employers to fire employees based on their substance abuse.

Skipper’s first position at ESPN was as the senior vice president and general manager of ESPN The Magazine in 1997. He was the president of ESPN from 2012 until his resignation in December 2017.

His successor, James Pitaro, began his new post as President of the network on March 5.