ESPN’s Dan Le Batard Blasts ‘Racist’ Donald Trump In Viral Rant
For the past few years, ESPN has often wrestled with the question of how much to discuss politics on its various platforms.
In 2008, then-ESPN employee Bill Simmons was forbidden from interviewing then-candidate Barack Obama on his podcast, per Deadspin. In the Trump era, former commentator Jemele Hill was suspended after she called President Donald Trump “a white supremacist” on Twitter, per The New York Times. Hill ended up leaving the network and now works for The Atlantic.
When Jimmy Pitaro arrived as the new top executive at ESPN last year, he was vocal about de-politicizing the network’s programming, per a Vox interview. While Pitaro vowed to continue making diversity a priority and to still cover the intersections of politics and sports, he said that he doesn’t want people who watch ESPN’s shows or online platforms to always be subjected to “pure political commentary.”
This week, following President Trump’s tweets that four congresswomen of color should leave the country, and after which “send her back” chants were directed at Rep. Ilhan Omar, one ESPN host vocally challenged the president, as well as his own network’s policy on political content. And his “pure political commentary” has now gone viral.
Dan Le Batard, who hosts TV and radio shows on ESPN, spoke at length on Thursday’s episode of The Dan Le Batard Show about what he saw as unvarnished racism at Trump’s rally on Wednesday.
Le Batard built on comments from Nick Wright, a sports commentator with the non-ESPN outlets Fox Sports 1 and Sirius XM, who had tweeted that, while he doesn’t normally talk about politics, the “send her back” chants were “abhorrent, obviously racist, dangerous rhetoric and not calling it out makes you complicit.”
The ESPN host, the son of Cuban immigrants, spoke for several minutes about the rally and chants.
ESPN host Dan Le Batard spoke as we all should be right now, both describing President Trump’s racist attacks as what they are and calling out his own company for its cowardice when it shows reticence to engage in politics. Take the time to watch this now. https://t.co/tEKHB9PsKo
— Jamil Smith ???? ???? (@JamilSmith) July 19, 2019
“So, what happened last night. This felt un-American,” Le Batard said, per a transcript published by Awful Announcing. “There’s a racial division in this country that’s being instigated by the president. And we here at ESPN haven’t had the stomach for that fight.” He referenced the Jemele Hill episode specifically and vowed not to “stick to sports.”
The commentator also called out his own network for only referencing political matters when Steve Kerr or Gregg Popovich — NBA coaches who have been vocal about their opposition to certain Trump administration rhetoric and policies — makes a comment and the network has to cover it.
Stop what you're doing and watch this.@LeBatardShow responds to the racist "Send her back" and "Go back to your country" attacks against Ilhan Omar and other congresswomen.
"If you're not calling it abhorrent, obviously racist, dangerous rhetoric, you're complicit." pic.twitter.com/ntOC2Seg3b
— Erick Fernandez (@ErickFernandez) July 18, 2019
“It is so wrong what the president of our country is doing, trying to go down getting reelected by dividing the masses at a time when the old white man, the old, rich white man feels oppressed being attacked by minorities,” Le Batard continued.
There’s been no word as of Friday morning from ESPN if Le Batard will be disciplined for violating the network’s policy. But his name was trending in the top spot on Twitter.