ESPN has gone off the rails. What was supposed to be a refuge for sports-obsessed fans has now been taken over by political opinions, and it is a damn shame.
The #1 sports network should be about sports and sports only. No more social commentary no one asked for, or political statements no one wants to hear. ESPN has been, and should always be about highlights and sports stories. Sports and politics don't mix.
Even ESPN president John Skipper acknowledged as much in a statement:
ESPN is about sports. Last year, we broadcast over 16,000 sports events. We show highlights and report scores and tell stories and break down plays...ESPN is not a political organization. Where sports and politics intersect, no one is told what view they must express.
Whether people want to acknowledge it or not, sports and politics intersect on so many levels. Why else would the President invite athletes to the White House every year? Whether the government is stepping in to regulate a sport, or an athlete is trying to help a community through politics, the two subjects are intertwined with one another.
Sports has a way of uniting people, and without ESPN covering those stories, we might not have the same country we have today. Imagine sports networks not covering Jackie Robinson or Muhammad Ali because they were too "political." ESPN mixes sports and politics the right way.
Sports and politics have always been linked. Perhaps the most beloved athlete in this country's history—Muhammad Ali—was as much of an activist as he was a boxer. He gave up his heavyweight title to stand for what he believed in, and there is absolutely no question that the same outlets currently deriding Colin Kaepernick would have ripped Ali for boycotting the Vietnam War. Social progress is only appreciated in the rose-tinted rearview mirror, and those blocking the highway in front of you trying to highlight injustice are just troublemakers. Progress is messy, and it's hard to see how much of our cultural advances in the 20th and 21st centuries would have been accomplished if not for the aid of sports providing a common area for all of us to meet.
People don't watch ESPN to become depressed. That's what network television is for. ESPN is supposed to help us escape from the horrors that go on in the world. The network is supposed to provide highlights of amazing feats of physical strength, and uplifting stories of overcoming adversity. Politics has no place in that. Even some of its own employees think so. Employees like anchor Sage Steele:
I truly believe, for me, there is a time and place. For the most part, I think we leave that to the news networks. When there is an obvious crossover, like Colin Kaepernick, that is a different situation, and we will have in-depth discussions beforehand to talk about the proper way to handle it.But I think it’s a very fine line, like I do believe that people come to us for their sports. Not everybody agrees with me on that, not everybody I work with agrees with me. That’s my personal opinion, that that’s where we go to escape.
Sports and politics don't mix. If you want evidence supporting that, just look at the numbers. J.D. Power found that a majority of fans did not support Kaepernick's protest, and started tuning out the NFL. If those fans turned on the biggest league in pro sports, there is nothing stopping them from rejecting ESPN for its political content as well. Here is Theodore Kupfer of the National Review with more:
Kaepernick and his comrades receive laudatory coverage from the sports media despite the belief of some fans that these protests are wrongheaded or disrespectful. Pundits give off the whiff of elitism and the stench of arrogance when they treat their audience, and the beliefs of that audience, with such contempt: “You are a f***ing liar,” Deadspin graciously explained to those who said that such protests would cause them to stop watching.
If people want to bury their head in the sand, that's their business. ESPN should continue to educate an audience that is starving to be enlightened about the world around them. The network is doing a service by investing in real journalism that doesn't limit itself to just sports, but the social issues and politics that come with it.
In an ever-increasing political environment, ESPN would be irresponsible to keep its audience in the dark about all the possible angles sports has to offer. Here is ESPN reporter Jeremy Schaap with more:
Our country has become a lot more politicized over the last year and a half, two years, than it has been in a long time. Sports has become a lot more politicized in the last three or four years than it has been in the past. That’s a story we’ve covered: the engagement of athletes. The idea that we’re talking too much about Colin Kaepernick seems wrongheaded to me. It was arguably the biggest off-field NFL story of last fall. How are you not going to talk about it?
"Stick to sports" is becoming a tired cliche people use when they really want to say, "shut the hell up about something I don't agree with." It's played out, people.
Sports reporters are humans who care about other things in addition to sports. That passion for issues that matter most enhances ESPN's coverage from a two-dimensional sports entity to a real news outlet that specializes in sports, and also informs about society as a whole. The network should not bow down to ignorance, but rather, continue to push the envelope in educating its audience about the politics and culture surrounding sports. Here is Jimmy Traina with mor:
Every single person in the country, no matter what their job is, has the right to voice their opinions. People in the sports media are no different from people in any other profession. No one from sports media is storming into your house to give their political thoughts. Sports media people aren’t confronting patrons in their local Starbucks to convert them from Republican to Democrat. Sports media people aren’t lecturing commuters on a train or bus to explain the various faults of the people running the United States of America right now. They are sharing their opinions on a social media tool that is built for this exact thing. They should not and cannot let any Twitter follower stop them from expressing their view and calling out hypocrisy and injustice. They should and cannot be affected by anyone on Twitter telling them to be quiet or “stick to sports.” Not when a reality show host is President.