A SIGN OF THE (L.A.) TIMES: DAN LE BATARD, ESPN AND WHEN POLITICS/TRUMP DON’T MIX GOING FORWARD
By Tom Hoffarth
In the boiling-hot-to-quickly-evaporating news cycle of stories about sports media members — public figures who border on celebrity — last week was full of suspense over whether Dan Le Batard would be reprimanded, suspended or fired by ESPN because of comments he made on his radio show in response to politically toxic tweets from President Trump.
ESPN chief Jimmy Pitaro had Le Batard meet him Thursday. The air was cleared. Those familiar with the temperament and leadership style of Pitaro, who started steering the all-sports network’s nuclear submarine in the spring of 2018, figured Le Batard would get the benefit of any doubts even though Pitaro has made it clear he’s not keen on his employees talking about anything tinged with politics.
So what does Le Batard and ESPN do going forward? We try out some idea in our latest Los Angeles Times media piece.
Meanwhile, more to read on the subject:
From The New Yorker: “Perhaps one reason that Le Batard’s clip resonated, and why his dilemma over whether to continue speaking out and risk angering his bosses seems so relevant—even to those of us who do not host massively popular radio shows—is that many people feel like what he did is what we should be doing: turning off the baseball game and focussing on what feels urgently important. Le Batard, after all, is not prohibited from talking about politics (or race, or gender, or immigration, or class) where they intersect with sports; he has been doing so all along. But his appeal on Thursday had an added weight precisely because he refused to filter the scene at the rally through sports. It needs to be seen for what it is.”
From Sally Jenkins at The Washington Post: “If Le Batard really wants to get into the problem of “divisive” discourse and who’s driving it, then he should get all the way in. Open up the whole subject, include the fact that Omar has played her part by voicing anti-Semitic stereotypes, such as calling congressional support of Israel “all about the Benjamins.” As it is, Le Batard’s discourse, while brave, was so one-sided it’s just another forming of quarantine, another inarticulate cry of “That’s not my America!” It will do nothing to persuade those viewers who complained that ESPN was becoming a bastion of liberal political correctness.”