ESPN Research Finds Fans Do Not Want to Hear About Politics on Network

"ESPN needs to unite people around sports,” says president Jimmy Pitaro

ESPN Boss Has Fixed Broken Relationship With NFL, League Exec Says
ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro attends The 2018 ESPYS. (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty)
By Evan Bleier / July 30, 2019 9:34 am

Thanks to comments made by popular ESPN TV and radio host Dan Le Batard a little more than a week ago, the way the Worldwide Leader covers politics — or doesn’t — has once again become the topic of much discussion.

On his show, Le Batard ignored company president Jimmy Pitaro’s “no-politics” policy and said the “send her back” chants that were heard at a Trump rally in North Carolina were “deeply offensive.” He went on to call the network’s “no-politics” policy “cowardly.”

After taking some time off from his show and meeting with Pitaro in New York, it was decided Le Batard would “check with higher-ups” if he “feels the need to address a political issue in the future,” according to The Washington Post.

In a piece in The Post following the Le Batard controversy, Pitaro said the network’s decision to only allow the discussion of politics via the lens of sports was based on research which found that fans, regardless of political affiliation, were not interested in hearing about politics on ESPN.

“I’ve had this discussion internally with hundreds of our employees that sports is about uniting, and ESPN needs to unite people around sports,” Pitaro told The Post. “That’s our role, or one of our roles. I also recognize that when I or one of our on-air personalities speak publicly that that is received as the opinions of ESPN, and that can’t be. We look at what our fans are telling us.”

So is it possible to separate sports from the larger world today?

“What we’ve said from Day 1 is that we’re the place of record, we are covering the intersection of sports and politics,” Pitaro said. “That hasn’t changed. Why is it impossible to make the distinction between sports news and non-sports news?”

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