Millions of television viewers have turned to different networks for their sports entertainment following ESPN’s “Left-wing lurch” in its programming and social media over the past few years, says former ESPN commentator and writer Jason Whitlock.
He was recently asked why ESPN has chosen to move in this direction, which has reportedly caused it to make major layoffs.
“ESPN is the most powerful and the most beloved brand in sports … people love ESPN, some people still do, some people hate ESPN because of pushing politics … Why are they doing that?” Tucker Carlson asked Whitlock on his Fox News show, Tucker Carlson Tonight.
Keeping Left, losing the Right
Carlson was alluding to recent statistics divulging ESPN’s audience shift over the past two years.
“Specifically, in 2015, the ESPN audience on average skewed Republican across all dayparts, ranging from 12 percent more Republican (Early News, Late Fringe, Overnight) to 21 percent more Republican than Democratic (Early Morning),” Deep Root Analytics announced. “In 2016, every daypart on ESPN became less conservative, with Daytime being only 2 percent more Republican than Democratic, while Late Fringe and Overnight programming became 10 percent and 12 percent more Democratic than Republican – a 22- and 28-point shift, respectively.”
Whitlock wasted little time in directly answering Carlson’s question about ESPN championing Leftist ideals instead of sticking to sports.
“I think you’ve asked the right question,” Whitlock replied. “I think cord-cutting has a lot to do with their subscriber and the viewership loss, but the animosity and some of the viewership loss – I do think – is a direct result of their lurch to the Left, and injecting progressive victimology into the sports conversation.”
The same trend appeared with ESPN2.
“The same is true across other ESPN properties,” Deep Root added. “ESPN2 skewed Republican across most dayparts in 2015; in 2016 all dayparts skewed Democratic. Every daypart also switched on ESPN News from 2015 to 2016.”
A more detailed explanation for viewers’ shift away from ESPN was then provided by the sports commentator.
“If you really understand sports culture, and all the values taught in sports – from Little League, Pee Wee, on – you’re never a victim,” Whitlock explained. “There are never any excuses that are accepted. Every coach teaches every play from 5 years old to 45 years old. We don’t tolerate excuses, we don’t tolerate victimology, and now so much of the conversation by the sports media – ESPN being the leader of this – is just filled with so-and-so is a victim, Colin Kaepernick is a victim, everybody’s a victim. It’s turning traditional sports fans off.”
Carlson did not understand why ESPN would knowingly sacrifice its viewership to promote its politics when it is supposed to be in solely the sports business.
“It doesn’t take a sports expert to predict something like that,” Carlson responded to Whitlock. “People go to sports as a refuge from things like politics. So why would you throw it in the face of viewers, what is the point of that?”
His guest noted how so many media channels influenced by corporate giants have prioritized pushing Left-leaning politics while forgetting about a large sector of Americans leaning to the Right – or simply not caring about them.
“I think, again, so much of the media has moved Left,” Whitlock addressed the question. “I’ve written about this and talked about this, and it applies to ESPN, but it also applies to all the media. Silicon Valley, Google, Facebook, Twitter, is now in control of the mainstream media. Everyone is catering all of their content to Silicon Valley and San Francisco values. That’s far different than the old media, which catered everything to New York traditional liberal values. The values in San Francisco [are] a bit more revolutionary, a bit more progressive, than a traditional New York-based media.”
Taking blows, still leaning Left
Despite major blows to its conservative viewership, ESPN has continued to steer its reporting and coverage slant hard to the Left.
“[I]t was announced ESPN is laying off upwards of 100 employees – many of whom are prominent on-air talent,” Deep Root reported late last month.
And even more devastating to the sports network – besides having to drop Major League Baseball reporter Jayson Stark, veteran National Football League reporter Ed Werder, SportsCenter anchors Chris Hassel, Jay Crawford and Jaymee Sire, along with numerous others – it is losing millions of subscribers.
“The Deep Root report also comes not long after Nielsen Media Research reported ESPN had lost roughly 10,000,000 subscribers in the last five years,” The Washington Examiner reported.
It was then noted by the D.C. daily that ESPN’s Leftist slant might not be the only reason for the drop off, in an apparent attempt to discount the political reasoning behind the exodus.
“Though there's an argument to be made that the cable news group's failing subscriptions and ratings have something to do with the company's increasingly political commentary, it's important to remember that the trend of Americans moving away from cable bundles is also likely a huge factor in all of this,” the Examiner’s Becket Adams inserted.
Take it or leave it
Making no apologies for pushing its progressive views and coverage on audiences, the network apparently has no intention of laying off its agenda to push its politics through sports.
"Sports has always intersected with culture and politics,” the network's Jim Brady expressed on his ESPN blog earlier this month. “It isn't a recent phenomenon; it's been true for more than a century. There is no denying that culture, sports and politics are fused together more today than at any time in recent memory, and there's an argument to be made that ESPN is rightfully taking advantage of that trend."
He went on to impress that those who have a problem with ESPN pushing its liberal agenda just need to get used to it … or find other sports coverage to watch – which is exactly what more and more Americans are continuing to do.
"Those of you who have not held your tongue about ESPN's move away from an all-sports-all-the-time mantra also should not hold your breath waiting for a change," Brady advised. "ESPN has made it clear: It's not sticking to sports."