ESPN President John Skipper felt the need to remind his employees what the mission of the company is, telling staff that ESPN is “not a political organization” in an internal memo obtained by CNN.
What Skipper said
You can read the full text of the memo here. Some excerpts:
“ESPN is not a political organization. Where sports and politics intersect, no one is told what view they must express.”
“We have issues of significant debate in our country at this time. Our employees are citizens and appropriately want to participate in the public discussion. That can create a conflict for our public facing talent between their work and their personal points of view. Given this reality, we have social media policies which require people to understand that social platforms are public and their comments on them will reflect on ESPN. At a minimum, comments should not be inflammatory or personal.”
Skipper doesn’t mention her by name, but this memo certainly comes in response to SportsCenter host Jemele Hill calling President Donald Trump a white supremacist on Twitter earlier this week.
Skipper may not want ESPN to be a political organization, but the sports network has found itself embroiled in politically-charged controversy multiple times over the last few years. Like when…
- They awarded Caitlyn Jenner the Arthur Ashe Courage Award in 2015 for her transgender journey;
- Or when they fired former MLB pitcher, baseball analyst (and outspoken conservative) Curt Schilling for sharing an online post that was deemed anti-transgender;
- What about that race relations town hall hosted by then-President Barack Obama back in October?
- And who can forget the wall-to-wall coverage of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protests of the national anthem last season?
I guess it’s a different ball game when the president isn’t on your side.
Skipper wants his public-facing personalities to avoid sparking political controversy on issues unrelated to sports, but it may serve Skipper well to take his own advice in leading the company.