ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports, has been struggling with the “stick to sports” mantra since disgraced former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first kneeled for the National Anthem in August 2016.
Several months later, Donald Trump was elected president and ESPN talking heads couldn’t resist infusing politics into sports as much as they possibly could because they’re all liberal.
And now Deadspin writers are dealing with a similar issue, quitting en masse due to a new “stick to sports” mandate enforced by their employers.
We’re so far removed from the era when sports were just sports and when you wanted to see what happened that day then you’d switch it over SportsCenter to get your daily highlights from anchors like Stuart Scott, John Anderson, Chris Berman and Scott Van Pelt.
Remember when MTV used to exclusively play music videos and the only television show they had was “Beavis and Butthead”?
ESPN followed a similar model as they moved away from one-hour SportsCenter blocks and veered more towards analysts yelling at each other about sports. Nobody knows that better than loudmouth Stephen A. Smith who was just rewarded with a contract extension where he’ll make approximately $10 million per year.
But in the last several years, ESPN lost millions of subscribers when the network’s sports analysts persistently discussed politics on their respective shows.
Some even decided to complain outside of work like former ESPN employee Jemele Hill who famously called President Trump a “white supremacist” who largely surrounds himself with them too.
Consequently, the network suspended Hill for two weeks and the show she co-anchored on “The Six” was ultimately canceled less than two months later. Hill floated around other shows like a gun-for-hire until ESPN bought her out of the contract.
Deadspin is a large online sports magazine, which is owned by G/O Media, or the Gizmodo Media Group; issued a statement to all staff that politics was no longer going to be tolerated in articles moving forward.
This resulted in a mass exodus by the staff writers. Amongst the most prominent writers to leave were Kelsey McKinney, Lauren Theisen, Tom Ley. Laura Wagner, Chris Thompson, Albert Burneko, Patrick Redford, Samer Kalaf, Drew Magary, Giri Nathan and Dom Consentino.
Many of them took to Twitter to announce their decision.
Just now I resigned my position at Deadspin today along with many of my colleagues. I have been here only five months but they have been some of the best of my career and I will miss it deeply.
— kelsey mckinney (@mckinneykelsey) October 30, 2019
.@barry no longer works at Deadspin and that means I no longer work at Deadspin. Bye!
— MALIK BEASLEY SZN 🚀😤 NUGGETS 82-0 (@ToLey88) October 30, 2019
I will also be leaving Deadspin. It was the best four years of my life, and I will miss my pack of wild dogs dearly.
— patrick (@redford) October 30, 2019
This is where I leave you. https://t.co/YDcGbwZEEM
— Drew Magary (@drewmagary) October 31, 2019
it was three years of big dumb freedom. i just resigned from Deadspin pic.twitter.com/rAd68r4cki
— giri (@girinathan) October 31, 2019
A statement about the resignations at Deadspin from the GMG Union in part said, “This is not what journalism looks like and it is not what editorial independence looks like. ‘Stick to sports’ is and always has been a thinly veiled euphemism for ‘don’t speak truth to power.’ In addition to being bad business, Spanfeller’s actions are morally reprehensible.”
Is it really so hard to not bottle your political affiliations for the sake of your employer’s bottom line?
A spokesperson for G/O, “They resigned and we’re sorry that they couldn’t work within this incredibly broad coverage mandate. We’re excited about Deadspin’s future and we’ll have some important updates in the coming days.”
That’s basically code for “good riddance, we’ll just hire other writers for cheaper.”