ESPN’s chief responded about Jemele Hill calling Trump a “white supremacist” after a tough week for the sports network. He reminded his staff that the network is a sports channel and should stick to news about sports and to stay out of politics. The network has faced harsh criticism throughout the week. The President himself tweeted about the incident demanding an apology.
We have issues of significant debate in our country at this time,” ESPN president John Skipper wrote in a memo to staff on Friday reported by multiple media outlets.
“In light of recent events, we need to remind ourselves that we are a journalistic organization and that we should not do anything that undermines that position,” he continued, noting, “ESPN is about sports.”
“ESPN is not a political organization. Where sports and politics intersect, no one is told what view they must express,” he said.
“At the same time, ESPN has values,” Skipper continued, writing ESPN is “committed to inclusion and an environment of tolerance where everyone in a diverse workforce has the equal opportunity to succeed.”
The White House continued to hammer ESPN on Friday, calling it “hypocritical” for what it deems a double-standard in how the network handles conservative and liberal employees.
Here is the complete memo sent out:
I want to remind everyone about fundamental principles at ESPN.
ESPN is about sports. Last year, we broadcast over 16,000 sports events. We show highlights and report scores and tell stories and break down plays.
And we talk about sports all day every day. Of course, sports is intertwined with society and culture, so “sticking to sports” is not so simple. When athletes engage on issues or when protests happen in games, we cover, report and comment on that. We are, among other things, the largest, most accomplished and highly resourced sports news organization. We take great pride in our news organization.
We have programs on which we discuss and even debate sports, as well as the issues that intersect with sports. Fans themselves love to debate and discuss sports.
ESPN is not a political organization. Where sports and politics intersect, no one is told what view they must express.
At the same time, ESPN has values. We are committed to inclusion and an environment of tolerance where everyone in a diverse workforce has the equal opportunity to succeed. We consider this human, not political. Consequently, we insist that no one be denigrated for who they are including their gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs or sexual identity.
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.
We had a violation of those standards in recent days and our handling of this is a private matter. As always, in each circumstance we look to do what is best for our business.
In light of recent events, we need to remind ourselves that we are a journalistic organization and that we should not do anything that undermines that position.
We also know that ESPN is a special place and that our success is based on you and your colleagues’ work. Let’s not let the public narrative re-write who we are or what we stand for. Let’s not be divided in that pursuit. I will need your support if we are to succeed.
H/T The Hill