Sometimes, the pressure to do and say what’s right outweighs political position, or political correctness, and even employment. Sometimes something is so wrong that it is impossible not to call it such. Sometimes a public platform must become a public pulpit in order to help change things.
On Thursday, ESPN radio and TV personality Dan Le Batard lit a match and burned shit down. He called out President Donald Trump’s racist remarks and his supporters’ silence against “the Squad”—the four freshman congresswomen who have endured taunts to “go back” their countries, despite all of them being U.S. citizens—and called his current employer “cowardly” for refusing to call the racist elephant in the country a racist bitch.
From CNN Business:
Jimmy Pitaro, who became ESPN’s president last year, recently told the Los Angeles Times that the sports network’s audience has no interest in the network covering politics and has publicly discouraged employees from talking about politics. But in a “Dan Le Batard Show” broadcast Thursday, Le Batard vehemently disagreed with ESPN’s stance.
In an impassioned response, Le Batard said it was the duty of sports broadcasters to comment on race relations—and in particular what he called the “un-American” chants of “send her back” directed at Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a Somali refugee and American citizen, during a Trump rally this week.
Le Batard, the son of Cuban immigrants, noted that civil rights activists have long used sports to address race, gender and other social problems in the country, pointing to former athletes Jim Brown, Bill Russell and Colin Kaepernick. But Le Batard said that now, ESPN personalities don’t talk about race in America “unless there is some sort of weak, cowardly sports angle that we can run it through,” like a tweet from an athlete.
Le Batard also mentioned that former ESPN SportsCenter anchor Jemele Hill (impassioned slayer of fuckbois and national caller-outer of bullshit) called Trump a “white supremacist”—which he is, and America knows this—yet she was suspended by the network and has since left the sports station.
Since Hill’s suspension, “all of a sudden, nobody talks politics, on anything, unless we can use one of these sports figures as a meat shield, in the most cowardly possible way to discuss these subjects,” Le Batard said, CNN Business reports.
ESPN declined CNN’s request for comment, and of course, it did. ESPN is owned by Disney and Disney has a notoriously long history of avoiding reality. The company has made an entire empire on fictional bliss and avoidance of the sucky parts of real life. With the exception of Mufasa’s death in the Lion King, Disney’s doesn’t take on tragedy and it wants its companies to do the same. The problem with that is that shit doesn’t happen in a bubble. If sports are a microcosm of American politics, then the NFL is the Donald Trump of it all and former quarterback Colin Kaepernick would be migrants living in purgatory.
ESPN doesn’t want their reporters and anchors talking about it. Any of it. But Le Batard is not here to play nice. He’s not here to color within the lines. He’s tired of acting like he doesn’t see it exactly the way it is and that pressure built up until it exploded on air.
Le Batard lit a match and burned the shit down that Hill couldn’t get to catch fire—or rather, ESPN pushed her out before she could a good flame started. May the ashes show others the way.
Watch Le Batard show allies how to do it below.