Fox Sports host Jason Whitlock says ESPN lost its way when executives at the 38-year-old network became distracted by progressive politics. "When you’re so distracted by politics and you take your eye off of business, that’s how mistakes get made,” Whitlock told the FOX Business Network's Charles Payne.
Last month, ESPN cut 100 employees, including many longtime on-air correspondents and hosts--and raising questions about the sports giant's continued claim to the title "worldwide leader in sports." Whitlock, who worked at ESPN twice, from 2001 to 2006 and again from 2013 to 2015, said the network's politics damaged its ability to compete.
“A progressive sports blog launched by Gawker Media bullied ESPN for a decade and their bullying led to ESPN adopting [a] progressive ideology and becoming so consumed with politics and political correctness that they took their eye off business,” Whitlock said..
ESPN's move left, Whitlock argues, clashes with the conservative culture found in most locker rooms and stadiums.
“Sports culture in a non-political way is very conservative, very conservative, the values taught in sports, I grew up a college football player, I grew up an athlete my entire life from little league on, the values instilled in you from sports are conservative in a non-political way. So the people that enjoy sports, the culture is conservative, it’s very patriotic.”
Whitlock pointed to the divide between football fans’ and ESPN’s reaction to Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest as an example.
“Sports is the only place in America where we play the national anthem, it’s a very patriotic endeavor. ESPN can’t understand why sports people that grew up in sports culture, [are] very offended by what Colin Kaepernick did.”
Whitlock took issue with television pundits accusing people in the sports world who disagree with Colin Kaepernick of being racist, telling Payne, “No, they’re not, they’re sports people who like traditional sports culture, respect the country and feel like if you have a problem with the police take it to the police headquarters.”