All That and a Bag of Mail

It’s Friday, time for the mailbag. 

But first a little housekeeping news, we are going to be debuting a bit of a new look for Outkick in the near future. It should be seamless and easier to use and I think you guys will like it, but I’m interested in your feedback. 

So keep your eyes peeled for that. 

Okay, on to the mailbag:

Not surprisingly, tons of comments have rolled in about the ESPN layoffs and what they mean for sports media and sports business.

Out of the thousands of emails, Tweets, and Facebook messages the five below have been the most common, so I’m going to answer them all now.

“Will this be the end of the ESPN layoffs?”

No, because these layoffs don’t solve anything. ESPN’s mess is like a snowball rolling down a mountain that’s eventually going to trigger an avalanche. We’re still in the snowball stage, things are going to get much worse.

These firings were just about showing Wall Street that ESPN “has a plan” and is “taking cord cutting seriously.” But they don’t amount to very much actual cost savings. The big problem is that ESPN can’t fire its way to profitability — their business is fundamentally broken.

ESPN is losing 10,000 subscribers every day so far in 2017. In the past six years they have lost 13 million subscribers and that subscriber loss is escalating each year. That’s billions of dollars in lost revenue.  

Every year for the next five years ESPN is spending more and bringing in less. You don’t have to be Warren Buffett to see that’s a business problem. 

ESPN is spending over eight billion dollars on sporting rights this year and by 2021 I believe they will be losing money regardless of how many people they fire. ESPN can’t fire employees into profitability. It’s just not possible. These firings are going to become a yearly thing and they still aren’t going to prevent the business from dying. 

“Liberal sportswriters and liberal sites are saying ESPN isn’t losing viewers because of its politics. Are they right or are you right when you criticize ESPN for becoming MSESPN?”

Well, ESPN’s ratings are down 16% this year so they are definitely losing viewers. 

The next question is why?

My theory is that left wing politics have played a big role in that ratings decline. That is, ESPN is alienating its Republican voting audience by covering sports from a decidely left wing perspective. Some in the media, almost all of whom are left wingers, by the way, disagree.

Who are these lost ESPN viewers? 

Well, there was a fascinating study published yesterday that suggests the reason is, as I have been asserting, left wing politics. That ESPN swung from a station with majority Republican viewership — remember, sports fans are more conservative, on average, than non-sports fans — in 2015 to one with a majority Democratic viewership in 2016. 

Here’s that article and study. 

Now this study was based on just one market, Cincinnati, but Cincinnati is a political battleground that is fairly middle of the road. (Hillary Clinton won Cincinnati in the election even though she lost Ohio.)

If its results are applicable across the nation then much of ESPN’s lost viewers could be directly attributable to the network embracing left wing opinion and becoming MSESPN.

Now, I still believe that MSESPN’s left wing move is a symptom of the collapsing business, more than it is the cause of the collapsing business. That is, the lost subscribers and the huge right fee obligations led to panic at ESPN and that panic was, “Let’s get the viewers back. How will we do it?” And the disastrous decision was, “We need to be left wing more!”

But that’s exactly the wrong move.

ESPN is a drowning business that should be looking for a life jacket and doing whatever it can to preserve its viewership, instead they decided to try and tread water with a rock over their head.  

“Isn’t FS1 losing subscribers too?”

Sure, all channels are losing subscribers, that’s the very definition of cord cutting. 

The difference is FS1’s ratings are up quite a bit over the last year while ESPN’s are down substantially. (Some of that viewership rise is undoubtedly at ESPN’s expense.) Remember, most people don’t watch any one cable station so the loss in subscribers is more of a business issue than it is a viewership one. 

One thing I’ve been arguing at Fox is that we have a huge opportunity to get all these lost Republican ESPN viewers by just doing what I do, play it straight. Be honest with sports fans and don’t try and turn Colin Kaeperick into Rosa Parks. It’s not like I’m a right wing ideologue. Conservative voeters are just so desperate to be treated fairly by sports media that they love Outkick.

I’d like to do a daily show on FS1 at some point, but in the meantime our radio show is dominating its time slot and this site, Periscope and Facebook Live are all growing like gangbusters.

So I’m also perfectly happy doing what I do now and, to be frank, whether or not FS1 succeeds doen’t impact my business at all. So the argument that I’m somehow biased is laughable.

I can write anything I want on any day about any subject. And I can say anything too. I have total creative freedom right now. So if you want to believe I’m biased that’s your right, but I don’t think the data supports that conclusion.  

For the record, I don’t have a problem with sports in politics when it is impossible to avoid. What I have a problem with is doing sports in politics and only giving the left wing opinion. I think many sports media stations, sites, and papers are guilty of doing exactly that.  

“Why are only white people getting laid off?”

Well, it’s not just white people, but they sure make up the vast majority of the layoffs. On the bright side, at least MSESPN can’t be called racist for all these firings. 

I don’t know what the overall racial percentages are of ESPN employees, but the vast, vast majority of talent that was let go was white men. And white women were the second most likely to be let go. That’s probably partly a reflection of the racial make up of the company in general, but it’s definitely noticed that no left wingers lost their jobs.

In deciding who to fire ESPN had a decision to make. Do we double down on MSESPN or not? And the clear decision, much to the misfortune of the station’s future, was to double down on MSESPN. 

Also, can we talk about the irony of many ESPN employees, who work at the station that invented coaching hot seat rankings and makes a living breaking news about people losing their jobs in actual sports, losing their minds because not everyone was sympathetic enough to the people who lost their jobs? (By the way I didn’t see a single person who works in sports media actually doing this, but whatever.) 

“What does this mean for sports media going forward?”

The big negative that I see on the sports media horizon regarding these layoffs is that it’s going to be virtually impossible for writers to make money writing about sports online in the years ahead. is virtually finished as a written content producing site except for protected parts of the site like “The Undefeated” which is losing millions of dollars a year and ESPN decides to continue to support. The same thing is going to be true of and every other major site.

Most big sites are investing in guys or girls writing cheap viral content without much substance and ignoring longer form pieces. The result is that these sites become virtually indistinguishable from each other and the individual writers have no job security either. After all, how much talent does it take to post a viral Tweet or video and write a paragraph about it?

I used to think quite a bit about pageviews, but now I worry much more about whether the people who regularly read, listen and watch Outkick love what we do. I’m not worried about millions and millions of people who might stop by once, I’m focused on the million people who are fans and keep coming back.

How can I make them love us even more?  

Jason writes:

“Blues fan here (fuck you and fuck the Predators. But thank you for humiliating the Hawks. Fuck them more). I was curious to see your take on something that happened Wednesday night.

After Subban gave us an ass kicking, some guy tweeted at the official Blues account about getting beaten “by the black guy.” The Blues account tweeted back saying that there is no support for racism in our fan base and that they’re inclusive, stunning, brave, and that no one hates violence more than them. Standard stuff, pretty solid response to a guy being an asshole. 

The guy wrote back that he was making a joke and the team said it wasn’t funny. 

I didn’t see the exchange last night but a writer for Yahoo put an article up, which my brother sent to me. It was pretty bland until I realized THIS GUY WENT TO MY HIGH SCHOOL. Which totally makes sense; he was a huge douchebag and I had a good laugh when I saw him put on blast by the Blues and Yahoo for the entertainment of the whole Internet.

But what came next was interesting. The keyboard warriors went after this guy, screencapped his tweets (which aren’t great- high usage of “faggot” and such), found his LinkedIn profile, and then tweeted some unflattering information to his employer, who said they are “taking action.”

So this guy is fired for being a jackass and tweeting a mildly racist comment to an official NHL account. Yes, he’s a complete moron for posting something dumb on the internet, and even dumber for doing it if he could be found and traced. But does he deserve to lose his job for this? What sort of satisfaction does it bring to dox some random asshole on Twitter and get him fired?

Thanks for getting me through class on Fridays.”

I’m torn here because on the one hand I definitely think people should learn that Tweets have consequences. If you wouldn’t say it and allow your name to be attached to it in public, why Tweet it? For instance, I think if you Tweet death threats you should be prosecuted just like if you said them out loud. That needs to start happening. 

Having said that, is this Tweet really racist?

Would a black guy get fired or doxed on Twitter if Gordon Hayward beat the Clippers on a last second shot and a black guy Tweeted at the Clippers account, “Damn, we didn’t just get beat, we got beat by the white guy!”

I think the answer is clearly no. 

Now there’s nothing less funny than trying to deconstruct the humor of a Tweet, but let’s try. The reason why a Tweet like this would be considered humorous if it were said about Gordon Hayward is because white guys aren’t as good at basketball as black guys. Similarly, black guys aren’t as good as white guys at hockey. (Although I’m not even sure this is entirely true since most black guys don’t play hockey. If black guys played hockey at the same rate they play basketball would the entire NHL be black? I have no idea. Maybe.)

Regardless, the clear intent here is to make a joke about how bad the Blues played. That joke, with the races removed would basically be summed up as: “We didn’t just lose, we lost to (someone whose race is typically crappy at basketball or football or soccer or hockey).” 

To me the guy is clearly trying to make a joke at the expense of the team and not at the expense of the player.

That’s an important humor distinction. 

Let me give you another example. When the Knicks caught fire with Jeremy Lin, how many people do you think Tweeted jokes making fun of the teams that the Knicks beat by saying, “Damn, (insert team here) just got run by an Asian dude!”

That’s an insult for the team because, go figure, Asian guys aren’t typically good at basketball in the NBA. 

So to me the fact that this guy lost his job over this seems pretty crappy. Because if I black guy sent the same Tweet to the Clippers about Gordon Hayward beating the Clippers it would probably get retweeted a ton and be considered a funny indictment of the Clippers as a basketball team.

But, of course, we only focus on white racism towards black people in America so you can’t mention race in any way if you’re a white dude except to say you’re against racism, which is exactly what the Blues Tweeted back, which turned this entire thing into a story. The Blues decided they needed to social justice warrior signal when, to be quite frank, the best thing to do was probably just ignore the guy or block him. His intent was to make fun of the team, not Subban.  

Pete writes:

“Today I saw an ad for a sperm bank with bold text reading “$4000 in 6 months.” Thankfully, I’m not that financially pressed and can make means without doing something so drastic. But it got me thinking, is there a negative stigma surrounding being a sperm donor?

Is the rightness/wrongness dependent on how crucial one’s financial needs are, is it wrong all together, or is it perfectly fine? Personally, I’d feel odd knowing I have a bunch of children out there I’ll never meet that are being raised by someone else, but I can see how one would feel that it’s fine as long as the kid has a stable, loving family.

What are the ethical implications of this subject that isn’t really brought up as much as I’d imagine?”

This won’t surprise anyone reading the mailbag, but I think I have pretty good sperm. As in, my genes are pretty good and we know that my sperm works because we have three kids and I’m pretty sure that at least two of them are mine. I’m six feet tall, great hair, smart, successful, not fat, and I have no mental or physical health issues — at least not yet. So I think the world would be better off if there were a few thousand kids running around with half my genetic code instead of the half they are more likely to end up with from dumber dads than me.

Now certainly I have some negatives — average athleticism, insane levels of self confidence, man boobs — but I think my positives outweigh my negatives from a genetic perspective. The world would be better off with more of me.  

But here’s the ethical problem, I believe that eventually the kids would want to track down their birth father. And I don’t blame them for wanting to do that either, I’d want to track down my dad if he were a sperm donor too. And then they might want to have an emotional connection to me and I don’t blame them for that either. But the truth of the matter is I think all people are limited in how many true emotional connections they can make with kids. 

So that’s the ethical implication to me that makes me unwilling to be a sperm donor, it’s hard to have a kid and know that you will never see them at all or have any relationship with them.

At least not for $4k. 

I’d be totally fine having no relationship with as many kids as possible if you paid me enough to jerk off. 

Then if the kids started showing up at my door one day, I’d answer the door and be like, “Look, I know you want to hear something more profound about the meaning of life from your birth dad, but I just got paid really well to jerk off. And now you’re here. That may sound shitty, but without alcohol half of all births wouldn’t happen either so let’s not pretend that most kids who aren’t born from sperm donors are created out of a beautiful physical union between two loving parents. Most of the time your dad just wanted to bang your mom for three good minutes and then pass out. Instead he got you for 18 years.”

Thanks for supporting Outkick and have great weekends. 

Written by Clay Travis

OutKick founder, host and author. He's presently banned from appearing on both CNN and ESPN because he’s too honest for both.