So ESPN president John Skipper had a scheduled meeting yesterday in Los Angeles and decided to take shots at me, Jason Whitlock, Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trump and Tucker Carlson in front of roughly 120 ESPN employees, many of whom are also big fans of Outkick who believe ESPN has lost its way over the past couple of years due to left leaning politics.
Those Outkick fans immediately reached out to me to share what was said in the meeting.
Per our ESPN sources in LA, Skipper began the meeting by addressing the Jemele Hill suspension and said that regardless of his personal fondness for Jemele Hill he had to suspend her for what she said about boycotting advertisers. (But not, of course, for calling the president, his staff, and his voters all white supremacists).
Skipper then attacked me by name, saying that Clay Travis is someone who’s out to get us and is spreading misinformation devoted to destroying ESPN. (I’d love to know what misinformation I’m spreading, since everything I’ve reported about ESPN has proven to be 100% accurate.)
He also attacked Fox News taking shots at Tucker Carlson in particular and pointed out that Fox News is losing even more subscribers than ESPN. (This isn’t actually true of course. Another source inside the meeting said the comment was that Fox News was losing the same number of subscribers as ESPN as opposed to more. But, again, that also isn’t true. ESPN has lost more subscribers over the past six years than virtually any channel).
Skipper then ripped former ESPN employee Jason Whitlock, which is interesting because my understanding is the two parties have a nondisclosure agreement which bars personal attacks as part of the settlement. So if I were Whitlock I would call my lawyers.
Skipper insisted “ESPN is not a political organization,” and said that he watches all ESPN channels all day long and never sees anything political on any of the channels. There were audible laughs inside the meeting when Skipper said this as many ESPN employees know that suggestion is full of shit.
In a question and answer session someone in the audience suggested “ESPN is being baited by Fox News because Rupert Murdoch is friends with Donald Trump.” Skipper agreed with the premise of the question and endorsed the idea of a right wing conspiracy designed to bring down ESPN to elevate Fox Sports. That’s probably because Skipper and ESPN tried to plant this very story in Sports Business Journal a couple of weeks ago.
(For the record, this notion is patently absurd. I have never met Rupert Murdoch and no one at Fox or Fox News has ever told me what to write or say. In fact, I’d welcome any Fox executive I’ve ever worked with to go on the record and discuss how frequently they’ve suggested I be less controversial and asked me to tone down my content. The reason Outkick is 100% independent now is because I specifically refused to allow anyone at Fox — or any other media company — to make any decisions about this site’s editorial direction other than me. I receive $0 from anyone at Fox Sports or Fox News or 21st Century Fox. This argument of a right wing media conspiracy designed to bring down ESPN is totally made up and the sad ramblings of the leader of a failing company.)
John Skipper did say repeatedly that ESPN talent needs to remember that their accounts aren’t personal and they have limitations on how far they can go with what they say politically. (Of course Disney CEO Bob Iger has said that Jemele Hill could call the president a white supremacist so long as her feelings were hurt so who knows what the actual standard is.)
More than half of the meeting and the question and answer session that followed was about the political atmosphere at ESPN, and according to Outkick sources much of it completely endorsed left wing politics and suggested anyone who didn’t have those same values was deserving of ridicule. In fact, Skipper made multiple jokes about Fox News and people in the audience laughed when those jokes were made.
So if you ever watch Fox News, you better hide that fact if you work at ESPN.
Thanks to our Outkick sources reporting from inside ESPN.
I’d write more, but my phone is buzzing and I have to answer and conference call with Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trump, Tucker Carlson, and Jason Whitlock about our vast right wing conspiracy to bring down ESPN.