In a 4,000-word profile about failed TV and radio host Bomani Jones, The Ringer claims that ESPN is racist against black people.
“Some of the network’s most high-profile black talent—Jemele Hill, Michael Smith, Cari Champion, Maria Taylor—has left in recent years. Because even though the network presents great opportunities (i.e., you can get paid), it can be restrictive to the point of exhaustion. ‘They sign my check, so I can’t just go open fire on ESPN when they do something I don’t like,’ Jones [said].”
This entire paragraph is dishonest and uninformed. Let’s take it step by step:
The Ringer hyperlinks to Maria Taylor’s contract negotiations to give a “detailed account” of discrimination against black employees. Well, if Taylor’s situation is an example of discrimination, everyone should hope ESPN discriminates against them next. The hyperlink does not demonstrate discrimination but privilege.
ESPN offered Maria Taylor $5 million a year, $4 million more than any competing network had offered her. Taylor turned down this offer because she wanted $8 million a year, equal to Stephen A. Smith. Plus, ESPN had forced several talents to take a pay cut during the pandemic, so it was already making an exception by offering Taylor a significant raise.
Taylor’s team tried to extort money from ESPN by releasing a year-old audio clip of Rachel Nichols saying ESPN picked Taylor to host the NBA Finals over her because she is white and Taylor is black.
ESPN is so racist that it chose Taylor, a black woman, over Nichols, a white woman, and then fired Nichols for noticing. That’s The Ringer’s first example of the discriminatory practices at ESPN.
Though The Ringer also draws attention to other “high-profile black talents” who have left ESPN, it doesn’t mention the 30+ white on-air talents ESPN has released over the same time period, including Mike Golic, Trey Wingo and Ron Jaworski. And ESPN didn’t even cut Hill, Smith, Taylor and Champion anyway. They each left of their own accord.
Taylor left ESPN to host Football Night in America and the Olympics at NBC. Poor her.
Hill refused to stop injecting politics into her commentary on ESPN and then decided she wanted out of the network altogether. So she agreed to a buyout worth more than $5 million.
Hill knew she could make more money shaming major corporations into paying her, as she’s doing now at CNN, The Atlantic, Spotify and ironically, The Ringer.
For his part, Hill’s former SC6 co-host Michael Smith refused to appear on ESPN programming after the network canceled his show for very low ratings. Anyway, Smith also got around $5 million in a buyout.
ESPN planned to keep Cari Champion, despite her notorious mistreatment of producers, but Champion declined an extension offer in 2020.
So none of the talents The Ringer lists are victims. They all chose to leave ESPN after making millions of dollars for content no one consumed.
The whole piece reads as a favor to Bomani Jones. ESPN is paying Jones a lot of money to host a podcast while he works for HBO simultaneously. His ratings on HBO have been a disaster thus far, but our focus here is ESPN. Jones is not producing material worth seven figures. This is why he must issue veiled threats at ESPN executives instead.
The more that outlets like The Ringer make baseless accusations of racism against ESPN, the better the chances that ESPN continues to pay Jones well above his worth. The Ringer published this puff-piece not only to distract from Jones’ failures but to assist in his next negotiations with ESPN.
This piece puts ESPN on notice. Pay Bomani Jones, regardless of his ratings or performance, or risk further claims of racism.
Everybody knows ESPN does not actually discriminate against black employees. All it takes is one glance at its list of hosts and analysts to see that black people are not, in fact, underrepresented on ESPN.
The Ringer lied so that Bomani Jones can have better job security.