ESPN Says They Aren’t Liberal Because Hank Williams, Jr. Sings MNF Open

It’s no great surprise that ESPN finally decided to fire back at Outkick over our articles about ESPN’s audience collapsing — this year they hit a ten year ratings lowas their number of subscribers also tanks — down 13 million in the past six years, and accelerating rapidly, but it is a surprise that they would say they aren’t liberal because they hired Hank Williams, Jr. back to sing an opening for Monday Night Football.

Yet that’s exactly what they argued in the Sports Business Journal’s evisceration of ESPN’s business model that went up online today.

If ESPN decides to give Hank Williams, Jr. a TV show to combat the daily left wing rhetoric their programs toss around then maybe there will be one conservative viewpoint to combat the dozens of liberal ones, but until then he’s just a guy singing a two minute introductory song. He’s not an opinionist, he’s an entertainer.

I’d encourage you to go read the SBJ cover story on ESPN since it’s basically an endorsement of everything Outkick has been writing over the past several years, but the article that won’t get as much attention as this one is in the same issue headlined, “ESPN executive calls out competitor for giving voice to claims of liberal bias.”

Since I’m specifically named in the SBJ article I’m going to pull some quotes from the article — placed in bold — and respond here. (Here is my Periscope from today as well. You’ll enjoy my response.)

“The whole narrative (that ESPN is liberal) is a false one that was seeded and perpetuated primarily by a direct business competitor,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN’s executive vice president of programming and scheduling. “We have no political agenda whatsoever.”

First, ESPN has a clear political agenda. They are liberal. Their top program, SportsCenter, is literally brought to you by MSNBC.

That’s fine, but the result, which is proven by clear data here, has been conservatives abandoning network viewership in droves.

Second, no executive at Fox Sports has ever suggested to me that ESPN was liberal. Not once. Fox executives have zero to do with my opinions at Outkick or my opinions on the radio. What’s more, I have no idea how Fox Sports could perpetuate this opinion when they have not controlled the distribution of my content for years.

I understand why my critics want to pretend that I’m speaking for someone other than myself, but it’s just not true.

Full disclosure: I run Outkick as a 100% independent sports site. I make $0 from Fox Sports and have zero contractual relationship with anyone at Fox Sports right now. This is by my choice. I turned down my own TV show on FS1 this spring to stay independent and remain in Nashville instead of moving to LA and doing TV. I’m happy here and making a good living. I love running the website, doing daily morning radio and controlling all content on my Periscope and Facebook Live shows. You can call me an idiot for turning down my own TV show and you can certainly criticize my opinions on issues, but you need to know that I’m 100% independent and no one tells me what to say, think, or write. I own 100% of Outkick. For better or worse all opinions are my own.

Hell, no one else has even so much as edited my Outkick column for six years. I write and publish whatever I want when I want to publish it.

Now, it’s true that I have a radio contract, but Fox Sports Radio isn’t owned by Fox Sports. There’s a licensing agreement between Fox Sports and Iheartradio to allow the Fox Sports name to be used by iheart. The only contract I have with any media company is with Iheart for radio. (And it represents about 25% of my overall income. The vast majority of my pay comes from Outkick and Outkick related events.)

And while my radio bosses are fabulous, they have never, in nearly a year of shows, told me what to say on any subject. And they certainly haven’t come to me to tell me to attack ESPN for being liberal. The idea itself is just preposterous.

Here are some additional quotes in the article.

“It would be foolish in the business that we’re in to take sides on the political arena,” Magnus said. “Our business competitor perpetuates this narrative because in this highly partisan time, it suits them to highlight this distinction, even when it doesn’t exist.”

This is just not true, ESPN is liberal and I’ll explain why below. But the most important thing for you to realize is how dumb they think you are. They are saying that the only reason you believe MSESPN is liberal is because I say it. Not because you see it with your own eyes, but because I say it. Frankly, it’s an incredibly insulting position to take, that you guys aren’t smart enough to make up your minds.

Remember that ESPN gave Caitlyn Jenner an ESPY for courage, treated Michael Sam as a modern day Jackie Robinson and has lauded Colin Kaepernick as a modern day Nelson Mandela for his anthem protest. Those are all incredibly liberal positions endorsed by the network. And to rebut that assertion they offer, what? The fact that Hank Williams, Jr. is singing, “Are you ready for some football,” for two minutes 15 times a week? Nope, not buying it. ESPN is a liberal network. This is a fact. As is clearly demonstrated by their programming.

I am flattered, however, if ESPN intends to consider Outkick to be “a business competitor.”

Right now I like the odds that we are still profitable in five years, unlike ESPN.

“ESPN executives say the people who focus on a liberal bias ignore things like the recent rehiring of Hank Williams Jr. to sing the “Monday Night Football” opening…

But this also comes amid reports and speculation that Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger is considering a run for president in 2020.

While ESPN executives dismiss the notion that the company is too liberal, sources said ESPN President John Skipper, himself a liberal-leaning executive, has made a point to meet with employees to let them know that nobody at ESPN will be punished for holding a political viewpoint.”

The reason why the president of ESPN has to meet with employees to “let them know that nobody at ESPN will be punished for holding a political viewpoint,” is because conservatives have already been punished for holding political viewpoints, see Curt Schilling, while liberals are rewarded.

Indeed, ESPN just appointed a new executive as number two in the company who has publicly ridiculed Donald Trump on Twitter, and Tweeted that Trump discriminates against gays, women, and minorities.

The reason why ESPN is having this meeting?

Because there are many conservative people at ESPN — many of whom are covertly reading this article at ESPN right now — who are terrified to be outed publicly as conservative.

ESPN is a liberal company with collapsing ratings, fleeing subscribers, and an employee base that believes its bosses are complete and total idiots.

But at least they hired Hank Williams, Jr, y’all.

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.