Why Does ESPN Keep Allowing Commentators To Disparage League Partners?

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In ESPN news this week, commentators Bomani Jones and Domonique Foxworth said the NFL might consider changing its rules to appease racist fans. They think that NFL fans are so racist that the league might actually adjust rules to negatively impact black quarterbacks.

Obviously that notion is absurd. First, that all NFL fans are racist. That’s extremely inflammatory and ridiculous commentary in its own right. Then, that the NFL might actually make rules to discourage black men from playing quarterback.

Like what? Black quarterbacks get a 25-second play clock and white QBs get the usual 40 seconds? Passes thrown by black quarterbacks require receivers to get four feet in-bounds instead of two?

Even typing those two sentences felt insane.

ESPN commentators regularly attack league partners

But those two aren’t the first to go after major partners of ESPN. The question is why ESPN continues to allow incendiary commentary towards the leagues on which they depend.

Earlier this season, ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins declared that NBA MVP voters are racist, which is why Nikola Jokic won back-to-back league MVP awards.

ESPN NBA analyst Kendrick Perkins.
ESPN NBA analyst Kendrick Perkins. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)

That comment forced ESPN to apologize. And, if you pay close attention to the language of the apology, you can probably deduce that the NBA had a major hand in crafting it.

“I want to correct something here from yesterday’s show,” First Take host Molly Qerim said. “When Kendrick Perkins said 80 percent of NBA voters for the MVP award are white, the NBA publicly announces the voters each year, and after review, it is clear the panel is much more diverse than what was portrayed by Kendrick Perkins and we wanted to make sure we corrected that today.”

There’s no question the NBA was furious with Perkins’ statement.

And they’re not alone. In a discussion about which New York team might win a championship first, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo suggested the New York Rangers.

Stephen A. Smith declared that they “don’t count.”

On ESPN’s most important studio show, First Take, one of their most recognizable talents, Stephen A. Smith, essentially disregarded the NHL as one of the four major sports leagues in America.

YES Network’s Michael Kay later reported that the NHL was “red hot” over Smith’s comments. Of course they were: ESPN is now the league’s biggest television partner.

ESPN talent have no problem denigrating sports fans, the people they purport to “serve”

In the past three months, ESPN talent have attacked the NFL, NBA and NHL. As a network covering sports, ESPN can’t be afraid to criticize the leagues it covers. If they just shilled for those leagues, that wouldn’t be right, either.

But these aren’t just criticisms of the leagues. Calling an entire league’s fanbase racist, or another league’s MVP voters racist, or acting like a league doesn’t even exist goes beyond sports talk criticism.

These are all-out attacks on these leagues.

ESPN Analyst, Stephen A. Smith.
ESPN Analyst, Stephen A. Smith. (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

And just who does ESPN think watches its programming? That’s right, sports fans. Or at least, they used to.

How do NFL fans watching ESPN feel about being called racist just for liking football? What about NBA fans being told their voting body makes decisions based on players’ skin color? Or hockey fans being told their sport doesn’t even matter?

If you go back a little ways, you can find Max Kellerman — former co-host of First Take — saying that SEC football fans are “susceptible to very low quality information and easy to propagandize and almost immune to facts.”

Guess who owns the SEC Network? ESPN. And who broadcasts the College Football Playoff? ESPN.

This won’t end unless the network actually does something, which they don’t seem likely to do

ESPN’s highly-paid commentators have attacked literally every, single one of the network’s major partners.

And they keep doing it. With no regard for consequences.

It’s no secret that ESPN decided to go head-first into left-leaning political talking points over the past few years. It started ramping up around Donald Trump’s election in 2016 and really took off following George Floyd’s death.

As of now, Bomani Jones and Domonique Foxworth have not been punished by the network. Outside of the apology, the network handed down no discernible discipline for Kendrick Perkins.

Stephen A. Smith certainly wasn’t punished for his comments. Neither was Max Kellerman.

So why would they stop?

Simple: they won’t.

Follow Dan Zaksheske on Twitter: @RealDanZak

Written by Dan Zaksheske

Dan began his sports media career at ESPN, where he survived for nearly a decade. Once the Stockholm Syndrome cleared, he made his way to Outkick. He is secure enough in his masculinity to admit he is a cat-enthusiast with three cats, one of which is named “Brady” because his wife wishes she were married to Tom instead of him.

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