Why I Joined OutKick – By Dan Zaksheske

Regular readers of the site may have noticed a new name popping up on various articles over the past week. You were probably wondering, “who the hell is this guy?” Well, I’m going to tell you!

I graduated from Penn State in the spring of 2012 and by mid-summer I was picking up my entire life and moving to Bristol, Connecticut to join ESPN’s Audio department as a production assistant.

I had landed the “dream job” that most sports fans would kill to have. When I would tell people where I worked, their faces would light up, “You work at ESPN?! That must be an incredible job!”

And, honestly, for the first few years it was. They were paying me to watch, talk about and produce sports. What could be better?

But, in 2016, everything changed. Donald Trump was elected president and the company lost its mind. “Stick to sports” was out the window and left-wing talking points became the norm.

And, let me be clear: it wasn’t just the on-air hosts espousing these beliefs. Many of my co-workers behind the scenes expressed their liberal beliefs with impunity. When I offered counterpoints, I was labeled “difficult to work with.”

In fact, after an incident regarding my opinion on the Bubba Wallace fake noose “incident,” I was told by management that several colleagues “refused to work with me.” They put me on an undesirable shift and basically dared me to quit.

I faced the choice that many in corporate America face every day: keep my mouth shut and keep my job or express my opinions and lose it.

My dream job had officially become a nightmare. Every day was miserable, but it paid the bills, so I had no choice but to keep plugging along.

Eventually, when COVID hit and ESPN executed its third round of mass-layoffs during my nearly decade of time there, my name was on the list. They said that my position was being eliminated due to “financial constraints from the pandemic.” ESPN is smart, despite their misgivings.

I couldn’t argue with why I was being let go, many companies were laying off employees. But laying off someone at my level was practically unheard of – I didn’t see it in either of the previous mass layoffs.

I can only speculate, but there is no question that independent, free-thinking individuals were not who the company wanted. They wanted employees to get in line and parrot the company talking points. Something I would never do.

I swore I would not go back into corporate America and especially not for a company that doesn’t reflect my values. Thankfully, one day I got an email from website called Outkick – a site that I read every day – that said they wanted to interview me for a position on the editorial staff. I was thrilled.

While I hesitate to use the phrase “dream job” after my previous experience, there’s no question about it: I finally have my “dream job.”

I get to work for a company that values me, my opinions, and diversity of thought. They even let me write this article to tell my story.

While my first dream turned into an abject nightmare, it led me to where I am today. I am officially an Outkick employee and I couldn’t be happier.

There is nothing but greatness in the future for us, a platform that delivers sports content that sports fans crave. I’m ecstatic to play even a small part in that mission.

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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