The Wall Street Journal has a piece on ESPN being weakened by politics over the last several years. While much of the information is not new, there was this blurb about Bob Ley approaching former President John Skipper sometime before things blew up even further last fall in the aftermath of Jemele Hill’s tweet about Donald Trump.
But the amount and intensity of political expression generated sharp internal disagreements over whether ESPN was appropriately taking part in the broader national conversation, or whether top executives were encouraging a divisive company culture and giving too much leeway to hosts to promote left-leaning views, both on air and on social media.
Well before Ms. Hill’s tweet controversy, network icon Bob Ley had approached Mr. Skipper to say “there was a problem with balance internally,” people familiar with the matter said. Reached for comment, Mr. Ley said Mr. Skipper “was always extremely receptive.”
Bob Ley is one of the fixtures at ESPN from a forward-facing talent perspective, with the network since 1979. He also leads “Outside the Lines,” a program that often looks into things surrounding sports, including social issues, and is one of the stronger journalistic offerings at the network. Previously, Linda Cohn, another ESPN veteran, had publicly questioned ESPN becoming too political and also overpaying for rights fees on the NBA (something that, as included in the WSJ piece and also previously reported, drew the ire of Skipper).