ESPN host Dan Le Batard has been absent from his usual slate of programming this week following comments he made that were critical of both ESPN and President Donald Trump’s rhetoric.
As Fox News notes, Le Batard missed his radio program “The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz” on Monday and Thursday. He also was expected to miss his television program, “Highly Questionable,” on Thursday.
While ESPN declined to comment to the situation, Fox News reported that Le Batard missed Monday’s show because he had spent the weekend trying to persuade ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro to soften the company’s stance on minimizing politics in its sports coverage.
He reportedly missed Thursday’s radio show because he went to speak to Pitaro in person about those same issues.
Le Batard, a Miami native whose parents are both Cuban exiles, sparked a furor when he called out his own network for its refusal to cover a Trump rally during which people began chanting “Send her back” in regards to Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, an immigrant from Somalia.
“What happened last night, this felt un-American,” Le Batard said on his radio show July 18.
Le Batard went on to channel the notoriously anti-Trump Jemele Hill, characterizing the former ESPN host as some sort of martyr. The network suspended her after she tweeted that Trump is a “white supremacist” and said fans should boycott the Dallas Cowboys over owner Jerry Jones’ stance against national anthem protests.
“There’s a racial division in this country that’s being instigated by the president, and we here at ESPN haven’t had the stomach for that fight because Jemele [Hill] did some things on Twitter,” Le Batard added. “Nobody talks politics on anything unless they use one of these sports figures as a meat shield in the most cowardly possible way to discuss these subjects.”
Le Batard’s most pointed comments basically called Trump’s rhetoric — and by extension the president himself — “racist.”
“If you’re not calling it abhorrent, obviously racist, dangerous rhetoric, you’re complicit,” he said.
The whole clip uploaded a little glitchy.
Here is part 1. pic.twitter.com/xUajgIINOC
— Erick Fernandez (@ErickFernandez) July 18, 2019
Pitaro was named president of ESPN in March 2018 and has spent the past 16 months handling a slew of challenges facing the struggling sports titan.
Most notably, due in no small part to personalities like Stephen A. Smith, Hill and Le Batard, Pitaro has tried to scrub his network’s social and political commentary to varying degrees of success.
Le Batard’s outburst last week is clearly a step in the wrong direction for Pitaro, who has made his stance on ESPN very clear.
“I do not believe that we are a political organization,” Pitaro said in response to an employee question about politics on the network in May.
“I know that a lot of conversation has happened within this company in the past year and I believe that we netted out in the right place, which is we are a sports media company,” he said.
To give credit where it’s due, Pitaro certainly has had some sort of effect on the politicization of ESPN content. It’s a markedly different feeling from when “SC6” was attempting to be the “woke” version of “SportsCenter.”
But it clearly hasn’t been completely stamped out. And if Le Batard continues on this path, he might not be much longer for “The Worldwide Leader.”
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