Mike Wise, a Washington Post sports columnist for more than a decade, is leaving the paper to help ESPN launch a new site focused on the intersection of sports, culture and race. The Post announced the news in a staff memo Monday evening.
The new site — the brainchild of Jason Whitlock, who will be its editor-in-chief — has been commonly referred to as “Black Grantland” in recent months. Wise, it’s worth noting, is bald, middle-aged, and also white.
Wise declined to comment on any potential career move earlier Monday. An ESPN spokesman said the network is at an advanced stage of negotiation with Wise to join Whitlock’s soon-to-launch site, and that a formal announcement likely would happen soon.
Wise joined the Post in 2004; he interviewed with the paper on the same day that Joe Gibbs re-joined the Redskins. While he was most known for his columns — and for his radio show, which ran mid-days on 106.7 The Fan for three-and-a-half years — his finest work at the paper included lengthy feature stories about Gilbert Arenas and Donald Brashear. Both those profiles won “feature of the year” awards from the Associated Press Sports Editors.
Wise — who spent a decade at the New York Times before joining The Post — also was honored several times by APSE as one of the country’s top sports columnists.
Of course, in recent years, he likely became best-known locally for columns about issues that went beyond sports, from Jason Collins to Dave Kopay to the n-word to, yes, the Redskins name. Such issues likely will be a part of the mission at Whitlock’s site, which is expected to debut sometime in 2015.
Wise’s departure temporarily leaves three full-time sports columnists at The Post: Thomas Boswell, Sally Jenkins and Jason Reid. The Post is expected to hire another columnist to replace Wise.
(Full disclosure: As often noted, Wise is a longtime friend of mine, and someone I admire both professionally and personally. Yes, that makes this all kind of weird.)