On Thursday, Le Batard plunged ESPN into the political news cycle when he criticized Trump the morning after a rally at which supporters chanted, “Send her back! Send her back!” in reference to Somali-born Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). On his radio show, Le Batard said the rally “felt un-American” and the chants were “deeply offensive.”
Also during the show, Le Batard took aim at his company’s policy, laid out numerous times by Pitaro during his 17 months on the job, that ESPN will cover political issues only when they intersect with the sports world.
“We here at ESPN don’t have the stomach for the fight,” Le Batard said. “We don’t talk about what is happening unless there is some sort of weak, cowardly sports angle that we can run it through."
Le Batard appeared on his radio show Friday, and as of Monday morning, he had not been suspended, though discipline remains a possibility. One person with knowledge of the conversations between ESPN and Le Batard said: “They made it very clear to him that they weren’t going to tolerate this. They just couldn’t suspend him, but he got the message.”
In the wake of the episode, ESPN has sought to reinforce its no-politics edict publicly, with officials telling reporters that the policy remains unchanged. Before Pitaro took over, the network was enmeshed in politics-related controversies, including when former ESPN writer and TV host Jemele Hill tweeted that Trump was a white supremacist. The White House called the comment a “fireable offense,” and ESPN drew charges of liberal bias from conservatives.
Multiple reports in recent days cited an internal email sent to ESPN employees, but several on-air talents contacted by The Post said they did not receive the memo and were having trouble finding any colleagues who did.
The network declined to comment on the record about the email, but the ESPN official said it had been mischaracterized as a companywide memo when in fact it was sent to only a handful of key editorial decision-makers with the intent that the message would be shared with on-air talents and other employees.
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