Disney CEO Bob Iger says ESPN doesn’t have a left leaning agenda. Others in the media couldn’t disagree more.
At the Walt Disney Company’s annual shareholders meeting in Denver, Iger addressed a frustrated shareholder who accused ESPN and ABC News of a liberal bias.
“I’m going to disagree with just about everything you said,” Iger told the shareholder. “I can stand here today, look you in the face, and say I’m proud of the efforts of ABC News. I respect ABC News. And I believe they work very hard to present news in an extremely fair way.”
Regarding ESPN, Iger added “The charge that ESPN is exhibiting significant political bias in its programming is just completely exaggerated. One small communication and blowing it up into something that sounds a lot larger than it is. Watch ESPN and you’re not going to see political bias at ESPN.”
Expecting Iger not to defend his company would be asinine. However, there are valid questions to be asked about the network’s political influence and how it’s carried over to its television, radio, digital and social media platforms.
Those who feel ESPN has shifted its weight towards the left side of the aisle will point to a myriad of controversial issues which have left a sour taste in many mouths.
The examples they cite include Caitlyn Jenner being named the winner of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, Colin Kaepernick’s protest against the national anthem receiving frequent attention while other television network’s briefly acknowledged it during games, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade being given a platform at the ESPY’s to protest racial injustice, and the company launching The Undefeated and hiring Nate Silver and featuring his 538 political website prominently on its main page.
It doesn’t help that former MLB pitcher Curt Schilling, who previously worked for the company, was fired in April 2016 after he used social media to demonstrate his support for the North Carolina law that required people to use the bathroom of their original sex. Following his dismissal, Schilling told the Dan Patrick Show that the company had two different sets of rules. Internal memos would be sent to talent urging them to focus on sports and stay away from politics, but when Stephen A. Smith, Dan Le Batard, and Tony Kornheiser explored controversial issues and took stances against things that supported Democratic views, they didn’t face any consequences.
Schilling added that inside the network’s green room, a place where employees often hung out, staff members would seek him out and acknowledge sharing similar views, but do so secretly out of fear of being exposed for not marching to the beat of the network’s drum.
In a recent study, The Big Lead revealed that only 4% of sports media industry members voted for Donald Trump during the past election. 51 people were contacted for the survey, which means that only 2 out of 51 media members supported the republican nominee. Although the poll wasn’t exclusive to ESPN talent, it’s this type of evidence that gives members on the right side of the room feeling that a strong bias exists throughout the media, especially on the airwaves and platforms of ESPN.
In light of this story, and the previous news of ESPN expecting to cut a number of on-air jobs, Barrett Sports Media is interested in knowing how you feel about the current state of ESPN. The link below contains a few questions about the worldwide leader of sports. If you’d take 5 minutes to share your thoughts, we’d greatly appreciate it. The results will be presented in a future column.