Charles de Gaulle once opined that politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians. Apparently, the same goes for college basketball reporters and Outside The Lines hosts.
Without warning, ESPN management last week pulled Andy Katz from co-hosting a SiriusXM program called “The Arena,” featuring Katz and Rick Klein of ABC News interviewing subjects from the sports and political worlds on how sports-related topics can drive the agenda in Washington. The six-episode run debuted on October 2, and you can see here that Sirius XM promoted the show in a big way. The show aired on SiriusXM’s non-partisan political channel, P.O.T.U.S, and the first (and now only) guest was Florida governor and current GOP candidate Jeb Bush. That conversation produced some interesting news for SiriusXM, ESPN and ABC News, given all three were attached to the project.
Said Bush on whether the Washington football team should change its nickname: “I don’t think [the team] should change it. But again, I don’t think politicians ought to have any say in that to be honest with you. I don’t find it offensive. Native American tribes generally don’t find it offensive. We had a similar kind of flap with FSU if you recall, the Seminoles, and the Seminole tribe itself kind of came to the defense of the university and it subsided. It’s a sport for crying out loud.”
Last Thursday SiriusXM confirmed that “The Arena” is no longer airing on SiriusXM. The company declined comment beyond that. If you think it’s strange that a SiriusXM show ended after one episode and no one wants to talk about it, you’d be right. But the onus isn’t on SiriusXM here. It’s on ESPN.
Katz was clearly given an internal green light to do this – SiriusXM isn’t putting out a splashy announcement for a show that talent hasn’t signed on to do – so the question is: what happened? Sources told SI.com that Katz was pulled off the show in an effort to minimize Presidential candidate appearances on platforms connected to ESPN, and the sensitivity of such political identification. The supreme irony here is that Katz and Klein continue to host a politically-based (but ideologically neutral) podcast (Capital Games) on ESPN since 2014.
Klein declined comment via email.
When contacted by SI.com on Sunday, an ESPN spokesperson said, “Some internal miscommunication occurred, and we apologize. ESPN’s policy does not allow for full-time employees to create content for other outlets, so Andy could no longer appear on the show.”
I feel bad for Katz (who was not made available by ESPN for this query) and Klein. They forged something unique and interesting – and apolitical – and it was pulled for what appears to be a heavy-handed management decision. Perhaps there is some merit to ESPN’s public response (Stephen A. Smith’s show on SiriusXM is produced by ESPN) but ESPN has a history in this, well, arena . Readers can be the judge.
To read more, visit Sports Illustrated where this was originally published