After ESPN Clashes with Trump Where Do They Go Next?

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For some time now, many sports fans have been expressing frustration for ESPN’s alleged entry into “too much” political commentary. From anchors and commentators sounding off to others connected to the network getting in Twitter feuds with the President, there is some smoke where many folks see fire. But what can ESPN do about it?

There’s no doubt the network needs fans from across the political spectrum. But they especially need football fans. These fans, by the numbers, trend more toward the President and his policies than away from them. Many of the athletes and the personalities on the network, lean in the opposite direction. That’s a challenge that isn’t going away on its own. After months of denying the growing conflict of interest, or flat out ignoring it, ESPN finally decided to look the issue square in the eye. On a recent Sunday, during NFL Countdown, the network kicked off its coverage with a pregame show dedicated to a discussion of President Trump’s remarks about kneeling football players.

It was a truly interesting program with some great TV moments. During the back and forth discussion, former NFL head coach and new color commentator, Rex Ryan, admitted he supported the President during his campaign, even introducing him at a campaign event. But he wasn’t happy now.

“I never signed up for that… I never wanted that… That doesn’t mean I support 100 percent of the things he says … I have looked at (the protests) from a different standpoint… I looked at it from all the men and women who stood for our country.” Ryan was speaking about Trump’s denouncing players who are taking a knee to protest Trump’s comments. He continued: “I was wrong. This year, I look at it, and it’s a far, far greater thing than just that.”

Former NFL star Charles Woodson went even further in his rhetoric, “(It’s) unbelievable that after nearly 400 years of slavery, we’re still going through this. Still. And not just from anybody, but from the President…”

Former NFL player Anquan Boldin tried to correct “misconceptions” about the protests. “We’re protesting inequality. We’re also standing for slain police officers. We all recognize that we live in a great country, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be worked on…”

Despite general agreement among the men on the panel, the NFL fan base was far from in agreement on this issue. ESPN rAfter ESPN clashes with Trump where do they go next?

For some time now, many sports fans have been expressing frustration for ESPN’s alleged entry into “too much” political commentary. From anchors and commentators sounding off to others connected to the network getting in Twitter feuds with the President, there is some smoke where many folks see fire. But what can ESPN do about it?



There’s no doubt the network needs fans from across the political spectrum. But they especially need football fans. These fans, by the numbers, trend more toward the President and his policies than away from them. Many of the athletes and the personalities on the network, lean in the opposite direction. That’s a challenge that isn’t going away on its own. After months of denying the growing conflict of interest, or flat out ignoring it, ESPN finally decided to look the issue square in the eye. On a recent Sunday, during NFL Countdown, the network kicked off its coverage with a pregame show dedicated to a discussion of President Trump’s remarks about kneeling football players.

It was a truly interesting program with some great TV moments. During the back and forth discussion, former NFL head coach and new color commentator, Rex Ryan, admitted he supported the President during his campaign, even introducing him at a campaign event. But he wasn’t happy now.

“I never signed up for that… I never wanted that… That doesn’t mean I support 100 percent of the things he says … I have looked at (the protests) from a different standpoint… I looked at it from all the men and women who stood for our country.” Ryan was speaking about Trump’s denouncing players who are taking a knee to protest Trump’s comments. He continued: “I was wrong. This year, I look at it, and it’s a far, far greater thing than just that.”

Former NFL star Charles Woodson went even further in his rhetoric, “(It’s) unbelievable that after nearly 400 years of slavery, we’re still going through this. Still. And not just from anybody, but from the President…”

Former NFL player Anquan Boldin tried to correct “misconceptions” about the protests. “We’re protesting inequality. We’re also standing for slain police officers. We all recognize that we live in a great country, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be worked on…”

Despite general agreement among the men on the panel, the NFL fan base was far from in agreement on this issue. ESPN received massive backlash from fans incensed that they are “getting even more political” in their programming. These fans denounced both the network and the players for protesting in a way they found offensive. Others said they appreciated the perspectives of both the commentators and the protesters, but there was no doubt whose voices were louder.

So, ESPN is at a crossroads. In trying to continue a respectful dialogue and take on an issue directly affecting sports, they received both “thank you”s and rage. The trouble being, they need those viewers. And they need most if not all of them. Where do they go from here?

By Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR

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