Clay Travis appeared on Fox News with Tucker Carlson and Britt McHenry.

It’s far from new to see Clay Travis taking shots at ESPN, something he did even before joining Fox in 2013 and continued while his Outkick The Coverage site was affiliated with them (it hasn’t been since July; Travis is still a host on the Fox Sports Radio brand, but that’s run by Premiere Networks, and that’s his only current tie to Fox).

However, the Travis-ESPN feud has ramped up considerably of late and it’s gaining attention well outside of sports media circles, especially after Travis broke the news of ESPN reassigning announcer Robert Lee and then went on Fox News and CNN to criticize the move and say it proved ESPN was a “far left-wing network.”

A regular response to stories we’ve written about Travis over the years was “Who is Clay Travis?”; that’s not the case recently, with publications from The Daily Beast to Uproxx to Slate discussing the Travis-Lee story and its continuing fallout in detail and high-profile ESPN figures either directly or indirectly blasting Travis. And that’s before you get to the conservative media outlets discussing Travis’ latest ESPN takes, from Breitbart to Fox News. Or the amounts of attention Travis gets on Twitter for anything he posts about ESPN.

Travis’ criticisms of ESPN have always received some attention, but that seems to have gone to a whole new level following the Lee saga, and it’s carried this discussion from the sports media realm to the general sports realm. If you’re among those hoping such fodder fizzles out, it seems highly unlikely that Travis’ criticisms of ESPN are going to diminish any time soon nor will the attention his comments receive.

For Travis, there appear to be good business reasons for regularly going after ESPN. ESPN VP (corporate communications) Mike Soltys told Robert Silverman of The Daily Beast “We looked at one point, and over a two-month period, half of his top 10 most trafficked stories were critical of ESPN and most of them talked about our alleged liberal bias.” Travis didn’t respond to The Daily Beast’s questions about if that stat was true, but from the outside, his ESPN coverage certainly appears to draw plenty of social engagement and outside media attention.

There are a lot of people who want to read about ESPN’s supposed left-wing agenda, and many of them turn to Travis for that. And he’s even made his anti-ESPN campaign into merchandising, selling MSESPN shirts with a no symbol as part of his new Outkick VIP subscription service.

That Outkick VIP package is interesting here, as it’s more proof of Travis expanding beyond just a sports personality with a website and becoming someone who can really sell things to his followers. We’ve seen some efforts along those lines before, such as his lawyer referral service Outkick.law (which doesn’t seem to exist any more, but a cached version can be found here) or his legal continuing education courses through OutkickCLE.com, or his store of Outkick gear, or the $50,000 he lost on an attempt to sell SEC-colored pants (really), but the VIP package is particularly geared towards getting readers to engage with him more and more; it includes scheduled events with Travis in markets around the country, Travis’ gambling picks, further gambling insights from Todd Fuhrman, personal profiles, and message boards.

This focus on really boosting his personal brand isn’t new for Travis, but it’s ramping up lately, especially with the VIP subscriptions. And it’s notable in light of Silverman’s headline calling Travis “the Alex Jones of sports“. There are plenty of differences between Jones and Travis when it comes to politics, but Travis’ attempts to really build his own brand through non-conventional media channels, while directly engaging with readers and selling them products and subscriptions, sound like a lot of what’s been said about Jones.

And one of Travis’ most compelling brands is “the critic of liberal ESPN.” That’s something that’s not only brought him a lot of attention, but a lot of engaged and devoted followers. There are many who like the narrative of the little guy taking on the big company, too, and who support Travis for doing so. And there are many who don’t like ESPN, so if Travis can be an alternative to it in some ways (something FS1 has mostly failed at), that gets him fans too. So don’t expect him to turn away from that path any time soon.

The challenge for ESPN is that there really isn’t any way to respond to this. They tried essentially ignoring Travis (and others claiming they’re left-wing, such as Travis’ former FS1 colleague Jason Whitlock) for a long time, but it didn’t make those criticisms go away. They’ve tried various refutations of those points, whether from ESPN executives or surveys. Numerous ESPN on-air personalities have blasted the “left-wing” narrative, but it hasn’t stopped it. And even a fiery e-mail from ESPN senior vice president (corporate communications) Chris LaPlaca complaining about how Travis portrayed an “Africans Abroad” segment that only aired in Africa just led to Travis posting that on Twitter, and continuing the feud there.

It seems unlikely any conceivable approach from ESPN will stop Travis’ criticisms. Even if they did have a case to complain about certain things he’s doing (like selling those “MSESPN” shirts), that would probably bring Travis more attention, and cause ESPN more harm than good. And even if they went and hired a bunch of right-wing figures (for what it’s worth, they did just extend Will Cain, and they’re even bringing Hank Williams Jr. back), it seems improbable that ends the “MSESPN” talk. The growing reality is that there are a lot of people who hate ESPN, and who regularly want to read pieces or listen to discussions on how it’s too liberal, and Travis is probably the leading provider of that content at the moment.

Nothing ESPN can do will stop the criticism from Travis and others entirely. Their best hope is probably just to avoid particular flashpoints like the Lee reassignment that give these criticisms wider attention. And it’s possible that they’ll be able to avoid some. But there will still undoubtedly be some decisions that draw controversy, and sports fans can likely expect to hear Travis and others blasting liberal ESPN over those moves and more for quite a while to come.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing.

  • namingrightsforsale

    Wow, if this doesn’t tidily epitomize several major problems with our country today, I don’t know what could.

  • Kres

    he goes where the money is. Just as awful announcing and everyone else. AA didn’t go from a fun website about announcing bloopers and reminding is how terrible Pam Ward is to the being mostly outrage porn and hot takes because it made everyone sleep better, it was a financial decision, designed to increase views.

    • Deon Hamner

      They’ll probably take this post down, but you are 100% correct.

    • Clint

      Amen

    • redman913

      actually, he doesnt go where the money is or else he would have his show on Fox from Horowitz under the rules that he couldnt get into political talk. he goes where he’s allowed to say whatever he wants and makes it work, and yes that makes him money.

    • CreightonRabs

      “AA didn’t go from a fun website about announcing bloopers and reminding is how terrible Pam Ward is to the being mostly outrage porn and hot takes because it made everyone sleep better, it was a financial decision, designed to increase views.”

      Truer words have never been spoken about this site. This used to be fun before they sold out to NESN and became part of the family of “Deadspin-lite” websites.

  • souvien

    just keep phucking that chicken Klay!

    the contrived takes are strong in this one…

  • redman913

    isnt this site starting to do the same thing to him that he does to ESPN? this reeks of character smearing. Clays main point about ESPN is the majority of sports fans want to sit down, have a beer, and watch sports. not be told about how evil everybody and everything is and how everything needs to change. if people wanted that, there are 20 other channels to go to.

    • CreightonRabs

      Bucky and his loser colleagues will insult and slander anybody who doesn’t buy into their left-wing group think. It’s their MO and, sadly, that’s what sells these days.

  • TriCuriousGeorge

    Who is clay travis?

    • inku palios

      He’s some conservative sports host who hates ESPN, because it’s liberal. Travis apparently also called Michael Smith & Jemele Hill Black Panthers on his show.

      • redman913

        he is actually a liberal who worked on the Gore campaign and voted 2x for Obama, he says it at least once a show.

  • BobLee Says

    The only way I follow what Clay Travis is doing is HERE. AA is going to continue reporting on him because stories on Travis get clicks. Everybody is a click-whore. …. That ESPN thought Hank Williams Jr opening MNF “proves we’re not Left-wing” only proved how totally clueless “Skippy in Bristol” is. The Robert Lee trainwreck reconfirmed that. …. “Skippy” and most of the AA stable of writers still can’t believe TRUMP WON. … I bet there will be another AA Clay Travis update by next Wed. Wanna bet?

  • NegGas

    So what’s your bias against Clay Travis?

    • bralinshan

      They don’t like it when a few lone conservatives have a voice. It gets their dander up. There’s only room for liberal views in their hateful world. They can’t ignore Travis because they want his voice silenced. I have no idea what will happen to Travis…..but the future for AA is bleak.

      • Deon Hamner

        They want his voice silence, because he’s a freaking troll and a jerk. He’s a sexist pos. Period. Even Katie Nolan to him to task. Nothing to do with his political view.

        • bralinshan

          Deon, you can barely string a coherent sentence together. Its interesting that a conservative is a troll and a jerk….LOL. You lefties are so tolerant. And HATEFUL. Wait, aren’t the conservatives the Haters? LOL.
          There is more hate in a liberal than in 10 conservatives. That’s the dirty little media secret. AA is headed down the crapper. Sooner or later.

          • Deon Hamner

            Oh please give me a break. Those barn animals on Fox with Hannity and his circus show. Skip Bayless is a liberal and a troll. Stephen A Smith is a liberal and troll too. So spare me. What we need in America and especially you; is loudmouths telling folks how to think and actually experience this thing we call LIFE. Try it sometimes…

        • redman913

          hahahahaha Katie Nolan (former bartender) took him (a lawyer from Vanderbilt) to task good one.

          • CreightonRabs

            Katie Nolan? Who cares about what that bitch has to say? There’s a reason her show was called “Garbage Time” – because it was pure, unadulterated garbage, even by FS1’s low standards.

  • HN

    It’s true though. ESPN has become a liberal outlet. Disney CEO Iger should personally go to the ESPN headquarters and demand that no personalities talk about politics. Just pure sports. NO POLITICS at all cost. That should be the policy.

    • Deon Hamner

      Pretty hard to do when you got Kaepernick, the Browns and others bringing politics into sports.

      • bralinshan

        Kaepernick is OUT of football. He’s NOT a story at all. He’s a story because the Marxist media despise that an activist got destroyed by the free market. They will not stand for it. They will create a story.
        Kaepernick walked away from big guaranteed money. That was HIS choice. He’s a marginal QB that’s not worth the PR baggage (all the conservative football fans will go nuts, and yes, they exist). He’s also a QB that requires a certain system to even have a chance.
        The media is desperate.

        • Deon Hamner

          The fact you even say guaranteed money and NFL; shows your level of sports fandom. I’m a fan of the 49ers. A new coach, new GM and a high contract, he wasn’t staying. He would’ve been cut…

        • AmericanNohbuddy ™

          Marxist media is an oxymoron

    • redman913

      lol but that’s exactly what Iger wants and you’ll believe it when he’s running for POTUS next election

  • Dane Griffin

    I don’t really have a problem with what Clay does. I just feel when reading many of his followers responses it is the “I just want to watch sports, without social context” but clearly if it was sports with their “social context” it would be fine. But, instead of saying that it is easier to get behind the whole ESPN has personalities that are different from me and that makes it so bad. It really isn’t hard to watch ESPN or read Travis and not be “triggered” that is the term that is popular to use these days.

  • JWJ

    You specifically put the qualifier “conservative” before identifying some other media sites.
    But you do not put “leftist”, or “far-left’, or any other type of political qualifier before Slate, Daily Beast, and Uproxx.
    Why is that? Do you think those sites are “center”?
    I know that 80-90% of sportswriters today are left to far-left, but you must have enough awareness that Slate is on the far left.

    • bralinshan

      Nope, they believe they’re the new “center”. They’re clueless. And they piss people off. Which is why this marginal site will eventually go bye-bye.

  • Rey Henry

    clay travis and espn are both symptoms of the bigger problem in sports.
    sports is no longer about the athletes and the games. it is now about the reporters and broadcasters.
    for example my wife knows who is stephen a smith. yet probably couldnt identify kyrie irving if he was standing next to her.

  • bralinshan

    Awful Announcing won’t make it in the end. Because the market for left wing “journalism” in sports is too small. These type sites don’t realize that they piss half the audience off nearly every day.
    Within a few years, a TON of these niche sports sites will be long gone. It’s a tough business. But, it’s a LOT tougher when you fall in behind your left wing brethren and destroy half of the market.
    There’s nothing compelling about Awful Announcing. There’s nothing innovative. It’s just a left wing site like all the rest….and very few will make it.

    • Deon Hamner

      Bye bye.. You folks give yourselves way too much credit. Please go away. Society will be fine with you off AA and ESPN. The world will keep spinning on its axis.

      • bralinshan

        WRONG. The numbers say you’re way off. But, you’re a liberal and that means that you’re not a thinking, rational person.
        Its horrible business to mix in your political views with sports. In a brutal business that has enough trouble generating revenue….it’s incredibly stupid to piss off 50% of the market. But, they exist in a liberal bubble and believe that everyone thinks as they do….50% of the USA voted for Trump. Not 10%….not 20%….
        FYI, this country was built on Judaeo Christian values and a free market system. You get to breathe free air BECAUSE of that fact. Your way? Check out Cuba. You’re a fool. Nobody can help a fool.

        • Deon Hamner

          You don’t make up 50% of the market. That’s one. Second data, something a lot of republicans don’t trust shows, this isn’t the case. The landscape of how we watch tv is changing. Why do you think the NFL Redzone channel is doing so well? Why is Fox Sports and NBC Sports ratings down as well. Why does Rachel Maddow have the number one show on cable news now Bill O’Reilly left? You think that audience went to her? I don’t think so. Like I said, you give yourself way too much credit. If you aren’t downloading an app or streaming a service they can give two f%cks about your business. So why is NASCAR struggling? That’s a conservative base! FYI this country was built on slavery too, so should reinstate that as well? Because a lot of monuments, buildings and economic system was built off slave labor. Breathe that air… And you got the nerve to call me a fool. Child please…

          • CreightonRabs

            Why don’t you take your race baiting bullshit somewhere else, asshole?

          • Deon Hamner

            Was that English you are attempting to type? I’m sorry facts got in the way of your inbred right wing thinking… you can’t help being a cunt huh

        • mynameiskevin

          “FYI, this country was built on Judaeo Christian values and a free market system. You get to breathe free air BECAUSE of that fact.”

          You clearly have no clue of what you talk about, considering that “free air” and “free market economics” tend to be diametrically opposed to each other these days. I’ll let you think that one over again.

    • CreightonRabs

      They used to be innovative and entertaining, but now, they’ve devolved into Deadspin Lite.

  • BobLee Says

    I come to AA because, IMO, “Sports Media” has become its own spectator sport.
    ….. The on-air personalities… the bloggers who write about what they say/write… their individual politics… ESPN vs FS1… the fans who argue with the bloggers ….. this whole on-line circus is lots more entertaining to me than the NFL, NBA, MLB, et al.
    …. The Video versus Text transition is especially fascinating.
    … FWIW: this site seems to have A LOT of tech-glitches when downloading. Fixing those would be appreciated. Otherwise RAGE ON!

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