Katie Nolan on Desus and Mero.

The latest test for ESPN and politics comes not from social media, but from an appearance on Viceland. ESPN personality Katie Nolan was a guest on Desus and Mero on that channel this week, and responded to a joking comment about the thumbs-up being a white power hand sign because of President Donald Trump’s repeated usage of it with “That’s because he’s a fucking stupid person.” Here’s the video:

This led to a whole lot of media wondering if that was a violation of ESPN’s social media policy, including Michael McCarthy of The Sporting News. It led to a whole lot of Trump supporters yelling at ESPN on Twitter. And it eventually led to ESPN issuing a statement calling Nolan’s comments “inappropriate,” as relayed by Kyle Koster of The Big Lead:

This is understandably going to bring up comparisons to Jemele Hill’s September tweets saying that Trump was “a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists” and “an unfit, bigoted, incompetent moron,” which ESPN eventually addressed in a similar statement:

The ESPN response here probably isn’t going to sit well with anyone. Trump critics will point out that the president has regularly been called “stupid” by everyone from New York Times to Chicago Tribune to Foreign Policy to CNN op-ed contributors to late-night hosts to his own staffers (anonymously in the new Michael Wolff book), that there haven’t usually been consequences for that, that Nolan isn’t expressing her views on an ESPN platform or even on social media platforms (which ESPN’s no politics policy is focused on), and that it seems silly for ESPN to bring in opinionated personalities like Nolan to try and make a splash with younger demographics, then tell them their opinions are “inappropriate.” Trump supporters will question why there wasn’t a suspension or a firing for this, with some even trying to equate it to Curt Schilling’s dismissal after anti-transgender comments. And no one will be happy.

That speaks to the larger issues ESPN is facing in 2018. Everything any of their commentators say is seen as evidence of the company’s politics, whether that’s fair or not, and their corporate response to any political issue generally winds up alienating all sides. They’re trying to attract and retain viewers by having personalities with strong opinions like Nolan and Hill, but they don’t want those personalities to touch on anything that could be possibly controversial politically. The ideal pundit for them at this moment is probably Stephen A. Smith, regarded by some internally as an “absurd character,” who regularly says ridiculous things and gets attention for it, but not usually in a way that brings any sort of political attention to ESPN.

But while Smith may be able to largely stick to sports (and even he doesn’t always do that, weighing in on everything from Marvin Lewis and race to marijuana), that’s not a blueprint that everyone can follow, especially in a world where sports are so intertwined with larger societal and racial issues. Even sticking to sports can draw a whole ton of backlash from particular fanbases, as we saw with the latest ESPN-New England Patriots controversy Friday. ESPN is going to attract controversy in 2018, for sports and beyond, and plenty of their commentators are going to occasionally anger people, over sports, social issues, or politics. The corporate response to the Nolan incident suggests the company isn’t thrilled about that (although not enough to actually hand down a suspension), but that kind of response has its own problems and makes no one happy.

We don’t yet know what form the next ESPN political controversy will take, but we know it’s a matter of when, not if.

[For The Win]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing.

  • markvidpa

    Anyone at ESPN who thought this trash was gonna behave is as stupid as she is.

    • namingrightsforsale

      How is pointing out a very basic fact about a very awful person misbehaving?

      • Aplethora

        Yes, Katie stayed awake all night coming up with that one. Mom must be proud.

        • namingrightsforsale

          What does that matter? One doesn’t need to spend a lot of time thinking about things in order to see how horrible the “president” is.

          • noonan18

            Do you understand what opinion means? Based on your posts, you do not. Your opinion is that he is a horrible president. Others think he is doing a good job. It doesn’t make either fact. Stop saying that its obvious to everyone how bad the president is, because its simply your opinion. Get it yet?

          • namingrightsforsale

            It doesn’t make either fact, but it doesn’t make either not fact either. That he’s a horrible president isn’t simply my opinion; it’s a stunningly obvious conclusion to anyone who isn’t denying reality.

  • BobLee Says

    In a fancy corner office at Disney HQ… Robert Iger stabs his hand with a pair of scissors as he ponders “Who can I blame it on THIS TIME” now that he got rid of Skippy.

  • crs44

    I couldn’t care less about Katie Nolan and what she said, but ask yourself this question: If an ESPN host (with conservative leanings, of course) had uttered the same words about Obama, what do you think would have happened? Exactly.

    • inku palios

      Ask both Curt Schilling & Hank Williams Jr. about their thoughts about Obama.

    • namingrightsforsale

      Yes, Obama and Trump are totally equivalent here!

    • Christopher Bates

      Actually, we don’t have to guess. Schilling said controversial things several times–about Obama, Muslims, evolution, the Confederate flag–and was warned repeatedly to tone it down. He ignored those warnings, and got fired for a meme he posted about transgender people. Now Katie Nolan has been warned to tone it down. If she openly rebels against that instruction SEVERAL more times, and keeps her job, then MAYBE you have a point.

      • Bragar

        To a liberal anything a person says that they define as “controversial” means said person muttered anything a liberal finds offensive. Period.

        liberals are the LEAST tolerant people on the planet.

        • Christopher Bates

          Um, I have no idea what your first sentence even means.

          Beyond that, you are posting your comment on an article wherein conservatives are upset because a sports reporter called a Republican president stupid. So, if anyone is showing off their sensitivity in this case, it is conservatives.

    • Christopher Bates

      Oh, and Mike Ditka called Barack Obama “the worst president we’ve ever had,” and he’s still drawing an ESPN paycheck.

      • MrBull

        Big difference in what Ditka stated – an opinion of his job performance compared to what Hill and Nolan personally called President Trump…

        • Christopher Bates

          Ditka also said that there’s been no racial oppression in the last 100 years. The bottom line is that the narrative that liberals can say whatever they want on ESPN and conservatives cannot is simply not correct.

        • namingrightsforsale

          Big difference being that nothing either said about the “president” is remotely unfair or untrue.

          • noonan18

            That’s garbage. There is no truth to anything they said. Its just their opinion. Their opinion, even if you support it, doesn’t make it true.

          • namingrightsforsale

            Something isn’t necessarily true because it is someone’s opinion, but someone can hold an opinion that is true. So that it is their opinion doesn’t mean that there is no truth to what they said. Conversely, in fact, there is a lot of truth to what they said.

  • Dee Snutz
  • KyleYount

    Such entertaining sports analysis! And brilliant too. She is just so good shes going to bring back the millions of subscribers theyve lost

  • Destro

    Well if the ESPN thing doesn’t work out you shouldn’t worry about Katie, she won’t starve. We all know what she is willing to do for some oreos.

    Oh and maybe she can blame the whole thing on THE WEEEEED.

  • Mike in STL

    What a brave person she is, just so brave. :LOL:

  • Roger Bournival

    In other words, she got a slap on the wrist. Ask yourselves this – in just one week ESPN gave a wrist slap to Katie Nolan and they did nothing to Jemele Hill about her recent shot about not regretting comments about Trump that got her suspended for two weeks. If you don’t see a pattern here, you are willfully blind.

    • namingrightsforsale

      The pattern is that ESPN doesn’t want to excessively punish their employees for pointing out the truth? How is that an issue?

      • Roger Bournival

        Nolan’s expressing an opinion, not making a statement of fact. I pointed out two examples of ESPN employees criticizing a Republican president without any serious disciplinary action. Curt Schilling does the same to a Democratic president and gets booted. I also recall Linda Cohn running into trouble for criticizing Obama. NOW do you see a pattern?

        • namingrightsforsale

          I can’t talk about this with you if you are going to be so dishonest about what got Curt Schilling fired.

  • Shame Hannity

    How is this even a story? Everyone in the entire country (except his 35% hardcore supporters) knows that Trump is f#&@ing stupid. Even his Secretary of State called him a “f#cking moron”. It’s pretty much becoming the consensus opinion now……

  • Super Mateo

    ESPN probably was aware that this is what they’re going to get with Katie. I do think Katie will eventually mature out of this behavior, but no matter how much she may hate someone, she needs to think twice about voicing it.

  • MrBull

    First…espn is about sports not politics…thus any comments and opinions by espn talent on air, online, twitter, interview or wherever either on espn or elsewhere should be about sports and not politics or social issues, period!…
    Just as athletes present the teams they play for, the same applies to those at espn…
    Second…the comments by Nolan, Hill and others just show everyone how Democrats or liberals as just a bunch of ‘little whinny disrespecting children’…things do not go there way, like the President election and we see their reaction….

    • namingrightsforsale

      It’s not really whining about things not going their way as much as pointing out the simple and undeniable reality about how astoundingly awful the current “president” is.

      • Destro

        Quit whining.

        • namingrightsforsale

          Do you know what “whining” means? It doesn’t seem like you do.

      • MrBull

        And the same could be said about former President Obama…many didn’t care for his actions nor his policy decisions…of course 99% were respectful in their disagreement over his presidency….same can not be said about the left and their feelings toward Trump…

        • namingrightsforsale

          Obama wasn’t a raging narcissist who didn’t display a complete lack of respect for other people. Wouldn’t you maybe say that makes a difference?

  • Steve R

    Nothing to see here. Her career will fade as her cuteness does.

  • Another Hurricanes Goal

    “f-ing stupid” remark…I see what you did there.

  • ICEE444

    ESPN sinking like the Titanic. Maybe they should stop hiring ignorant junkies….lol

  • Dale Moog

    This is not out of bounds I feel she has called many people stupid. She is a on a show on VICELAND come on people the people looking to equate this to Schilling are just looking for something to complain about. I am a conservative who voted for Trump people so do not say things like this is coming from a total liberal or an America hater. I just have a brain and am non a mindless drone. I voted for Trump and YES I think he is a F’ing stupid person but that does not mean I do not respect the office of the President.

    • namingrightsforsale

      Why did you vote for him if you think he is so stupid?

  • Chris Grogan

    I don’t understand why this is controversial. She made an accurate statement, why should she get reprimanded?

  • sarah413

    No matter the subject, or the network, it’s all about toeing the company line. Whether it’s ESPN, Fox News, MSNBC, etc. you must march in lock step with the others. Failure to do so is treasonous behavior. It’s now “how dare you have a thought or opinion that doesn’t fit the narrative.”

  • Bragar

    DT has been more successful by mistake than this bimbo will be on purpose…

  • The Man

    Why Katie ever went to that cesspool I have no idea. Katie, we love you, get out of that place before they drag you down with them.

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