ESPN president John Skipper.

The sports media world was rocked on Monday morning with the news that ESPN president John Skipper would be resigning from the company, effective immediately.

In a statement released by ESPN, Skipper cited a substance addiction as the reason for his resignation.

“Today I have resigned from my duties as President of ESPN,” Skipper said in a statement. “I have had a wonderful career at the Walt Disney Company and am grateful for the many opportunities and friendships. I owe a debt to many, but most profoundly Michael Lynton, George Bodenheimer and Bob Iger.

“I have struggled for many years with a substance addiction. I have decided that the most important thing I can do right now is to take care of my problem.

“I have disclosed that decision to the company, and we mutually agreed that it was appropriate that I resign. I will always appreciate the human understanding and warmth that Bob displayed here and always.

“I come to this public disclosure with embarrassment, trepidation and a feeling of having let others I care about down.

“As I deal with this issue and what it means to me and my family, I ask for appropriate privacy and a little understanding.

“To my colleagues at ESPN, it has been a privilege. I take great pride in your accomplishments and have complete confidence in your collective ability to continue ESPN’s success.”

Skipper had served as the president of ESPN since the beginning of 2012. George Bodenheimer, his predecessor as president, will take over as the acting chairman for the next 90 days, helping Disney chairman Bob Iger find a successor.

Iger and Bodenheimer also released statements about Skipper’s departure. First, from Iger.

“I join John Skipper’s many friends and colleagues across the company in wishing him well during this challenging time. I respect his candor and support his decision to focus on his health and his family. With his departure, George Bodenheimer has agreed to serve as Acting Chair of ESPN for the next 90 days to provide interim leadership, help me identify and secure John’s successor, and ensure a smooth transition. I am grateful for George’s support and look forward to working with him again in this temporary role.”

And from Bodenheimer.

“I have great respect for John’s leadership, and I applaud the courage he’s demonstrating by addressing his challenge head on. The most important thing right now for John and his family is that he conquers his addiction, and the entire ESPN family is behind him.

“I’ve stayed in close contact with John, and I believe in the direction he’s taking ESPN. He’s assembled an outstanding leadership team – many of whom I know very well – and I am extremely confident we will work together effectively to move ESPN forward during this transition.”

This news comes as a shock, given that Skipper just signed a new extension to continue leading ESPN through 2021 last month. He also spoke, representing ESPN, during last week’s Sports Video Group summit, and made an appearance during the social media summit in Bristol.

Overall, it’s been a rough year for Skipper, who has had to contend with numerous outrages on social media, related to Sage Steele, Jemele Hill, Robert Lee, and Barstool Sports, to name just a few. Skipper has also been blasted by former ESPNers for his leadership (or lack thereof), including Bill Simmons and Keith Olbermann.

Whoever replaces Skipper will have a difficult task on their hands, and will need to contend with declining ratings, rising costs related to rights fees, a turbulent social media climate, the 2019 launch of the ACC Network, and the pending Fox sale to Disney, which would bring all of Fox’s RSNs under ESPN’s control if approved.

(also, the layoffs. You can’t forget about the layoffs)

It’ll be a challenge, and Skipper’s successor will need all the help he can get.


About Joe Lucia

I'm the managing editor of Awful Announcing and the news editor of The Comeback. I also made The Outside Corner a thing for six seasons.

  • ncpete

    You have to wonder if there’s a bigger story coming. Just seems like weird timing to suddenly resign months after signing a new contract. Skipper did a good job of protecting his job by not having a #2 capable of replacing him and now that might come back and hurt ESPN because it doesn’t seem like they have an internal candidate for the job.

    • John Danknich

      The same sort of thoughts had crossed my mind. Substance abuse is a delicate matter to be sure, but there’s got to be more to the story. Yet another black mark for the Worldwide Leader.

    • We are at the point where “resigned because of substance abuse” is less controversial than a lot of other possibilities. It’s weird to hope something like this is true because of those alternatives. (I can’t speak for others, but I would offer my sympathies to him if he’s recovering from drug abuse when I would cast him out to perdition if what he’s abusing is not drugs but women,)

      • A r gent O r a n g e

        ‘substance abuse’ in the last few months has become a euphemism for, ‘if you had my power, why don’t you tell me what your aphrodisiac would be?’
        As an aside from whatever this man’s actual problem may or may not be
        I like the fact that we can delude ourselves that something that has been going on for thousands of years has somehow not been going on lately. I think society needs therapy for being this gullible/naïve. ‘why are you jumping to conclusions?’ I’m not, I actually think it may have some other weird angle beyond the obvious trope du jour.

  • A r gent O r a n g e

    Disney just got bought out by who ??? Where’s that bottle of scotch ?

  • Raymond Chuang

    Convenient excuse. What I think happened was Skipper was forced to resign because we’re about to hear stories of widespread sexual harassment going on at this division of the Walt Disney Company.

  • MrBull

    His new contract should be terminated for hiding his ‘substance issue’…and good riddance!

  • Charles Gaskell

    ESPN has been falling in market share due to their departure from sportscasting and attempts at covering the “social issues” aspect of sports. When will the media discover that we prefer the freedom to form our own opinions on social matters based n good solid coverage of events?

    • Bob Boyd

      couldn’t agree more

    • QED – quod erat demonstrandum

      Dan LeBaturd and others tearfully described how much Skipper contributed to diversity and social causes.

      And I am obligated to point out that that enabling contributed mightily to the declining ratings for precisely the reasons Chuck de La Maryland states.

      If these dipsticks could get off their little liberal pet peeve causes and describe and analyze more of what Phil Mushnick hammers every week at the NY Post, betcha ratings would return.

    • namingrightsforsale

      While there is certainly a possibility that you genuinely feel this way, it often seems that the real issue is that ESPN sends a message that sometimes that people disagree with, and rather than thinking that ESPN might be right and they might be wrong (the freedom of forming an opinion involves a responsibility to honestly challenge set notions), they assume they are right and subsequently resent ESPN for that. But in the cases of many of the ESPN “social issues” that people think get pushed, you’ll notice that they are generally things like “don’t discriminate” or “black people are not inherently inferior.” Neither of these are really too disagreeable as a matter of principle, which means it can sometimes be difficult to be sympathetic to people complaining about ESPN’s messaging. People who are wrong complaining that they are being told they are wrong is not something that engenders a lot of respect.

      • QED – quod erat demonstrandum

        If you actually knew some conservatives you would understand that we’re way past ‘don’t discriminate’. We believe people, regardless of color, should be given a fair chance given their God-given talents and work effort. Not income redistribution in perpituity. It’s why you don’t see conservatives protesting outside sporting events about the lack of caucasians in the starting lineup.

        And we don’t need unaccomplished talking heads who never built anything in their life prosthelytizing to us about moral issues.

        • namingrightsforsale

          I know a lot of conservatives, and I know that they frequently talk about things like giving people “a fair chance” and rage against things like “income redistribution in perpetuity” while simultaneously supporting policies and politicians that deny people fair chances, display a stunning lack of empathy, and contribute to the grotesque income inequality that causes people to recognize the need for better distribution of wealth. Not a single conservative who genuinely believes in the things you say you believe in should still be in support of Trump or in support of the abhorrent agenda the Republican Party is trying to foist upon the country. Why are so many still in support of those things, then? Do they not understand what true conservative principles are? Do they not understand what is going on (even though they act like they do)? Or are they just lying?

  • John Lee

    How about the mishandling and tolerating of the abuse scandals… broke last week and there are probably numerous other accusations coming. John Skipper that he had helped created this culture… resign in fear of snowballing of the situation…

    • A r gent O r a n g e

      ewww …… snowballing

    • Adam Domo

      its a shame because i think ESPN has done an A+ job of employing and encouraging diversity on their product. Unfortunately people never want to focus on that aspect of ESPN

      • Unknown Commenter

        I don’t know who you are, but I sent Adam an email telling him some dumbass is abusing his Disqus account.

  • Bscotch Bscotch

    Not often you see ESPN and substance in the same sentence.

  • Bobby Ern

    in the words of the immortal Gilligan…………SKIPPER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Bscotch Bscotch

    An obvious question….did James Andrew Miller and Deitsch not report any of this or are they not as wired into ESPN as they lead us to believe?

  • smack_libs_around

    Of course he knew that any of the couple hundred sports media hacks he took a scalpel to in layoffs would drop a dime on him. It wasn’t some noble, selfless, ‘introspective’ maneuver on Skipper’s part. Let’s all laugh at those who think it was.

  • BobLee Says

    I’ve never “liked” John Skipper for his public persona and for his leadership decisions. So my opinion is admittedly tainted. I will note that “the mainstream media” appears to be taking his “resignation” at face value with no curiosity about “what substance and how long abused…” and wishing him well in his recovery. … Would the mainstream media accord the same “at face value” to a high profile sports figure that was not of their ideological ilk… say a Jerry Jones among many?
    … IF Disney top executives were not aware of Skipper’s addiction issue, they do a half-assed due diligence of their top executives. That should scare Disney stockholders.

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  • sportsfan365

    This is what is called “getting out in front of the story”. Somebody he recently fired was selling their story to the NY Times, etc., and this guy figured the best way to knock the pins out from under it was to be first to the news stand. In today’s world Skipper will be praised for admitting his problem instead of being denigrated as a drug addict.

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