When it was announced publicly that Jason Whitlock was removed from his own website, it was only a matter of time. Just a few months after Whitlock was taken off The Undefeated, the network made it official – Whitlock’s second tenure at ESPN is over.
The network confirmed Whitlock’s departure through a statement given to Sports Illustrated. In quite the rare development, especially from the carefully parsed public relations world, ESPN intimates that it was a move motivated by Whitlock after the very public and very turbulent fallout at The Undefeated:
“We have mutually agreed to part ways, which was Jason’s preference following the shift from his role as Editor-in-Chief. Jason is a talented print and television commentator, and we wish him success in his next chapter. ESPN remains fully committed to The Undefeated and plans continue toward an official launch.”
SI’s Richard Deitsch adds that the buyout was agreed to a couple of weeks ago. Ultimately, Whitlock’s second go-round at ESPN ends with much more of a whimper than his first one. The bombastic columnist previously worked for ESPN from 2002-2006, a stint that ended with Whitlock saying disparaging things about colleagues and ESPN banning him from their airwaves. Alas, here we are almost a decade later.
A quick search through the ESPN.com archives shows just 41 articles written by Whitlock in the 2+ years since ESPN hired him (none since August 6th), 2 of which are listed on the homepage of the still-to-be-launched website that was supposed to be his vertical. After leaving The Undefeated, Whitlock made several appearances as a guest host on PTI.
If you’ll recall, ESPN boldly hired Whitlock on the eve of the FS1 launch. Whitlock was at the time rumored to be working on a show for FS1 and was one of the faces of the Fox Sports website. But ESPN’s move to snatch Whitlock from their new rivals was not just a defensive one. ESPN also handed him the keys to a personality-driven vanity site that would focus on the intersection of sports, race, and culture. Given Whitlock’s history of controversy, it was certainly one of John Skipper’s biggest gambles as ESPN President. In the end, Whitlock’s hiring and his brief tenure as Editor in Chief of The Undefeated marks one of ESPN’s biggest defeats. It adds on to a year that has seen some of ESPN’s biggest personalities – Simmons, Cowerd, Olbermann, now Whitlock – all leave the network under varying circumstances.
What’s next for Whitlock? Ironically, all the tea leaves point to a return to where he was two years ago – a television role at Fox Sports. With Jamie Horowitz at FS1 already canceling shows and wanting to make way for more “opinionated” programming, it doesn’t take John Nash to figure out what’s going to happen.
Prepare yourself for that Jason Whitlock-Clay Travis debate show you’ve always wanted coming soon to FS1.