The saga of Jason Whitlock and The Undefeated is one of the defining sports media stories of 2015. After bringing Whitlock over from Fox Sports, ESPN President John Skipper handed Whitlock the keys to his own affinity site, which would become The Undefeated. It did not go so well. Whitlock was removed from the site and then went back to Fox Sports to commiserate with Colin Cowherd and other former ESPNers at Bristol’s top competitor.
Whitlock hasn’t said too much about his ESPN tenure beyond a nasty feud with Deadspin writer Greg Howard. In an interview with the Indianapolis Star though, Whitlock spoke out about what went wrong at ESPN saying he was “the wrong fit” as a “non-corporate, non-PC” person:
A non-corporate, non-PC person trying to muster internal corporate support to do an ambitious, revolutionary project inside an establishment brand would make a great documentary. I just finished watching Netflix’s outstanding doc ‘Making a Murderer.’ Mine would be called ‘Making a Scapegoat.’ LOL. Seriously, I was the wrong fit at ESPN. Definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
He also addressed the divorce from ESPN as his decision to leave once he was removed from the top spot at The Undefeated:
I wanted to leave ESPN when control of ‘The Undefeated’ was taken from me. ‘The Undefeated’ was the reason for me to work at ESPN. ‘The Undefeated’ justified the sacrifice of my voice. I considered the possibility of staying at ESPN as a columnist and fill-in host at ‘Pardon the Interruption.’ But at the end of the day, in order for me to reach my full potential, I need an environment that allows me to be me. … The executives at Fox Sports get and embrace me. Fox Sports allows me to be real.
These are interesting comments from Whitlock, because Fox Sports has repeatedly shown they’re willing to offer much less oversight to their major personalities and offshoot brands and let them do pretty much whatever they want. (See: Outkick the Coverage.) Whitlock couldn’t get the freedom at ESPN that he did at Fox… but he couldn’t get the responsibility, either. He went from managing an affinity site for the biggest sports media company in America to writing at what amounts to a tumblr page. That’s a mighty big difference in terms of platform and reach. It’s also a mighty big difference in messaging compared to when Whitlock was glowing about his ESPN return two years ago.
What else is in store for Whitlock? In the interview he plugs his regular appearances with Colin Cowherd as well as a television show that is in the works for next year. Whitlock was originally working on a television show for FS1 when he left ESPN in the first place to launch The Undefeated, so we’ve basically reset the clock to 2013. The race is on to see whether the television show actually launches before the site ESPN built and took apart just for him.