Over the last couple of years ESPN has sent mixed messages about where they stand on cultural and political issues. The network has gone back and forth between trying to be politically neutral and taking stands on cultural issues or hosting town halls on issues that go well beyond sports. In the wake of the Curt Schilling fiasco, the network has handed out guidelines to stay above an increasingly charged political fray, but the network is finding it harder and harder to actually fulfill that objective. And when analysts and personalities go on ESPN airwaves to make such statements, it makes it darn near impossible.
This morning on Mike & Mike, recently retired NFL player and ESPN analyst Ryan Clark showed up to the set wearing a Colin Kaepernick jersey.
— Mike & Mike (@MikeAndMike) September 20, 2016
— Dr Cork Gaines (@CorkGaines) September 20, 2016
It’s the second time this year that an ESPN personality has made a statement with a wardrobe choice on Mike & Mike. Back in April Bomani Jones wore a “Caucasians” shirt that was fashioned like the Cleveland Indians logo.
Clark has tweeted about the issue multiple times and even called out his ESPN colleague Trent Dilfer’s commentary about Kaepernick being a backup quarterback who shouldn’t be allowed to speak out.
Another unarmed black man killed by police, but let's continue to be upset because people kneel!
— Ryan Clark (@Realrclark25) September 20, 2016
So because he's a back up he isn't qualified to speak on social injustice?! I'm confused. Is there a depth chart for activism? #CmonMan
— Ryan Clark (@Realrclark25) September 13, 2016
As you can expect, ESPN’s mentions have turned into the Yahoo comments section. But really, the tweets are being divided into two camps either in support of Clark and his statement or swearing off ESPN programming.
And that’s the fallout for ESPN in this situation, it’s something that will polarize and/or turn off a lot of fans. ESPN obviously isn’t afraid to go there, or give their on-air talent the space to go there themselves.