ESPN is going all-in broadcasting live from Cuba this week with the network televising the game between the Cuban National Team and Tampa Bay Rays. Additionally, Outside the Lines and SportsCenter are airing shows live from Cuba as well.
As part of the coverage, ESPN promoted an OTL video from Jeremy Schaap about dictator Fidel Castro and his love of sports. The tweet called Castro a “savior and scourge” and Bristol was roundly questioned and criticized for the word choice. It was deleted shortly thereafter, but not before being sent out to SportsCenter’s 25 million followers.
ESPN is not one to embrace controversy, ESPECIALLY when it comes to politics, so the deletion of the tweet is no surprise. Castro’s human rights record, of course, speaks for itself.
For what it’s worth, the OTL video also contains the “savior and scourge” description of Castro and calls him a “revolutionary turned dictator” before going into Cuba’s sporting history.
At the very least, it’s puzzling that ESPN would air the description on one medium and delete it from another. It’s also puzzling why ESPN would dip their toes into such waters given how reticent the network is to even get near any controversial political issues.
UPDATE: Here is SportsCenter’s response:
Earlier tweet excerpted from our Cuba piece lacked clarity outside the context of larger feature. Deleted it without explanation – our bad.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 21, 2016