Stop us if you’ve heard this before, but ESPN’s The Undefeated will launch soon.
The so-called “Black Grantland” site ESPN has been touting for years will finally hit the web on May 17, ESPN announced Monday.
With The Undefeated, helmed by former Washington Post managing editor Kevin Merida, a month away from our internet browsers, let’s run through the long and winding timeline of the project:
August 15, 2013 – ESPN commentator Jason Whitlock announces plan for a “Black Grantland” vertical on a podcast with then-Grantland editor-in-chief Bill Simmons.
June 10, 2014 – As rumors about Black Grantland bounce around, Deadspin’s Greg Howard rips into Whitlock in a long piece about the still-nameless site and Whitlock’s racial politics, which Howard says make him “the most hated sportswriter in the black community.”
December 18, 2014 – ESPN announces three new hires for Whitlock’s site: Mike Wise, Jerry Bembry and Justin Tinsley. The Wise hire sparks controversy, with particular attention paid to a column he wrote about the n-word for The Washington Post.
February 12, 2015 – Whitlock’s site finally gets a name, “The Undefeated” (inspired by a Maya Angelou quote), and a vague launch date, summer 2015. ESPN publishes a lengthy feature on Charles Barkley, written by Jesse Washington, with Undefeated branding. The piece extensively compares the NBA forward-turned-commentator to Booker T. Washington.
April 28, 2015 – Over at Deadspin, Howard publishes a massive expose on in-fighting at The Undefeated, Whitlock’s somewhat-comic reliance on quotes from notable world leaders (including himself) and the site’s overall dysfunction under Whitlock’s management.
June 12, 2015 – Whitlock is removed as editor of The Undefeated, with Leon Carter installed as his interim replacement. Whitlock, it is announced, will remain at ESPN to write.
July 6, 2015 – A New York Magazine feature on Whitlock and The Undefeated reveals that Ta-Nehisi Coates, maybe the most acclaimed modern observer of race in America, turned down an offer from The Undefeated, despite a promise to triple his salary, because he didn’t want to work with Whitlock.
October 4, 2015 – Whitlock is officially out at ESPN.
October 14, 2015 – In what appears to be a match made in heaven, Whitlock returns to his former employer, Fox Sports, to join Colin Cowherd, Clay Travis et. al at an outlet increasingly devoted to provocative opinion-generating.
October 15, 2015 – Perhaps emboldened by his new job, Whitlock takes some shots at Howard and Deadspin. Howard responds, and things get messy.
October 19, 2015 – ESPN hires former Washington Post managing editor Kevin Merida to run The Undefeated. The hire seems to provoke largely positive reaction.
February 3, 2016 – The Undefeated announces five new hires and appears on track to actually exist at some point.
March 18, 2016 – The Undefeated brings in Yahoo! NBA writer Marc Spears, the site’s biggest name in the post-Whitlock era.
April 18, 2016 – ESPN announces a firm launch date for The Undefeated, May 17, which happens to be the 62nd anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. With a popular editor-in-chief and a growing staff, the site appears truly just a month away from a launch.
Throughout the whole saga, ESPN has never publicly wavered from its commitment to The Undefeated, even as it terminated its commitment to Grantland, the site’s original inspiration. ESPN has stuck with this idea after almost three years of drama, and now they’re less than a month away from seeing it through.
See you May 17.