The uproar over Jemele Hill’s controversial remarks about Donald Trump isn’t likely to settle down soon. The narrative that ESPN has a liberal slant and discourages conservative opinions continues to gain fuel.
That’s especially true when critics and outlets like Fox News keep making an issue of how ESPN approaches politics and how its on-air talent discusses their views off-camera. Those who feel ESPN has become too political and encourages a one-sided angle see affirmation when Hill is censured, while others like Linda Cohn and Curt Schilling are suspended for expressing their viewpoints.
Former ESPN employees speaking out and saying that they were asked to publicly refrain from politics are going to keep the narrative and add further confirmation for those who see bias from the network. We’ve already seen Britt McHenry appear on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show to feed that view. And on Thursday, the Fox & Friends morning show had former NFL star and ESPN analyst Jason Sehorn to share his experiences.
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“When I as a fan and a viewer tune into ESPN, I don’t want politics and I don’t want to look at a person and have to think politics,” Sehorn said. “So I understood when they asked me to curtail some of my political aspirations. When I see it now, it’s like ‘Whoa, wait a minute. You told me one thing and you run a program one way, and yet you completely contradict yourself.
“I want sports when I turn to ESPN and now all of sudden, the lines are getting blurred a little bit and I think that’s what they have to clarify more than anything else.”
Sehorn has publicly expressed his support for the Republican Party. He spoke at the 2004 Republican National Convention to advocate for George W. Bush’s re-election. Presumably, he wasn’t going to express his views while offering college football analysis on ESPN, but did network executives discourage him from talking politics in public and on social media outlets? If so, you can see where he perceives a double standard.
It should be noted that Hill’s role on ESPN is to be more of a cultural commentator, while Sehorn provided analysis for a particular sport. Many will say that she should stick to sports, but is in a position where she responds to what’s going on in the world and how that might be reflected in sports.
Asking Sehorn to refrain from political talk is quite a different circumstance than suspending him if he supported or was critical of a political figure. What we don’t know is if ESPN made a similar request to Hill, and only acted once the network felt compelled to do so. But the situations are not as similar as Sehorn might want to portray them.