ESPN’s embrace of politics has turned off some “core” viewers, “SportsCenter” anchor Linda Cohn says.
Combined with expensive rights fees, subscriber losses and recent programming changes, it may have contributed to ESPN laying off 100 people Wednesday.
“I felt that the old-school viewers were put in a corner. And not appreciated with all these other changes,” Cohn said during a radio appearance on “The Bernie and Sid Show” via the New York Post. “They forgot their core. You should never forget your core. And be grateful for your core group.”
Making news again-we’re famous! https://t.co/cwulcZDiXe @sidrosenberg
— Bernie and Sid Show (@bernieandsid) April 27, 2017
Over the past 25 years, the pioneering Cohn has anchored more “SportsCenter” editions than anybody in ESPN history.
MORE: Who did ESPN let go?
She was asked by WABC radio co-hosts Bernard McGuirk and Sid Rosenberg whether some viewers have developed a “distaste” for ESPN’s more political statements.
Such as giving transgender Caitlyn Jenner the ESPY “Courage” award over Lauren Hill, who died of brain cancer. Cohn agreed.
“You’re right. That is definitely a percentage of it. I don’t know how big a percentage. But if anyone wants to ignore that fact, they’re blind. That’s what I meant about the core group that made ESPN so successful,” she said.
Cohn said her fallen colleagues — including her weekend co-anchor Jay Crawford — were victims of bad “decision-making.”
ESPN management overpaid for sports TV rights, she said, and didn’t fully anticipate how many subscribers it would lose from cord-cutting and the rise of internet TV services such as Netflix.
Among the big names laid off by ESPN Wednesday: Andy Katz, Britt McHenry, Jaymee Sire, Dottie Pepper, Ed Werder, Jayson Stark and Jade McCarthy.
MORE: ESPN personalities give heartfelt tributes to laid-off colleagues
Cohn said It was “eerie” to watch dozens of her friends and colleagues say goodbye via social media Wednesday.
“It really was sad. It was an awful day,” Cohn said.
Author James Andrew Miller told Slate that critics who claim ESPN problems are due to a backlash against its more liberal personalities are “smoking crack.”
God bless, @JimMiller . https://t.co/Z68iGefWfH pic.twitter.com/VetXZsv5dB
— Caleb Hannan (@calebhannan) April 27, 2017
But ESPN only seemed to reinforce the belief of conservatives that the company leans left by publishing a poem dedicated to convicted cop-killer Assata Shakur on espnW.
After drawing criticism on social media, ESPN removed the poem and posted an editor’s note.
“An earlier version of ‘Five Poets on the New Feminism’ featured ‘Revolution’ by Dr. DaMaris Hill. We have decided it is not an appropriate selection for our site, and have removed it from the feature,” the note read.
Sports, politics and pop culture have never been more intertwined.
ESPN ombudsman Jim Brady writes that critics who want the network to revert to all sports, all the time, should not hold their breath.
“ESPN has made it clear: It’s not sticking to sports,” Brady wrote.
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