The Results Are In. Viewers: 1. ESPN: 0

Jena Greene | Contributor

It’s no secret that ESPN’s ratings are down.

Earlier this spring, the sports network announced it would be laying off hundreds of TV personalities, pundits, and online staff.

The firings triggered a Vesuvius of angry tweets, frenzied journalists, and speculation. Was this the beginning of the end? Panic ensued.

Let’s put these bombshell layoffs into perspective.

It’s Spring 2017. The country is on egg shells. With President Trump newly at the helm of a very divided America, the only thing people can agree on is disagreeing. Many TV networks and newspapers are slinging mud at the president and the GOP, oftentimes completely disregarding truth and factual evidence.

Faith in news and journalists — particularly those on the left — is at an all time low.

It is the era of the information crisis.

So when ESPN announced its mammoth budget cut, people more than just panicked. ESPN was not on an island by itself, completely insulated from liberally biased bosses and writers. It was just the latest victim of the tyrannical, militant propaganda spewing from every dark orifice and crevice of leftist subculture.

Deadspin’s Kevin Draper writes on ESPN’s apparent liberal bias:

This last is a point a lot of the network’s dumbest critics have pointed to as a reason for ESPN’s decline, and even levied as a charge of sorts. It’s true, of course, [that ESPN is liberally biased] if not necessarily for the reasons those that are making it think it is. Former New York Times public editor Daniel Okrent once titled a column “Is The New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?,” and answered the question in the first line: “Of course it is.”

I mean, wow. Never mind that not-so-subtle ode to The New York Times slipped in there (Kevin Draper later went on to actually join The New York Times) but he openly concedes that ESPN is flagrantly biased with little more than a shrug and a smug grin that says “get over it, simpletons.”

He goes on to point out that, along with the budget cuts, ESPN changed its policy on political commentary.

Where ESPN’s previous modus operandi was to disregard all political discussion and report sports only, its policy seemed to change overnight in an act of budgetary desperation. Draper continues:

“The new guidelines make far more sense. They say that ‘commentary related to political or social issues, candidates or office holders is appropriate on ESPN platforms,’

‘…the guidelines say that ESPN should “offer balance or recognize opposing views, as warranted.” The as warranted is key, here; another way to put it would be that ESPN’s official policy is that its employees don’t have to perform the sort of ‘gotta hear both sides’ journalism.”

In other words, ESPN knew it was in free fall. It was losing money rapidly and viewership had sharply declined. People were tuning out. Along with laying off a slew of people, ESPN’s new policy reflects the twisted belief that a majority of Americans lean far left and aren’t hearing enough about politics in day to day life.

According to ESPN, sports are no longer an escape. Instead, they should be a direct platform for liberal messaging only.

They may as well have promised to formally endorse the next Democratic candidate opposing Trump in 2020.

But America is great for many reasons, and one of those reasons is our ability to hit back. ESPN’s ratings continued to plummet. In an effort to reassure sports fans of its authority and relevance, ESPN released a poll regarding its coverage.

If you learned nothing else from 2016, your one takeaway should have been that polls are rarely trustworthy.

Well, apparently ESPN missed that memo. The network announced its survey victories as proudly as the architects of the Affordable Health Care Act point to the program’s multitude of achievements.

What, Obamacare is faulty you say? And chock full of lies?

Well, similarly enough, ESPN’s polls seem pretty dishonest as well. They must be drinking from the same water cooler.

The May 3-7 Langer Research Associates poll reveals that 30 percent of viewers believe that ESPN expresses a conservative viewpoint.

Well, let’s dissect this for a moment. Thirty percent initially seems like a pretty high figure. But what about that other 70 percent? Are they wholly unaccounted for? Do they have no opinion? Something tells me a majority of those polled — certainly higher than 30 percent — believe ESPN expresses largely liberal viewpoints.

Why else would that figure be front and center on ESPN’s own “Front Row?” The fact that ESPN actually has to tell you that some people actually believe they’re conservative is laughable.

A poll later conducted by YouGov US revealed that conservative viewership has actually fallen from 32 percent in 2013 to just 16% in 2017, while its liberal viewers have remained stable and loyal to the network.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying ESPN should go full to the right either. Though its new political policies are largely contributing to its failing grade, it’s not all of it.

But in this volatile era of mud slinging journalism, Americans have their antennae up. And rightfully so. Provocative and largely politicized athletes like Colin Kaepernick and Caitlyn Jenner only contribute to the noise and tension that divides us.

If ESPN knew what was good for the network, it wouldn’t pit political parties against each other. Sports are the one place that people drop their politics at the door and come together. It’s a cheap shot to prey on this country’s political division and if it continues, the network deserves to lose every last viewer it has gambled.

Jena Greene

Contributor

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