“ESPN is not a political organization”

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“ESPN is about sports.” It is “not a political organization”. That’s what ESPN President John Skipper said in a note to staff members on Friday afternoon, after a murderous week for the sports network.

Skipper’s note came in the wake of anchor Jemele Hill calling President Trump a “white supremacist” in a series of tweets on Monday that sparked days of media coverage, criticism and a presidential fling. against the network.

Related: Trump Attacks ESPN After Anchor Calls Him A White Supremacist

“We have important debate issues in our country right now,” Skipper admitted. Yes, he said, ESPN stands for certain values ​​on tolerance and diversity. Yes, ESPN employees are also citizens who have opinions on politics. But the network has social media policies for good reason, Skipper said, as personal comments “will reflect on ESPN.”

“In light of recent events,” he said, “we must remember that we are a journalistic organization and that we must not do anything that undermines this position.”

Skipper didn’t mention Trump’s criticisms, but his message was clear: let’s cover the news – sports and “the intersecting issues with sport” – and stop being the news.

“Let’s not let the public narrative rewrite who we are or what we stand for,” he said. “Let us not be divided in this pursuit. I will need your support if we are to be successful.”

Here’s the full memo, obtained by CNN:

I want to remind everyone of the fundamentals of ESPN.

ESPN is about sports. Last year we broadcast over 16,000 sporting events. We show the highlights and report the scores, tell stories and break down the pieces.

And we talk about sports all day every day. Of course, sport is intimately linked to society and culture, so “sticking to sport” is not that simple. When athletes engage on issues or when protests occur in games, we cover, report and comment on that. We are, among others, the largest, most accomplished and most resource-rich sports information organization. We are very proud of our press organization.

We have shows that we discuss and even debate about sport, as well as issues that intersect with sport. The fans themselves love to debate and discuss sports.

ESPN is not a political organization. Where sport and politics intersect, no one knows what point of view they should express.

At the same time, ESPN has values. We are committed to inclusion and an environment of tolerance where everyone, in a diverse workforce, has an equal opportunity to succeed. We see this as human, not political. Therefore, we insist that no one be disparaged for who they are, including their gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs or gender identity.

We have issues that are the subject of significant debate in our country right now. Our employees are citizens and wish to participate appropriately in the public debate. This can create conflict for our talent audience between their work and their personal views. Given this reality, we have social media policies that require people to understand that social platforms are public and that their comments on them will be reflected on ESPN. At a minimum, comments should not be inflammatory or personal.

We have had a violation of these standards in recent days and our handling of this is a private matter. As always, in every circumstance, we seek to do what’s best for our business.

In light of recent events, we must remember that we are a journalistic organization and that we must not do anything that undermines this position.

We also know that ESPN is a special place and that our success depends on you and your colleagues. Don’t let the public narrative rewrite who we are or what we stand for. Let us not be divided in this pursuit. I will need your support if we are to be successful.

CNNMoney (New York) First published on September 15, 2017: 6:16 p.m. ET


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