For most of the last year, ESPN in particular and the liberal sports media in general have jumped through hoops to deny that the cable sports network has a liberal bias problem. But now that the obvious has grown too hard to deny, their tactics are changing. Now, all of a sudden, ESPN’s liberal bias is a good thing.
Until now, ESPN and its hosts have repeatedly denied that it has a liberal bias problem. Last year ESPN ombudsman Jim Brady published an investigation into the claim of liberal bias that ran thousands of words only to reach the conclusion that there was no liberal bias.
But that wasn’t all; the question so vexed the network that it hired a polling firm to find out if there is any liberal bias and, if so, has it hurt the network’s ratings. Unsurprisingly, the survey bought and paid for by ESPN miraculously showed that there was no liberal bias at the network.
ESPN’s survey, though, flies in the face of three other surveys that did find that the network has a liberal bias problem and that the constant left-wing content is driving viewers away.
Many liberal members of the sports media, such as Awful Announcing’s Andrew Bucholtz, joined ESPN to pish-tosh any notion that the network has a liberal bias problem.
But there seems to be a changeup in the discussion as at least one liberal sportsman is now saying ESPN’s dive into liberalism is a good thing for the network that is losing 10,000 subscribers a month.
According to Ty Duffy of Awful Announcing, ESPN’s liberal bias is a good thing because it will bring in young, liberal fans.
“There is truth in the liberal claim. ESPN has tilted leftward under John Skipper,” Duffy initially observed.
Despite that admission, Duffy goes on to claim there is “no proof” that conservative fans have abandoned ESPN over its constant left-wing content. Naturally Duffy ignored the three surveys that serve as proof of conservative discontent and relied only on ESPN’s bought and paid for survey to “prove” his contention.
But even as he offers no statistical proof to buttress his own claim, Duffy insists that ESPN’s drive leftward is a shrewd move because it will bring young, “woke” viewers to replace the fleeing conservative audience.
Major brands, such as ESPN, are now expected to exhibit a political and social consciousness. They pay a cost when they are tone deaf. If there are now two Americas, ESPN (and sports leagues) will move with the one advertisers want to reach: young people, people with disposable income, and growing minority populations.
Of course, Duffy indulges gross generalizations. Only far left-wing liberals “expect” major brands to “exhibit a political and social consciousness.” Even if that is the case, he also seems to simply assume that even liberals don’t want a place to escape politics and instead want politics to invade and conquer the sports world.
Time will tell, of course, but it is interesting to see how this argument is morphing from staunch proclamations that ESPN isn’t liberal to the admission that, yes, some hosts are liberal, and finally to the obdurate notion that “yeah, we’re liberal. What of it?”
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com.