ESPN’s political correctness has led to a drop in ratings over the past few years — and what happened Monday night was a perfect example of why many viewers are fleeing the sports channel.
The Disney-owned media giant aired two “Monday Night Football” games. One was with its regular crew of play-by-play man Sean McDonough, former NFL head coach Jon Gruden on color, and Lisa Alters as the sideline reporter. While that crew had few issues out of the ordinary — the second broadcast team was met with sharp ire from viewers.
The team on the second game featured, on the play-by-play, Beth Mowins, the first woman to broadcast an NFL game on TV in 30 years; former NFL head coach Rex Ryan as the color commentator; and Sergio Dipp as the sideline reporter. Although the company may have been pleased to check off a few diversity boxes on paper — the show was problematic from the start.
In the first quarter, the broadcasting team called on Dipp — whose primary job is with ESPN Deportes (the Spanish-speaking version of the channel) — to talk about the Denver Broncos' first-year head coach, Vance Joseph. It was immediately evident Dipp had never done a live report for the English-speaking version of the network.
The Mexican-born Dipp wrestled through his report in his second language, essentially failing to utter a coherent sentence. He finished by saying Joseph was "having the time of his life" in his first game as an NFL head coach.
After that, Dipp did not receive any face time for the rest of the game, although his performance on his 30-second appearance became an internet meme for the rest of the night.
It was also play-by-play woman Mowins' first-ever broadcast of an NFL game. While Mowins brought experience in calling college football, the network had passed over several more experienced candidates with years of NFL broadcasting experience, such as New York Jets radio personality Bob Wischusen and Arizona Cardinals radio broadcaster Dave Pasch, both of whom broadcast college football for ESPN. They passed them over to give her an opportunity — yet during the broadcast, Mowins drew criticism from fans for her voice and her lack of football knowledge.
It did not help her that for some reason the network decided to pair her with one of the most universally disliked former coaches in the league, Rex Ryan — who is more well-known for his foot fetish than his success as an NFL head coach (65-68 career record). The two had little chemistry and at the beginning of broadcast, Mowins was even heard telling Ryan where to point his microphone.
The unsuccessful broadcast came on the same day that "SportsCenter" anchor Jemele Hill called President Donald Trump a white supremacist on Twitter — and was met with severe backlash from site users. Her employer appeared apathetic to her antics, since it was not her first incident.
The company's PR team put out a statement about the incident, but Hill — who frequently resorts to identity politics on a sports show — will not be punished for her actions.
"The comments on Twitter from Jemele Hill regarding the president do not represent the position of ESPN. We have addressed this with Jemele, and she recognizes her actions were inappropriate," read a statement from the network.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders took a different stance at a Wednesday press briefing, saying she thought the comment from Hill was a "fireable offense."
When ESPN announced over 100 layoffs earlier in the year, many viewers were upset that Hill, with her history of controversy, was not a part one of those let go.
Though she faces no serious professional consequences, ESPN fired former Boston Red Sox starting pitcher and three-time World Series champion Curt Schilling, a conservative, from his color-commentating gig in 2016 for sharing a meme voicing his disagreement with the transgender bathroom bill.
Schilling's concern was about sex offenders taking advantage of the law to gain access to women's restrooms.
Worst of all, ESPN still seems to expect its viewers to believe it does not have a political agenda. If that is true, the channel has done a poor job of conveying it.
(photo credit, homepage image: Algorhythm Labs, Flickr; photo credit, article image: Ed Schipul, Flickr)