ESPN has made it more than clear that it wants its employees to stick to sports.
Network president Jimmy Pitaro has told employees that it’s not their job to cover politics, and longtime ESPN reporter and anchor Jemele Hill ultimately left the network last year after openly criticizing President Donald Trump on social media, among other things.
Despite the policies, however, Dan Le Batard didn’t hold back Thursday morning.
The longtime ESPN radio host and TV personality called out the racism he saw at a Trump rally on Wednesday night on his radio show, “The Dan Le Batard Show.” He also criticized ESPN for trying to keep its employees quiet about uncomfortable topics.
Le Batard started out recapping what happened at the Trump rally in Greenville, North Carolina, where a “send her back” chant broke out, specifically referencing Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
Omar, a Somali refugee and American citizen, was one of four minority congresswomen Trump attacked on Sunday on Twitter when he said that they should “go back” to the countries where they came from, despite all of them being American citizens. Naturally, the racist tweets sparked mass outrage, and the House of Representatives later voted to condemn them as racist.
Trump has since disavowed the chant, saying he was “not happy” with it, according to The New York Times.
After condemning the chants, Le Batard transitioned to reading a tweet from Fox Sports’ Nick Wright.
I don’t talk politics on here but this isn’t political, this is obvious: This is abhorrent, obviously racist, dangerous rhetoric and not calling it out makes you complicit.
The “send her back” chant + the “go back to where you came from” are so antithetical to what we should be. https://t.co/0Mwnlaf3gE
— nick wright (@getnickwright) July 18, 2019
Le Batard — whose parents fled Cuba for the United States as teenagers — sided with Wright and quickly built on his tweet, calling out both Trump and ESPN leadership for forcing its employees for using a “weak-ass shield” when it comes to talking about politics and race.
Stop what you're doing and watch this.@LeBatardShow responds to the racist "Send her back" and "Go back to your country" attacks against Ilhan Omar and other congresswomen.
"If you're not calling it abhorrent, obviously racist, dangerous rhetoric, you're complicit." pic.twitter.com/ntOC2Seg3b
— Erick Fernandez (@ErickFernandez) July 18, 2019
The full transcript:
“So, what happened last night, this felt un-American what happened. Basically, a chant, ‘Send her back’ is not the America that my parents came to get for us, for exiles, for brown people. There’s a racial division in this country that’s being instigated by the president, and we here at ESPN haven’t had the stomach for that fight because Jemele (Hill) did some things on Twitter, and you saw what happened after that. Then here, all of the sudden nobody talks politics on anything unless we can use one of these sports figures as a meat shield in the most cowardly possible way to discuss these subject.
“But what happened last night at this rally is deeply offensive. Done by the president of our country … Nick Wright writes, ‘I don’t talk politics on here, but this isn’t political. This is abhorrent, obviously racist, dangerous rhetoric and not calling it out makes you complicit.’ The ‘send her back’ chant and the ‘go back to where you came from’ are so antithetical to what we should be.
“It is so right what he is saying there. It is so wrong what the president of our country is doing, trying to go down getting reelected by dividing the masses at a time when the old white man, the old, rich white man feels oppressed, being attacked by minorities. Black people, brown people, women. That’s who we’re going after now. Black people, brown people, women. Let’s do it, as the platform.
“That’s what you’re seeing, and the only way we can discuss it around here — because this isn’t about politics, it’s about race — what you’re seeing happening around here is about race, and it’s been turned into politics. And we only talk about it around here when Steve Kerr or Popovich says something. We don’t talk about what is happening unless there’s some sort of weak, cowardly sports angle that we can run it through. When sports has been a place where this stuff changes.
“Muhammad Ali was fighting for this stuff in the 60s. Bill Russell and Jim Brown are really old. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is old. These people who were fighting, the most powerful among us in sports, who were fighting in the civil rights era for atrocities happening to black people that we’re still paying for now in a country where this is our greatest sin, what has happened to minorities in this country. They’re old and dying. Jim Brown walks with a cane, man. He walks with a cane. He’s going to go to the grave without having seen change. He’s going to go to the grave with Colin Kaepernick still out of the league, literally blackballed because we’re taking this stuff and making it about the flag when it’s not about the flag. It’s about race, like burning a cross and saying it’s about God. This isn’t about the flag.
“This is deeply offensive to me as somebody whose parents made all the sacrifices to get to this country. ‘Send her back.’ How are you any more American than her? You’re more privileged? You’re whiter? You’re richer? The people don’t know whether your money is real or not. You’ve had every privilege afforded to you by America. Every privilege. And now, what you do with that power, is you go after brown people and black people and minorities. And around here we won’t talk about it? ... Weak-ass shield.”
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