The biggest news story to come out over the weekend was the leaked tape of Donald Trump making lewd comments about women to Billy Bush. On Monday, ESPN's Dan Le Batard said he wanted to discuss the topic but was told not to by management, who he said would suspend him if he ignored the order.
"The Dan Le Batard Show" is different from most ESPN radio and TV programming (it is simulcast on ESPNU) in that it is more of a pop-culture show than a sports show, and it rarely shies away from discussing even controversial topics that many in the sports world avoid. If any show on the ESPN airwaves were going to discuss the Trump tape, it would be Le Batard's.
But Le Batard says he is being quieted on the subject. And while he often jokes and has fun about the relationship between his show and "the suits" at ESPN's headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut, this time he seems to be genuinely unhappy about the directive.
Le Batard opened Monday's show by explaining why he thought the story of the Trump tape was perfect for his show, at the same time asking one of his producers what ESPN's rules were on the subject. Le Batard then said he was going to talk about the subject before figuring out the rules, citing the popular saying "ask forgiveness, not permission."
But one of Le Batard's producers then seemed to talk him out of that tact.
"OK, fine, what are the rules?" Le Batard asks.
The producer, after consulting with ESPN, simply responded: "You can't talk about it ... you probably said too much already."
Le Batard did not seem to take that well.
"That's disappointing, man," Le Batard responded. "We talk race. We talk gender, and there is some stuff here that can be talked about as it relates to misogyny and entitlement that we talk about all the time around here ... You have to be kidding me. This controversy is in our wheelhouse. You have to be kidding me."
When asked about his previous comments that ESPN did not dictate the direction of his show, Le Batard said that had clearly changed and that he would be suspended if he disobeyed the orders.
"I can't say it anymore," Le Batard said. "Because on this one they stepped in and said I can't talk about it, and it's a hard line. So now talking about it would get me suspended, which might be worth it, frankly, because they're wrong."
When reached for comment, ESPN told Business Insider that Le Batard was not threatened with a suspension.
Le Batard went on to explain why he thought the topic was perfect for his show:
"We do tackle all manner of pop culture and it's just such a magical thing, the idea that a presidential candidate runs the potential of being derailed by that particular sentence. Hold a second. Before I ask you what the rules are at ESPN, just let me get this out, because I want to know what the rules are. I don't know what the rules are ... I like the pop culture elements of this. I'd like to talk about Kenneth Bone last night being the star of the debate without taking a side politically on anything. But it was such a seismic thing that happened last week. Just a perfectly 2016 controversy. The idea that a presidential candidate — what's he saying to his friends if that's what he is saying to Billy Bush? But before I go down this path, I need to know what the rules are."
Le Batard then explained why he was so upset with his not being allowed to talk about the subject, saying it undercut his credibility as a show host.
"It is an undercutting of my credibility. I can't sit here talking about the meaty societal topics as often as I do and all of a sudden one makes an appearance in politics — we're a pop-culture show — and it's this one. It's this one. It's soaked in misogyny. It's unbelievable. It's a 2016 celebrity crisis scandal and the suits are afraid I am going to take a side. Furthermore, they're not trusting me. They're not trusting me to be able to talk about this in a way that's interesting and is not flammable. That's not me showing allegiance to either candidate, which I never do anyway."
Le Batard did discuss the topic during the first hour of his show, which airs only in the Miami area and not on ESPN Radio or ESPNU. He also later discussed the topic in the final hour of the show after Business Insider contacted ESPN.
ESPN has made headlines in the past over on-air personalities venturing too deep into politics. Most notably, Curt Schilling was fired after he wrote social-media posts about Muslims and later the anti-LGBT law in North Carolina.
Le Batard then threatened to just rebel against the rule by giving ESPN "a bleep show."
"It's annoying and I don't know what to do about it other than to rebel with just boring sports talk, to reluctantly, to give them a bleep show," Le Batard said. "Give them as an act of defiance, punish their consumers, by just sitting here and giving them a bleep show. This is not why you hired me. You hired me to trust me with some of these decisions."
Here is some video from the start of the show:
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