ESPN’s embrace of left wing politics is so ingrained now that the man employed as an ESPN ombudsman even acknowledged the political shift in a recent article posted on ESPN.com:
“We’ve done a great job of diversity,” said longtime ESPN anchor Bob Ley. “But the one place we have miles to go is diversity of thought.”
Many ESPN employees I talked to — including liberals and conservatives, most of whom preferred to speak on background — worry that the company’s politics have become a little too obvious, empowering those who feel as if they’re in line with the company’s position and driving underground those who don’t.
“If you’re a Republican or conservative, you feel the need to talk in whispers,” one conservative ESPN employee said. “There’s even a fear of putting Fox News on a TV [in the office].”
ESPN’s left wing move is so obvious that it’s impossible to ignore now, but what I have struggled with figuring out is why has ESPN chosen to embrace left wing liberalism, a segment of politics that alienates at least 75% of its core sports audience and contributes to a continuing ratings slide? Leaving aside whether you agree or disagree with the politics, it just doesn’t make business sense.
That’s when it hit me — ESPN’s left wing move is all about CEO Bob Iger, he’s going to run for president in 2020 and cite his tenure running Disney and ESPN as evidence of how he’d govern as president. Once you realize this, everything else makes sense inside Disney.
Why does “Beauty and the Beast” have a totally unnecessary gay scene in the movie? So Bob Iger can point to his inclusiveness and tolerance when he runs for president. SEE, TWO GAY MEN DANCING IN A DISNEY MOVIE HAPPENED ON HIS WATCH! Why has ESPN gone left wing and given awards to Caitlyn Jenner for becoming a woman, celebrated Michael Sam’s bravery in coming out gay like he was a modern day Jackie Robinson, and covered Colin Kaepernick like he’s a modern day Rosa Parks?
Because Bob Iger’s going to run against Donald Trump as a Democrat in 2020, combating Trump’s business experience by arguing that unlike Trump, who is intent on making billionaires more wealthy and therefore is an exclusive capitalist, he’s an inclusive capitalist, the man intent on making all Americans of all races and creeds more wealthy. You’ve got to admit, that’s a hell of a pitch right? He’s the Democratic party’s own Trump — an outsider who has made billions for his companies in business, a non-politician in an era when voters have grown tired of career politicians — he’s Donald Trump, but nice. He’s the inclusive billionaire.
Why run now? Because Trump has every successful businessman thinking he can be president now. Plus, Iger has been a great CEO, but he may well be bored now. He’s 66 years old and filthy rich. What other worlds are left for him to conquer in business? He’s bought Pixar and Marvel and the Star Wars franchise from George Lucas. He’s run up billions in profits thanks to the astute acquisition of these franchises. So many billions, in fact, that he doesn’t have to worry as much about ESPN’s rapidly declining business. If enough people go see the new “Star Wars” then the fact that ESPN’s audience is plummeting and profits are evaporating is no big deal. In fact, if Iger’s recognized that ESPN’s business is totally screwed anyway — he’s a really smart guy — why not go ahead and allow ESPN to embrace the left wing political causes you hold dear — the ones that may well hold the key to your shot at the presidency? Why not allow these final several years at Disney to be your valedictory address — a prolonged opportunity for you to make your case that you should be the next president of the United States?
But maybe I’m wrong about this conclusion. After all, I’m sure it’s a coincidence that Iger’s new Disney contract has him stepping down in the summer of 2019, right when he would start his campaign against Donald Trump.
Plus, it’s not just me saying this, Iger himself told “The Hollywood Reporter,” “a lot of people — a lot — have urged me to seek political office” but denied he would consider a run for California governor or senator, positions that historically have served as stepping stones to the White House….Sources add that he has since consulted with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg about making the leap from the board room to high office (Bloomberg served as mayor of the nation’s largest city from 2002-12 despite no prior public service).”
Iger even told CNN a few days ago, “I have a full time job right now, it’s called CEO of the Walt Disney Company, and I don’t think the notion of running for President is something anyone considers either on a part time basis or a frivolous way.”
What’s the best way to position yourself to run for president? By claiming that you don’t want to run for president. (Even though a lot of people — a lot — have urged you to seek political office). It’s textbook.
How does a man with no record as president — but a great connection to raising money for Democrats in Hollywood like the fundraiser he threw for Hillary Clinton — show people what kind of president he would be? He points to the way he ran his companies. That’s why everything that Iger is doing right now at Disney — meeting the Pope, opening a new theme park in China thanks to his great relationship with the Chinese, serving on Trump’s own manufacturing council, and even, you guessed it, joining Twitter just this month, is all about laying the groundwork for his presidential race.
So what if fans don’t want their sports politicized, Iger’s got a presidential race to win!
Why else would Bob Iger suddenly decide to join Twitter this month? (Unless, praise be to God, Disney’s actually going to buy Twitter and finally send the stock price up for a change). Iger’s had nearly a decade to join Twitter. What media executive suddenly decides that he wants random people on the Internet to be able to reach him after years of avoiding that? I’ll tell you, one that has seen how Donald Trump has been able to use Twitter on his presidential campaign and wants to get familiar with the platform himself. Otherwise it makes no sense. Disney’s CEO doesn’t need to be on Twitter to get his opinion on issues out there, he’s got an entire PR team to ensure that every word he utters has been micromanaged and perfectly groomed to fit every situation. Nope, this isn’t about the company he runs, it’s about the country he wants to run.
So let’s dive into Iger’s Twitter feed, the most public facing billboard of his nascent presidential campaign. At present Iger has only 3750 Twitter followers — including me — but who he follows is the perfect roadmap for his presidential campaign. (Iger’s 44 follows are so eclectic it’s impossible to believe that he didn’t make these choices himself.)
Do you know who the first person Iger followed on Twitter was? ESPN anchor Jemele Hill, one of the most publicly liberal people on ESPN’s entire staff. A person that Iger’s company just elevated to an incredibly prominent role as one of the new hosts for the six eastern SportsCenter. For the record, I like Jemele a ton and think she’s really talented — I even tried to get her to do radio with me because I think we’d be incredible on air together — but even she has to be surprised that the first human being the CEO of a $180 billion dollar company followed was her, right? Putting that into perspective Iger followed Jemele Hill on Twitter before he followed his own wife. (You may remember Iger’s wife, Willow Bay, from “NBA Inside Stuff” with Ahmad Rashad. And because, inevitably, a ton of people will come on Twitter and say, “You followed a ton of people on Twitter before your wife too, Clay!” that’s because my wife refused to join Twitter for years because she was convinced that what I would Tweet would get me fired. The verdict is still out on whether or not she was correct).
Iger only follows 44 people on Twitter and many of them are bland corporate accounts: Disney’s official account, Pixar and Marvel’s official account, ABC, several newspapers, but his ESPN follows are downright intriguing.
The next two ESPN people Iger followed on Twitter, in order, were Michael Smith, Jemele’s cohost on the new SportsCenter, and Stephen A. Smith. That means Bob Iger’s first three follows were the three most prominent and opinionated black employees at ESPN.
Okay, maybe you’re thinking that was just coincidental. Well, Iger’s first non-employee ESPN follow other than SportsCenter? “The Undefeated,” an ESPN.com site geared towards black audiences that was founded under his watch. Iger doesn’t even follow the official ESPN account or its main website account, but he follows a tiny segment of ESPN’s website devoted entirely to black issues? How many 66 year old white men do you think follow “The Undefeated,” which has less than 63,000 total followers? Do you think Bob Iger wants to make sure he doesn’t miss how black Utah Jazz players have embraced Salt Lake City or is clicking through so fast his fingers nearly break when he sees an article about being a black power ranger?
Iger is sending a transparent message in all caps with his Twitter follows — I’M INCLUSIVE AND DIVERSE. And, of course, he’s sending it from his all white Los Angeles neighborhood, but stop with questioning how woke this man is, he’s the wokest, y’all. (To be fair, Iger also follows Scott Van Pelt from ESPN, who is not just white, but also bald. But that’s probably because Iger smartly knows that if you lose bald white men you can’t be elected president in this country. They’re a critical swing group, the soccer moms of the 21st century.)
Now you can argue that none of this matters, that Iger should be perfectly able to follow whomever he wants on Twitter and to embrace his political leanings wherever they take him. Heck you can even argue that even if Iger is liberal that doesn’t mean the employees beneath him are too. But do you know how business works? What the CEO wants, the CEO gets. That’s how you get promoted if you work under the CEO. Once Iger’s political bent is established at ESPN, who is going to stand up to him? Not anyone who wants to keep his or her job. Iger’s own liberalism, in fact, probably leads to even more liberalism in the company. What’s the best way to curry favor and ensure you get promoted? Be even more left wing than your boss is. And so down goes ESPN, once a centrist sports network, now an integral part of the left wing political machine.
What’s more, isn’t it dangerous to have a CEO of a multi-billion dollar company — especially one that he didn’t found — spending several years preparing to run for president by using the companies he oversees to validate the merits of his own presidential candidacy? If you were, say, a conservative at ESPN, and you were concerned, as Bob Ley himself said he was in the quote that began this article, that ESPN is valuing cosmetic diversity over diversity of thought, wouldn’t Iger’s left wing political beliefs coupled with his following of like minded individuals on Twitter, be intimidating to you? (Especially in ESPN’s present cost cutting environment when every employee is already on the chopping block.) If you were conservative at ESPN and already had the concerns voiced by ESPN’s own ombudsman about the fact that only liberals were welcome, wouldn’t it make you even less likely to share your own conservative opinions and more nervous to know that your CEO is rewarding people who think like him and potentially firing those who don’t?
Worst of all, if you’re just a regular guy or girl out there and sports had long been your escape from the insanity of the politicization of American life, isn’t it troubling that Disney’s CEO would make the decision to take his sports network to the left wing and become just as partisan as the rest of the country?
The message here is clear — Disney CEO Bob Iger’s planning to run for president and use the way he ran Disney as his argument for why he should get to run the country too. And if it takes turning ESPN into MSESPN to make that happen, well, that’s a small price to pay to ride a company all the way to the top of the country.
Ultimately if you want to know why ESPN has suddenly embraced left wing politics over sports, it isn’t complicated, it’s so Bob Iger can become the next president of the United States.