On Monday night, just minutes after the tip of the NCAA basketball title game, the People’s Republic of MSESPN tried to sneak in a new policy on politics. It was textbook MSESPN, claim objectivity while actually allowing its talent in the opinion business to double down on left wing politics. You can read the new policy here. And, of course, the new policy was released under the cover of night while the vast majority of sports fans were just settling down to watch North Carolina and Gonzaga.
The next day MSESPN did what MSESPN does — it replaced a prominent conservative voice, Sage Steele, with a prominent liberal voice, Michelle Beadle. You’ll recall that Beadle has spent much of the past several months on Twitter denigrating Donald Trump and those who voted for him. If Beadle had Tweeted the same things about Barack Obama and his voters, she’d be fired. But say it about Trump and his voters — millions of whom watch ESPN every day — and at MSESPN this is cause for promotion.
After the news went public of her removal from NBA coverage Steele trended on Twitter, being ripped by a mostly black audience for the audacity she has to not be a left wing liberal in sports. Steele had previously addressed these negative responses she received on Twitter stating, “There are times that I believe that we, as African-Americans, can be hypocritical, and that is to not look ourselves in the mirror when we are saying certain things and blaming other groups for one thing when we are doing the exact same thing. The worst racism that I have received, and I mean thousands and thousands over the years, is from black people, who in my mind I thought would be the most accepting because there has been that experience. But even as recent as the last couple of weeks, the words that I have had thrown at me I can’t repeat here and it’s 99 percent from people with my skin color. But if a white person said those words to me, what would happen?”
Steele’s right, if white people were saying what black people were saying about her online yesterday, it would be a major story covered everywhere online as an indictment of racist social media culture. But when black people say it, there’s no racism involved. It’s an insane double standard. The things being Tweeted about Steele were racist, sexist, and demeaning. Yet Twitter didn’t step in to protect her. Too bad. Guess Steele should have been a black liberal Ghostbuster instead of a black conservative sportscaster.
No one came to her aid in the sports media as these attacks ripped through social media all day long. There was total Twitter silence from MSESPN. You know, MSESPN, the same network that tried to make it appear that only women in sports media ever get bad things said about them online when they staged a viral video about mean Tweets to try and bolster their liberal talent’s name recognition. Why is it when people with conservative opinions are attacked on social media the entire sports media goes silent? Why does MSEPN only protect liberal and left wing political beliefs? Especially when, let’s be honest, it takes much more bravery for Steele to not trot out the same bland liberal political cliches.
Ask yourself this, how much easier would Steele’s life be if she were a liberal sportscaster at ESPN instead of a conservative one? Isn’t it a measure of the steadfastness of Steele’s beliefs that she’s willing to think independently and not follow the left wing sports media crowd? Shouldn’t MSESPN – and the rest of the liberal sports media who follow ESPN’s lead — be celebrating diversity of thought instead of wanting people who look different and all think the same? And more importantly, why does everyone in the media, including Twitter, stand by and watch a conservative black woman get crushed on social media yet immediately rally to the defense of a liberal black woman? Should’t we be opposed to all demeaning treatment online regardless of the political beliefs of the individual involved?
What’s more, as part of their coverage of Steele’s removal from the NBA coverage, many media outlets cited Steele’s “controversial” opinions as one of the reasons for her removal. Including, today, Fox News. But that got me wondering, what has Steele said that is actually controversial?
Here are the only “controversial” things Steele has done in the past couple of years that I could find:
1. She pulled the mic away from an artist who was about to go on a political tirade at the NBA All Star game.
2. She posted an Instagram complaint about immigration protests at LAX disrupting travel plans for many families.
3. Steele, the daughter of the first black man to play football at Army, criticized Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem.
How in the world are any of these comments remotely controversial? The vast majority of ESPN’s audience would agree with all three of these perspectives. That’s because they aren’t overtly political and many of them are rooted in common sense. Who among us is happy when protesters for any cause disrupt air travel? I don’t care what the cause is, I’m much less likely to support it if you make me miss my flight. Chances are you agree with that.
The vast majority of Americans disagreed with Kaepernick kneeling before the national anthem. It stands to reason that the daughter of the first black man to play football at West Point might have reason to disagree with Kaepernick’s protest. If he has the right to protest at sports, why does Steele not have the right to disagree with that protest too?
Finally, who among us wants a political tirade from a musical artist at an all star game?
The fact that these opinions are labeled “controversial” is an insult to controversy everywhere. Moreover, and this is an important point, why does the media only label conservative sports media opinions controversial? I’ve been pro choice and anti the death penalty for my entire public career and frequently shared those opinions both online and on air. No one has ever called those opinions controversial. That’s because they’re “liberal” opinions.
But the moment I write that Colin Kaepernick’s protest is absurd and idiotic — a point the vast majority of sports fans agree with — I’m labeled controversial. I even had a prominent sports executive recently tell me that I could have my own television show, but I had to give up talking about politics because I was too conservative to go on sports TV. Too conservative! I WORKED FOR AL GORE’S PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN AND HAVE NEVER VOTED FOR A REPUBLICAN IN MY LIFE.
Evidently that’s too conservative for sports media today. That makes me a right winger in this industry.
The truth of the matter is this: the sports media doesn’t need more people who look differently and think the same. When only 4% of the sports media voted for Donald Trump according to a recent poll in The Big Lead, it desperately needs more diversity of thought, not less.
Sage Steele should be celebrated for having the courage of her convictions and praised for the fortitude she’s shown to stand behind her political beliefs even when they don’t advance her professional career. Instead, she’s ridiculed online and no one in sports media comes to her aid at all. Indeed, if I didn’t know any better I’d say that left wing sports media liberals who preach tolerance and inclusion only want to tolerate and include those people who agree with them on every issue. But that sounds downright hypocritical and even, dare I say, downright Donald Trumpian. And there’s no way the liberal sports media could be hypocritical, right?
Notwithstanding the liberal sports media’s insane hypocrisy, the message is clear at the people’s republic of MSESPN — rip Donald Trump and you get promoted — express any conservative opinions at all and you get demoted or fired. Hell, maybe Sage Steele should consider herself lucky. After all, unlike a ton of prominent conservatives at ESPN who have had the audacity to share their political beliefs, she still has her job.