ESPN president: 'Our fans do not want us to cover politics'

ESPN president: 'Our fans do not want us to cover politics'

ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro says the network's viewers do not want it getting overtly political. 

"Without question our data tells us our fans do not want us to cover politics,” Pitaro said in a Los Angeles Times article published Monday. “My job is to provide clarity. I really believe that some of our talent was confused on what was expected of them. If you fast-forward to today, I don’t believe they are confused.”

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The newspaper reported that Pitaro has guided commentators away from talking about politics both on the network and on their social media accounts.

"SportsCenter" anchor Jemele Hill made headlines and drew direct criticism from the White House in 2017 when she referred to President TrumpDonald John TrumpDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' EU says it will 'respond in kind' if US slaps tariffs on France Ginsburg again leaves Supreme Court with an uncertain future MORE as a "white supremacist." Hill left ESPN in September.

Politics has come to the forefront of sports in recent years as athletes began increasingly speaking out and protesting, including NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to draw attention to police brutality and inequality faced by the black community. Trump and other conservatives railed against the players, saying their actions were disrespectful to the military. 

Trump also criticized an ESPN and CBS decision last year to not show the national anthem in an attempt to avoid controversy. 

Political issues have continued to find their way onto ESPN. Commentator Stephen A. Smith blasted Trump earlier this year for serving fast food to the Clemson University Tigers football team. In March, network personalities on social media slammed proposed cuts to the Special Olympics, which Trump later reversed.

Pitaro said in August that the network would minimize political commentary.

“If you ask me is there a false narrative out there, I will tell you ESPN being a political organization is false,” he said. “I will tell you I have been very, very clear with employees here that it is not our jobs to cover politics, purely.”