As we continue to cover why Latinx representation in the media matters, leading sports network ESPN is formally ending the run of its only Latino on-air talent, and one of its highest rated overall, Dan Le Batard. His final day on air will be Monday, Jan. 4, for both ESPN Radio’s “Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz” and the televised Highly Questionable show that Dan hosted.
Le Batard began the show somberly by saying, “We are drenched in a whole lot of questions.” Le Batard alluded to having been distracted by personal matters this week (“So what’s going on in sports? Anything?”) but did not directly address that he is leaving ESPN.
Then, after last Thursday’s announcement, he assured his legion of fans and listeners that he is not retiring and that he will be heard from again on a different platform soon.
“Gracias to ESPN for unleashing [co-stars] Papi and Stugotz upon an unsuspecting America, and for lending its substantive credibility to our careening clown car … [T]hank you, Disney and ESPN, for a quarter century of absurd blessings,” Le Batard said in a statement.
While the straw that broke the camel’s back may have been ESPN’s recent firing of Highly Questionable’s producer Christ Cote without consulting or even alerting Le Batard first, the real turning point in the Le Batard/ESPN relationship may have occurred in the summer of 2019, when the network’s exec took umbrage to Le Batard taking President Donald Trump to task for supporting chants of “Send her back” directed at U.S. Representative for Minnesota, Ilhan Omar.
After saying Trump was “instigating racial division,” Le Batard, whose parents came to the United States from Cuba, said, “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, and then here all of a 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 subjects.”
Le Batard added, “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—we only talk about it around here when Steve Kerr or [Gregg] 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 always been a place where this stuff changes.”
Following those comments ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro had a face-to-face meeting with Le Batard to talk to him about what he said, even though Le Batard said nothing that should be considered even remotely controversial – even if you disagree with him, which used to be allowed (remember when talk show hosts were expected to present provocative opinions that their audience may not necessarily share, but it was good they were exposed to a diversity of ideas…and it was okay?). Yeah those were the days…
It’ll be interesting to see where Le Batard, Stugotz, and their loyal fan base end up next, we’re going to stay in tune with Dan Lebatart Twitter account for updates