Popular ESPN host Dan Le Batard was absent from his radio show Monday morning after calling the network “cowardly” for a policy that bars personalities from discussing politics on the air. But Le Batard is expected to appear on his ESPN television show Highly Questionable Monday afternoon.
“Dan is taking a day off from radio,” Jon Weiner, Le Batard’s co-host known as Stugotz, said to open Monday’s show.
Over the weekend, Le Batard had several conversations with ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro, who refused to waive his policy of not allowing on-air personalities to discuss politics absent of any connection to sports, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions. Le Batard is also taking the situation seriously, and wasn’t prepared to go on his radio show Monday morning, the source said.
ESPN declined to comment. Le Batard did not respond to a request for comment.
Le Batard called ESPN’s edict of avoiding any discussion of President Donald Trump or politics “cowardly” on The Dan Le Batard Show Thursday morning, saying that the network and its on-air personalities haven’t “had the stomach” to fight Pitaro’s policy. Le Batard also said no one at ESPN ”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.”
The comments came during a discussion of Trump, after the president stood quietly as supporters chanted “Send her back” at a political rally in North Carolina last week. The crowd was referring to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn), who is one of four minority congresswomen Trump has spared with since last week.
So far, Trump has been silent about Le Batard’s comments. In 2017, Trump repeatedly went after Jemele Hill after the then-SportsCenter host called the president a “white supremacist” on Twitter. The White House called for ESPN to fire Hill, who was later suspended over a tweet about Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and ultimately negotiated an early exit from the network in August 2018.
Pitaro was named ESPN’s president in March 2018, and immediately made it clear to employees that it wasn’t the network’s job to cover politics. Pitaro’s edict was a departure from his predecessor, John Skipper, who allowed and often supported hosts who wanted to discuss topics outside the world of sports.
“What we don’t want is people to tune into ESPN, or people to tune into an ESPN feed on a social platform and get pure political commentary,” Pitaro said in an interview on the Recode Media podcast in May. “We don’t believe that that’s who we are. We don’t believe that that’s why people tune into ESPN.”
On Friday, ESPN send an email to managers reminding them that the network’s policy remains in effect, and that on-air personalities should not discuss Trump or politics if there is no larger connection to the professional and amateur sports the network covers.