As president of ESPN, Jimmy Pitaro has developed a reputation for wanting his on-air talent to “stick to sports.” That doesn’t always work out though.
While Pitaro may be less inclined to encourage employees to speak up then his predecessor John Skipper was, that doesn’t mean that ESPNers have gone silent on sociopolitical issues. We’ve seen numerous recent instances of personalities speaking out, including Sage Steele, who drew a brief suspension for speaking out against the company’s vaccine mandate.
In the second episode of The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast, Pitaro addressed the topic of employees at the Worldwide Leader being publicly outspoken.
“We understand, of course, that these are human beings,” he said, via The Big Lead. “and they have points of view. One of the things that I love about ESPN is the fact that we embrace all different points of view. What we don’t embrace and what we don’t accept is when points of view are conveyed disrespectfully. That is where we draw the line. When points of view are conveyed in a way that is inconsistent with our values.”
Pitaro also admitted he has spent a “meaningful percentage” of his time as president handling situations involving talent sharing their opinion. He also admitted ESPN hasn’t always dealt with this new reality well.
“We’ve struggled. Like many other media companies, we’ve oftentimes struggled but I do believe that we’ve put the right people on these assignments and we’ve made the best decisions we can during incredibly complicated times,” Pitaro said.
One thing seems certain. Pitaro and his team will continue to have opportunities to decide on how to manage employees speaking out. The men and women at ESPN are not always going to limit themselves to sports.