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ESPN Releases New Policy For Employees Regarding Discussing Politics and Sports

Tony Reali sits at his desk talking to Around the Horn panel.

ESPN has released a new set of guidelines regarding the intersection of sports and politics.

There are news dumps, and then there's dropping a new company policy for employees involving the connection of sports and politics. That's what ESPN just did a few minutes into tonight's national championship game between Gonzaga and North Carolina.

The new guidelines from the World Wide Leader, "while allowing for political discussion on the network’s platforms, recommend connecting those comments to sports whenever possible."

“Given the intense interest in the most recent presidential election and the fact subsequent political and social discussions often intersected with the sports world, we found it to be an appropriate time to review our guidelines,” said Patrick Stiegman, ESPN’s vice president of global digital content and the chairman of the company’s internal Editorial Board, which drafted the new guidelines.

Stiegman said no single issue or incident led to the change, but Craig Bengtson, ESPN’s vice president and managing editor of newsgathering and reporting, said the nation’s tense political climate did play a role.

“We have the convergence of a politically charged environment and all these new technologies coming together at once,” he said. “Based on that, we wanted the policy to reflect the reality of the world today. There are people talking about politics in ways we have not seen before, and we’re not immune from that.”

There are a lot of interesting aspects to the new guidelines, and the entire piece linked above is worth reading. It doesn't seem to be a command to "stick to sports," but it does seem to direct employees to how/when they should or shouldn't engage in political commentary.

In recent months, conservative or right-leaning pundits or consumers have accused ESPN of having a hard-left slant or "agenda." Will these new guidelines have any effect on that perception?

We'll see.