Last night Outkick broke the news that Linda Cohn, one of the most respected women to ever work at ESPN and the person who has hosted more SportsCenters over the past 25 years than any other current employee, was called and told by ESPN president John Skipper not to come to work after she went on the radio in New York City this past April and said as follows:
“They definitely overpaid for many of these products, whether it’s the NBA or starting up networks like the Pac-12 Network and SEC Network,” she said on WABC’s “Bernie and Sid Show.” “It’s well documented … They [also] did not see that they would lose all these subscribers [to competitors like Netflix.]
But it was more than just that. Politics played a part, as did the network’s move away from strictly covering sports.
I felt that the old school viewers were put in a corner and not appreciated with all these other changes. And they forgot their core. You can never forget your core and be grateful for your core group.”
As comments go, virtually no one could disagree with any of what she said. ESPN did overpay for the NBA and other sports rights, it’s why they are firing hundreds of employees. And ESPN’s ratings have definitely plummeted over the past couple of years at the same time that they have lost over 13 million cable subscribers. Studies have clearly shown that conservatives have felt alienated by ESPN’s leftward turn and have abandoned the network in droves as well.
Everything that Cohn said was supported by ample data.
But her opinion still wasn’t acceptable to ESPN’s bosses, who have been arguing, and losing the public battle, that ESPN hasn’t adopted a left wing mantra.
According to multiple sources inside ESPN — Cohn declined comment when reached by Outkick — ESPN president John Skipper called Cohn and screamed at her for having the gall to share her opinion in public and told her to stay at home instead of coming to work that weekend. Why was Cohn to stay at home? So, according to an irate John Skipper, she could have time to think about what she had said.
When Outkick reached out to ESPN seeking comment on the Cohn story, ESPN’s PR staff refused to explain anything about the decision, responding via email: “The last time we responded with an explanation, you called us liars.”
Word of Linda Cohn’s suspension raced through ESPN’s corridors with many employees furious over Skipper’s treatment of the longtime legend at the network. Especially when so many at ESPN disagreed with the direction of the network in general and felt compelled to keep their mouths shut lest they also say something that angered their bosses.
Time after time and employee after employee has reached out to Outkick to express total befuddlement with John Skipper’s incompetence.
“The guy running our company,” said one prominent employee who requested anonymity, “is not good at his job. When is he going to fire himself instead of firing everyone else?”
But most inside ESPN kept the Cohn story quiet until yesterday, when Jemele Hill received no punishment for Tweeting Donald Trump was a “white supremacist,” that Trump was only elected president because he was white and had the support of racists and that Trump’s administration — the cabinet of which features a black man, an Indian woman, an Asian woman, and multiple Jewish people — was “largely…white supremacists.”
At that point the floodgates broke and employee after employee reached out to Outkick to share the Cohn story and other comments. (Outkick granted them anonymity because they all feared being fired if they used their names. Plus, these are the same sources that have consistently been correct about ESPN’s firings, the Robert Lee debacle and now the Linda Cohn suspension.)
Said another, different ESPN personality, “If Jemele can say that and Linda can’t say what she said, what kind of standard actually exists here? There isn’t one. There’s clearly a double standard. If you say things the company agrees with, you don’t get punished. If you say things the company disagrees with, you do get punished. Maybe even fired.”