The Conservative Beef With ESPN Is All About Curt Schilling

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


ESPN has been losing viewers for a while now, and there are various theories to account for it. Maybe millennials just aren’t into sports that much. Or maybe cord cutting of all types is the culprit. Or maybe ESPN has gotten too liberal.

That last one is a favorite among conservatives, and I don’t really get it. I’m not a heavy ESPN viewer, but I watch enough to have some sense of its political leanings. And I haven’t really discerned much. Mostly they seem to call games and then argue about whether Tom Brady can play football into his fifties. You know, sports stuff.

But today, Paul Hiebert at the polling firm YouGov presents this chart:

First off, I’m impressed that YouGov has been polling this question since 2013. I wonder why?

In any case, this chart suggests that the problem isn’t liberalism in general, but the fact that ESPN fired Curt Schilling. The Caitlyn Jenner thing hurt for a few months, but by April of 2016 all was forgiven and Republican support of ESPN was back to normal. It was the Curt Schilling affair that killed them. Just to refresh your memory, here’s the Facebook meme he shared that was the final straw:

This was after Schilling “shared a meme that compared extremism in today’s Muslim world to Nazi Germany in 1940 [and] told a radio station that Hillary Clinton ‘should be buried under a jail somewhere,’ in apparent violation of an ESPN policy on commentary relating to the presidential election.”

So politics is part of the answer after all. But not a slide into liberal politics. Conservatives were mad because Schilling engaged in venomous conservative politics, and eventually ESPN fired him before he did something that could get them sued. Conservatives are always the victims, aren’t they?

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate