ESPN TURNS CLOCK BACK TO BLACK AND WHITE TELEVISION: “STICK TO SPORTS”!
Legends of Inside Sports (1972): Richard Nixon and Muhammad Ali two of the most controversial personalities in American history. A time when politics and Inside Sports collided was no coincident.
ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro just sold his entire staff of broadcasters and writers out to pro sports owners with his latest ultimatum “Stick to Sports”! It is going to be very interesting to watch and hear ESPN broadcasters and writers dance around trying to keep their balance while trying to talk sports and not mix politics. Most of these guys cannot chew bubble gum and walk a straight line.
Talking sports and politics were unheard before Inside Sports. The Inside Sports talk show format made its debut on W-O-O-K radio in 1972 in Washington, DC. Sports talk radio, television and print media has never been the same. Inside Sports changed the way we talk sports in America and around the world. The Original Inside Sports was the first sports media format to successfully blend sports and politics. Every radio and television sports talk show heard and seen in the world today is a copy of the Original Inside Sports. The format has often been imitated but never duplicated!
First, the Washington Post newspaper and owners Katherine Graham and her son Donald kidnapped the tag Inside Sports, it was much like Christopher Columbus discovering America. In 1978 the mother and son carried the tag to New York City and published “Inside Sports Magazine”. They then copyrighted the tag making it officially their very own. The magazine failed losing several million dollars before the Grahams closed shop saying, “No Mas”!
ESPN was the first broadcast media to copy the Inside Sports format. A fired Community Relations Manager from the NHL Scott Rasmussen watched as the Inside Sports Magazine failed and decided to try the format on television. Sports Center was the original vehicle, Out Side the Lines, 30-30 and East 60, etc all followed.
Inside Sports was Out Side the Lines and Real Sports long before Bob Levy/ESPN and Byrant Gumble/HBO Real Sports. It was unheard of to play message music or have media roundtables with different journalist participating. In 2019 forty-seven years later new ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro has sent out a memo to the entire ESPN staff saying, “Stick to Sports”! This will make the ESPN format the leader in “FAKE NEWS”! ESPN has decided to make sports talk a dictatorship.
The bottom-line, I set the table for sports talk in America. My talk show format was unique because I was a community legend long before I became a sports talk show legend. My work in the inner-city with at-risk children got its start with the self-help community organization UPO (United Planning Organization).
In 1965 UPO Director/CEO Jim Banks hired three Neighborhood Workers to patrol the Shaw/Cardozo corridor of NW DC. Our assignment was to assist and enhance the lives of inner-city youth. I learned politics from the ground up watching the first Black Mayor Walter Washington and Mr. Banks maneuver and play a game of chess with white politicians on The Hill who controlled the DC budget. They were trying to get our fair share from a group of politicians who could have cared less–sound familiar!
Mr. Banks hired the late Petey Greene, H Rap Brown and yours truly. Petey Greene would later become a legendary radio and television talk show host. He would open his show saying, “I will tell it to the young and tell it to the old, there will be no lying and signifying”. H Rap Brown would become a Civil Rights icon when he became the 5th chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinator Committee (SNN). He later moved on to become the Minister of Justice for The Black Panther Party (his story is still on-going). I parlayed my UPO experience into a winner when I met Muhammad Ali on the campus of Howard University in 1967. UPO later gave a grant to the DC Department of Recreation and Parks to hire additional Roving Leaders for their elite youth gang task force. I was made a part of the grant package.
In 1967 against all odds ex-con Petey Greene became a radio talk show host on W-O-L Radio. Every Sunday afternoon Petey Greene’s Washington became must listen to radio in the black community. He gave me 5 minutes to talk sports (Redskins). I remember I was hanging out in the U Street corridor one afternoon and I encountered Petey. He said, “Your man is down on 7th street touring the riot area”! My response, “My Man”? He laughed and said, “The President of the United States Richard Nixon”.
Petey and I both were caddies at the Burning Tree Golf Course in suburban, Maryland in the late 50s. Nixon was then Vice-President and a member of the exclusive all-white golf course. There were no blacks or women allowed membership. I became a caddy on the weekends for Nixon and William Rogers who was then the Secretary of State. In 1969 thanks to Petey I was able to parlay that 7th street encounter into lunch at the White House and a Presidential appointment.
In 1972 I parlayed my 5 minutes on his talk show into my own sports talk radio show “Inside Sports” aired on W-O-O-K radio.
Politics & Sports: Here I am seen with Mayor Walter Washington and with my high school Coach Dave Brown. I am thanking coach for saving my life. In high school, I was trying to go to hell in a hurry!
While ESPN calls itself the World Wide Leader in sports there has been much criticism which includes, accusations of biased coverage, conflict of interest and controversy with individual broadcasters and analysts–former ESPN talk show host Jemele Hill was suspended for calling President Trump a white Supremacist. This is par for the course in this cut-throat business.
In January 2016 ESPN had been seen in 91,405,00 paid television households (78.527 of household with at least one television set). The Nielsen ratings (the bible for radio and tv advertising) reported a much lower number in 2017, the number of subscribers fell below 90,000,000. ESPN was losing more than 10, 000 subscribers a day.
The network hit the panic button this was interfering with their bottom-line (MONEY). When they discovered the problem causing them to lose their bottom-line was the black athlete (Colin Kapernick), all hell broke loose. NFL owner Jerry Jones led the charge and was joined by President Trump. His slogan and battle cry became “Fire the son of a bitch”. In pro sports when it is green vs black or black vs white—black is usually the loser. NFL players are no longer seen on their knees and Kapernick is rumored to have sold out for 10 million dollars (NFL petty cash).
The NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, Pitaro, ESPN and President Don Trump fail to understand their bottom-line problem is not the black athlete—it is racism which is embedded into the fabric of pro sports!
The bottom-line; I sit the table for sports talk in America. ESPN has decided to make sports talk a dictatorship and take us back to television and America heard and seen in black and white!
Dan LaBartard of ESPN maybe the first casualty of this guideline written into the ESPN bylaws “Stick to Sports”! He pulled the covers off of White Privilege in America when he called out Donald Trump on his chant “Send Her Back” as it related to four Congresswomen of color who disagreed with his racial policies.
This commentary you would never hear from any black radio or television sports talk show host working for ESPN. In an impassioned response to Donald Trump’s chant “Send them back” LaBartard said, sports broadcasters must comment on race relations–in particular what he called un-American “Chants of sending them back” directed at Democratic congresswoman IIhan Omar, a Somali refugee, and an American citizen. The Plantations continue! Click on the link below and pay close attention to the in-studio staff as LaBartard makes his case against Trump and racism in America. ESPN’s slogan will soon be known as the leader in Fake News World Wide. Stay tuned.