The company announced Thursday that Dan Le Patard, TV and radio sports presenter, will be leaving ESPN in January.
“It was mutually agreed that it is best for both sides to move to new opportunities, and we have worked closely together to make this possible,” said Norby Williamson, an executive at ESPN, in a statement.
Le Batard, 51, wrote or appeared on ESPN for two decades, but became a mainstay on the network in 2011. And that’s when his TV show – titled “Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable” – appeared On ESPN2. Later moving to the main channel ESPN, the company also broadcast Le Patard’s South Florida-based radio show nationwide on ESPN Radio.
But Le Patard, the son of Cuban exiles who insists on speaking freely and is fervently proud of his independence, clashes repeatedly with his superiors.
The final showdown took place in November, after ESPN laid off 300 employees, including Chris Cote, producer on Le Patard’s radio show. Le Battard re-employed Cote, paid the producer out of his own pocket, and said on air that the layoff was “the greatest disrespect in my professional life, and I have received no notice, no cooperation.”
The layoff came after a number of decisions that reduced Le Patard’s arrival. Simultaneous TV broadcasts of his radio show were recently moved from ESPNews cable channel to ESPN + broadcasting platform, which has tens of millions of fewer subscribers. ESPN Radio also cut the hours of Le Batard radio from three hours to two.
The relationship between Le Batard and ESPN has always been difficult. He was known for gags that tested the humor of his bosses: The network suspended him for two days in 2014 After he commissioned billboards, he also planned to hire a plane flying a banner, to mock LeBron James’ decision to leave the Miami Heat and return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
A more serious conflict emerged in the summer of 2019. Le Pattard publicly criticized ESPN’s lukewarm approach to covering politics after President Trump tweeted that four Democrats of color should “return” to “crime-plagued places from which they came” – comments condemned even by members of Trump’s party As racist.
“We here at ESPN don’t have the nerve to fight,” said Le Patard on his radio show.
He added, “We are not talking about what happens unless there is some kind of weak and cowardly sports angle that we can overcome.” After that, it was Summoned to New York To meet with ESPN President, Jimmy Pettaro.
Since he was named president in early 2018, Pettaro has sought to steer the network away from comments that could be seen as political. He said the poll data shows that fans don’t want to hear political discussions on ESPN and he has told employees to only discuss politics through the lens of sports.
The strategy calmed some of the controversy that surrounded ESPN in 2017, when “SportsCenter” hostess Jimmel Hill described the president as a white fanatic. But it is starting to look less applicable this summer, after the murder of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, raising themes of racism and police brutality to dominate the sports scene. As The New York Times reported in July, some employees said they were asked to tone down their coverage of race issues in sport.
“It was never explicit, it was kind of a room reading,” SportsCenter anchor Elle Duncan said in an article in The Times.
Le Battard’s departure from ESPN parallels somewhat the experiences of Bill Simmons, who also established his own empire in the network but eventually split with the company after he infuriated his superiors once too often and the two sides were unable to come to an agreement upon renegotiation. Knot.
However, Lou Patard seemed to realize that he had made great use of his network connections.
“One of the problems with the ego is the notion that you are responsible for your success and that ESPN is not,” he said on the radio in 2016, After Any Wednesday – The Simmons TV Show after ESPN on HBO. – was canceled. It’s another reminder: “Don’t leave ESPN, man. ESPN is a huge platform responsible for all of our successes. “
However, these comments came before John Skipper, who had a strong relationship with Le Batard, resigned as ESPN President and before Simmons sold The Ringer, his website and podcast network to Spotify for $ 200 million.
It is not clear what he would do to Battard next, but in the statement announcing his departure, he declared in his ridiculous manner that he had not.
“To our loyal army of caring fans, and to everyone who has walked and played an instrument in our orchestra nowhere, know this is a very exciting time for us, not sad,” said Le Battard. “And you’ll hear our laughter again soon enough.”