Leading sports news television network ESPN has largely tried to keep politics out of its sports coverage. Whenever Donald Trump has launched racist attacks on black athletes, or whenever athletes have called out Trump’s racism, ESPN’s on-air personalities have reported on this, but have generally avoided adding their own commentary. That all changed in a big way today.
Dan Le Batard is best known as a humorous and affable ESPN host with something of a goofball streak. But when he was speaking on his radio show today – which is broadcast on several ESPN radio affiliates – he took things in a very serious direction. Le Batard addressed the “send her back” chant that broke out during a Donald Trump rally, in reference to Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who is an immigrant. Le Batard called it “un-American” and said that “There’s a racial division in this country that’s being instigated by the president.” But he was just getting started.
Le Batard didn’t merely rip Donald Trump for being a racist. He criticized his own network ESPN for ignoring Trump’s racism, which he called “cowardly.” He added that “this isn’t about politics, it’s about race. What you’re seeing happening here is about race. It’s been turned into politics, and we only talk about it around here when [Golden State Warriors head coach] Steve Kerr or [San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg] Popovich says something. We don’t talk about what’s going on around here unless there’s some kind of weak cowardly sports angle that we can run it through.” He went on to point out that athletes like Muhammed Ali and Kareem Abdul Jabbar were fighting these same battles several decades ago.
Thus far Donald Trump hasn’t yet attacked Dan Le Batard on Twitter. Come to think of it, we doubt Trump can figure out how to spell “Le Batard.” But this isn’t funny. Trump has pushed his racism and xenophobia to the point that even sports commentators are finding themselves compelled to call it out, even in instances when it doesn’t directly relate to sports. You can follow Le Batard on Twitter here.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report