The Conservative Beef With ESPN Is All About Curt Schilling

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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?

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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