Culture

Fox Sports Demands That On-Air Talent Toe the Liberal Line, Clay Travis Says

These days, liberal politics infect every aspect of American life. The covert, and often overt instruction for anyone in the entertainment industry, is that you’d better toe the line on social justice. This includes sports commentators, both on radio and on cable television.

No longer can sports be considered an escape from political coverage, especially with the leftward lurch undertaken by Disney-owned ESPN. Whether they’re holding up Colin Kaepernick and Marshawn Lynch as heroic for refusing to participate in the National Anthem, or bestowing an award for courage on Caitlyn Jenner at the (completely contrived) ESPY Awards , the message is clear. The Social Justice Warriors are in charge, and both on-air talent and their audience will be unable to avoid their politically correct demands.

This was made clear again this week when Clay Travis revealed how he was offered a high-paying TV role with Fox Sports, with one giant catch: that he stop talking about conservative politics altogether.

Travis has made a name for himself as a blogger, author, and morning radio host on Fox Sports Radio. He often writes at his blog, Outkick the Coverage, about the ill-conceived decision by ESPN — a competitor network — to focus on liberal politics. He asserts that ESPN’s ratings have tanked, and that has strongly coincided with the network’s leftward lurch on social issues.

This doesn’t just afflict ESPN, apparently. Travis revealed this week that he was told by Fox Sports’ president of national networks, Jamie Horowitz, that he could make “Skip Bayless” money if only he agreed to stop giving conservative takes on sports news. After several outlets reported on the offer without comment from Travis, he decided to lay out his reasons on his blog:

[T]his past February at the Super Bowl Jamie Horowitz and I went to lunch and he offered me my own TV show on FS1. But the offer came with stipulations — I needed to give up talking or Tweeting about politics and pop culture. From Donald Trump to Game of Thrones, give it all up. All Horowitz wanted me to do was talk about sports. He offered up Skip Bayless as the perfect example of who my TV role model should be. He said he’d taken Skip from making $150k a year to six million a year and he could do the same for me because I was every bit as talented as Skip and much younger.

I asked him why I couldn’t talk about politics and sports when I saw other people on FS1 and ESPN regularly talking about politics and sports. He told me that was different because they were talking about politics from a liberal perspective and that was okay, but advertisers didn’t like when you talked about sports and politics from a conservative perspective. As a Southern white conservative, I didn’t have the same freedom to mix sports and politics as a liberal would.

Now, a note of explanation. Clay Travis is a self-described Southern white conservative, but he is also a Democrat. As he says,

By the way, the fact that I, a two-time Obama voter who has never voted Republican, worked for the Al Gore presidential campaign and is pro-choice and anti the death penalty, am considered “too conservative” is perfect evidence of how far left wing sports media has gone.

That doesn’t matter to advertisers, apparently, who really drive the programming decisions. Travis says he declined the offer for many reasons — he didn’t want to uproot his family, he didn’t want to change the successful formula he had built for his blog and radio show, etc. Chief among them, however, was the clear message that he would have to change his politics on social issues in order to be successful.

It’s interesting to note that Travis was not told he could not talk politics at all. “Advertisers didn’t like when you talked about sports and politics from a conservative perspective,” he wrote. When asked why he wasn’t more involved in politics, Michael Jordan famously replied, “Republicans buy shoes too.”

Whether or not Travis can accurately claim the title of “conservative” is beside the point. Travis has pointedly criticized Colin Kaepernick, calling him a fraud. He has pointedly criticized ESPN and tied their leftward lurch to their plummeting ratings. Despite the pressure, Travis has bucked the social justice warrior trend in national broadcasting, so he is perceived as too conservative for national TV. This despite, as he points out, the fact that he has never voted for a Republican.

One wonders what advertisers are thinking when they willingly alienate half their potential audience, and pressure networks to do the same. Are fans of the St. Louis Cardinals, the Dallas Cowboys, the Tampa Bay Lightning, or the Denver Nuggets so predominantly liberal that alienating conservative sports fans will not have a demonstrable effect on the bottom line?

Instead of exclusively celebrating political correctness and social justice warriors in sports, why can’t these national outlets present both sides of a story and let the viewer decide on their own?