Stephen A. Smith apologized for Shohei Ohtani remark because ‘woke virus’ has taken over ESPN: Clay Travis

Outkick founder Clay Travis reacts to the backlash over ESPN host Stephen A. Smith’s remark on MLB star Shohei Ohtani using a translator.

Well, here’s an event full of lies.

As first reported by the Hollywood Reporter, ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro emailed his staff about steps the company has made “to improve the experiences of black employees at ESPN.”

Pitaro, who is the most powerful person at ESPN after Maria Taylor, also told employees that the network is planning a town hall to address diversity and inclusion later this month.

Here’s Pitaro’s full memo:


I am reaching out today knowing that recent events have left many of you concerned about our commitment to diversity, inclusion and belonging.

We respect and acknowledge there are a variety of feelings about what happened and the actions we took. The details of what took place last year are confidential, nuanced and complicated personnel matters.

But understand this – we have a much better story than what you’ve seen this week. Exactly one year after announcing the actions of the Black Employee and Consumer Experience (BECE) initiative, we want to make sure you are aware of the critical progress we’ve made…even though we know we have much more work to do.

Before I get into the details, I do want to be clear on one thing: Maria Taylor was selected as NBA Countdown host last year because she earned it. Please know our commitment is that assignments and opportunities at ESPN are based on merit and any concerns, remarks, or inferences that suggest otherwise have been and will continue to be addressed.

With the BECE initiative – a program designed to improve the experiences of Black employees at ESPN – we promised transparency in sharing our progress. I wanted to give a quick summary on our efforts to date:

Every function developed an action plan specific to their group with concrete measures of success and timelines.

Since we began offering the Inclusion & Belonging @ESPN training last fall, we’ve had over 96% of people leaders complete it and nearly 40% of individual contributors.

Strengthening and growing PULSE membership and influence is key to the BECE’s Culture pillar, and PULSE has added almost 200 new members this past year, growing their ERG 40% year over year. That’s probably the greatest annual growth we have ever seen in an ERG. Highly-engaged PULSE ERG members also helped us pilot the new Mentoring Circles program, which we just rolled out to all ERGs.

We started our second MORE mentorship cohort this fall, meeting our goal of over-indexing on diverse talent, with 47% of the 53 participants identifying as Black or African American.

We’ve begun a deep dive into the past year of exit interviews to understand any patterns and issues we can address. 

We’re seeing progress in our hiring numbers as a result of looking closely at our talent practices. Of the 116 offers accepted year-to-date, 52% are people of color and 42% are female.

63% of our executive leadership team are women and/or people of color.
 I highly recommend you take a few minutes to watch this video (taped several weeks ago) to get the latest update.

We invested heavily in this effort and we asked every employee – from the highest levels of leadership to those just starting with the company – to back this D&I plan. Everyone owns inclusion. It’s the way you treat your colleagues, how you champion your team, how you welcome new ideas and people, and how you make others feel. Each of us is responsible for creating a culture and climate that thrives.

By being proud of this progress we’re not trying to minimize how people are feeling. If you have concerns, it is very important to raise them with your leaders, with your HR Business Partners, or with our Diversity & Inclusion team—we need your help. Our job is to support you and make ESPN the place we all want it to be – and we can’t do that if your concerns aren’t raised.

The goal of this note is to ensure everyone understands where we are at this moment and to know that we have an ongoing focus on improving, and a commitment to listening. We plan to address diversity and inclusion at an upcoming ESPN town hall later this month, and we will continue to have focused conversations with the Black and African American community at ESPN in the coming weeks. As always, we value an open and honest dialogue.

Change takes time, and I ask for your partnership on this journey. Know that our leadership is committed to accelerating our efforts and working toward a collective goal – an ESPN where everyone feels they belong.



“I do want to be clear on one thing,” Pitaro says. “Maria Taylor was selected as NBA Countdown host last year because she earned it. Please know our commitment is that assignments and opportunities at ESPN are based on merit and any concerns, remarks, or inferences that suggest otherwise have been and will continue to be addressed.”

Hmm. How exactly did Taylor, who had been covering college football, “earn” the NBA Countdown job over Rachel Nichols, who has covered the NBA for decades and had the job in her contract?

Hopefully, ESPN employees will read Pitaro’s line and laugh as I just did. He’s lying.

Pitaro’s entire memo is absurd. Black people are not held back or treated poorly at ESPN. ESPN’s highest-paid talent, Stephen A. Smith, is black. Smith makes $12 million a year.

The vast majority of ESPN analysts are black.

Seven of ESPN’s most promoted personalities under 40 are black: Maria Taylor, Malika Andrews, Marcus Spears, Chiney Ogwumike, Elle Duncan, Kim Martin, and Domonique Foxworth.

ESPN is offering Maria Taylor more than three times what it pays Laura Rutledge, whose resume is similar to Taylor’s. ESPN lets Mark Jones and Jalen Rose tweet racist nonsense because the company is afraid to address them. ESPN is desperate to re-sign each black talent, while happily cutting ties with other races.

So, I ask: how are black people mistreated at ESPN?

By the way, will anyone at this town hall address that ESPN refused to bring back Mike Golic, Bobby Carpenter, Trey Wingo, and 18 others because they viewed white guys as expendable?

I had a lot of respect for Jimmy Pitaro early on, as did many at ESPN. Now, he’s a frightened man who is bowing to easily debunkable lies spread by Maria Taylor, Jemele Hill, and Cari Champion.


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