"This isn't about politics; it's about race", said Le Batard, who noted that ESPN personalities "only talk about it" when outspoken sports figures such National Basketball Association coaches Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich offer opinions on the subject. "Love, Miami" - after he'd left the Heat.
ESPN radio and TV personality Dan Le Batard called his network's relatively new politics-free stance "cowardly" in the face of President Donald Trump and his supporters' racist remarks about four Democratic congresswomen of color.
His voice emotional, Le Batard called it "deeply offensive" that a Trump crowd chanted "send her back" at a rally in North Carolina on Wednesday night, a chant directed at Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a Somali refugee who now is a US citizen representing Minnesota.
Says Le Batard, "nobody talks politics on anything unless we can use one of these sports figures as a meat shield in the most cowardly possible way to discuss the subject." .
Trump has been openly critical of Omar and three other first-year Congresswomen, New York's Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Massachusetts' Ayanna Pressley and Michigan's Rashida Tlaib. I spoke with Dan on Friday and he politely declined to discuss the controversy or his situation. Le Batard's parents are from Cuba so it was no wonder he felt driven to speak (although that hasn't motivated people like Marco Rubio to speak).
The longtime radio host wasn't done with ESPN, though.
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"Jemele did some things on Twitter and you saw what happened after that", Le Batard said.
Just for reference, Omar is an American citizen who was born in Somalia and arrived here with her family seeking asylum in 1992. You've had every privilege afforded to you by America. It is so wrong what the president of our country is doing, trying to go down getting re-elected by dividing the masses at a time when the old white man-the old rich white man-feels oppressed being attacked by minorites, black people, brown people, women. "It is antithetical to what we should be - and if you're not calling it abhorrent, obviously racist, risky rhetoric, you're complicit". "This is abhorrent, obviously racist, risky rhetoric and not calling it out makes you complicit.' The "send her back" chant and the 'go back to where you came from" are so antithetical to what we should be.
Citing ratings, ESPN executives have encouraged hosts to cut back on political commentary unless the topic involves a major sports figure since former host Jemele Hill made a series of comments about Trump in 2017, including calling him a white supremacist.
On Thursday, Le Batard said ESPN's no-politics policy was all the more misguided because "sports has always been a place where this stuff changes".
There is an irony to ESPN's policy that seeks to separate sports from politics and racial issues.
So far, it doesn't look like Le Batard has been suspended. He mentioned older icons Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Colin Kaepernick today.