In the week leading up to the elections, ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro earned a big Pinocchio. He keeps saying his organization is not political, but his nose keeps growing longer and longer. “We are not a political organization,” Pitaro has said in the past, but the network website currently features a six-part series on — you guessed it — politics.
ESPN’s introduction of the political series claims it “shows how professional sports owners in America contribute to political campaigns, why they spend millions in the space and what that financial power means as athletes across sports continue to embrace activism of their own.” What it really does is provide support for far-Left politics inside sports while shaming owners who financially support Republicans.
One of the major themes of the series is that pro sports team owners are mostly Republicans who donate to GOP candidates. Sports owners gave nearly $44 million in the last three federal election cycles and $34 million went to Republicans, according to research by ESPN in partnership with FiveThirtyEight.
Only the Women’s NBA was different; its owners gave 51.7 percent of their contributions to Democrats and 42.3 percent went to Republicans. Two-thirds of the GOP donations came from Atlanta Dream co-owner, Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.).
The series focus on ideological givers deserves a big red flag for castigating the Christian conservative DeVos family which owns the NBA’s Orlando Magic. Rich DeVos is “a generous donor to the country’s emerging religious right movement,” starting with a $25,000 gift in 1975 to the Christian Freedom Foundation. He also served as president of the Council for National Policy, an organization founded by the “fundamentalist Christian leader Tim LaHaye to bring together prominent right-wing voices.”
The Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation has given “sizable donations to anti-gay organizations such as Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council. Dan DeVos’ sister-in-law is Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who has been a lightning rod in the culture wars raging during the Trump administration.”
When it comes to political support of Democrats and their causes, ESPN writer Kevin Arnovitz does not use words like “left-wing” or “anti.” Or talk about bringing together left-wing voices. Instead, Democrat co-owners like the Chicago Cubs’ Laura Rickets are “enthusiastic supporters” of pro-choice female candidates for federal office and the founder of LPAC, which advocates for LGBTQ women.
Neither is Milwaukee Bucks owner Marc Lasry anti-Republican. He “is the NBA’s quintessential personal giver, one whose combination of general political orientation and social inclinations make him a resident of the Democratic Party’s elite circles.” He’s also hosted a sit-down dinner at his home for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Miami Heat owner Micky Arison, CEO of the Carnival Corporation, gave money to “right-wing Republican Randy Weber, who referred to President Barack Obama as a ‘Socialist Dictator’ and ‘Kommandant-in-Chief'” in 2014.
However, the political insults directed at President Trump by LeBron James, San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich and many other sports figures are never mentioned in the biased ESPN series. That’s because ESPN is home turf for Democrats and Republican haters.
ESPN’s Baxter Holmes focuses on dark money and how one unnamed Republican owner told confidants that he was worried about over-regulation by a President Joe Biden and he wanted to donate to President Donald Trump privately. It happens regularly among owners, Holmes says, and it can protect them from public backlash.
U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) is cited as “a staunch critic” of undisclosed “dark money” given to super PACs.
ESPN’s series also sticks up for Big Tech. “On the other side of the aisle,” Holmes says, “Facebook has faced boycotts from advertisers and civil rights groups over its stance on political ads and its unwillingness to take down pages that spread misinformation.” This statement is undone by hidden footage of Facebook employees who admitted to deliberate censorship of Trump supporters.
Athletes, particularly NBA players, active in getting out the Biden vote at pro sports venues are not characterized as anti-Trumpers. They constantly call for “change” and it’s no mystery they mean change in the White House’s occupancy. The Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum is quoted as opposing Trump, but no pro-Trump athletes are included in the unbalanced series.
A story by Ramona Shelburne and Malika Andrews swallows James’ claims of voter suppression hook, line and sinker:
“For example, it’s good to be able to talk about Black voter suppression and how to combat it by opening up sports arenas and concert venues as polling sites. Or how More Than a Vote has recruited some 40,000 new volunteers as poll workers.”
It’s also powerful, they write, for athletes to bring in guest speakers like former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, whom they claim lost the 2018 election due to Republican voter suppression.
Two Michigan Republican operatives, Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl, are cited for election crimes, but no Democrats involved in voter fraud are mentioned.
Perhaps President Pitaro has maxed out his Pinocchio nose by now. Perhaps ESPN will stop insulting people and embarrassing itself by claiming it is not a political organization. Or a politically biased left-wing organization.