Long-time ‘SportsCenter’ anchor claims politics played a role in layoffs

By Vincent Frank
Nov 16, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; ESPN broadcaster Trent Dilfer on the Monday Night Football Set at Paul Brown Stadium. The Texans won 10-6. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Linda Cohn has been among the most recognizable figures for ESPN over the past quarter-plus century. She was with the broadcasting giant when it took over the sports media world back in the 1990s and remains one of its most-popular figures.

So when Cohn speaks aout about the layoffs that cost the jobs of 100-plus ESPN employees this week, we probably should listen.

In appearing on 77 WABC’s Bernie and Sid show, Cohn had some rather interesting remarks when asked if the increasingly political nature of ESPN itself played a role in the layoffs.

“That is definitely a percentage of it,” Cohn said Thursday (h/t NY Post). “I don’t know how big a percentage, but if anyone wants to ignore that fact, they’re blind.”

There’s definitely some out there who believe that sports figures have the right to voice their opinions on the societal and political issues of the day. There’s also another train of thought out there that suggests consumers use sports as a way to separate themselves from the increasingly polarized world we see today.

For many, sports acts as an entertainment outlet. If you are strongly supportive of a specific social issue and see someone within the industry dog on your beliefs, it will likely turn you off as a consumer. That’s basic human nature.

While the political stances of ESPN and some of its contributors may have played a role here, the company has long been seeing its viewership go by the wayside. Primarily, this has to do with consumers going with cord cutter options, shutting out the cable and satellite television industries in the process.

ESPN’s relatively expensive relationship with the NFL, MLB and NBA also plays a role here. The idea behind this week’s layoffs was to get individuals onboard that can perform cross-platform.

The interesting dynamic here is that those who were given their walking papers this week didn’t necessarily dip their toes into the political spectrum of today. They included long-time NFL reporter Ed Werder, former football player Trent Dilfer, MLB’s Jayson Stark and college basketball’s Andy Katz.

Still, some of the most-divisive on-air and print talents at ESPN remain. This seems to indicate that the layoffs had more to do with the economic situation at the four-letter network instead of politics itself.

Cohn’s comments are still rather interesting in that she is someone on the inside and knows more than us what is happening behind the scenes in Connecticut.