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ESPN's Dan Le Batard skips radio show in wake of President Trump rant, company violation  3 Weeks ago

Source:   USA Today  

ESPN host Dan Le Batard chose to skip his radio show Monday morning in the wake of last week's on-air rant in which the veteran journalist and TV personality called out President Donald Trump and condemned "send her back" chants heard at a Trump rally in reference to Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar. 

Le Batard had discussions with ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro, who reiterated that the company's stance on not talking about pure politics has not "wavered," according to a person with knowledge of the situation. The person requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the topic.

The company supported Le Batard's decision to skip Monday's broadcast, and noted he is taking the policy violation "seriously." ESPN has not announced a suspension for Le Batard but the determination for punishment is "ongoing." 

Le Batard is expected to be on air for his television show, "Highly Questionable," and expected to return to his radio show later this week. Le Batard missed the first hour of his show last Friday following the incident. Employees were also re-informed last Friday via email of the ESPN's no-pure politics policy.

“We don’t talk about what is happening unless there is some sort of weak, cowardly sports angle that we can run it through," Le Batard said. “This isn’t about politics; it’s about race."

Trump criticized Omar (D-Minn.), a Somali refugee who became a naturalized citizen, at a Wednesday rally in Greenville, N.C. At the rally, Trump paused for 13 seconds while "send her back" chants were loudly heard. Trump told reporters he "felt a little bit badly" about the chants Thursday. His tweet Sunday appeared play a role in the chant. He wrote that Omar and other congresswomen should "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came." 

The 50-year-old Le Batard, a son of Cuban immigrants, said the chanting at the rally "felt un-American" and blamed Trump. 

“There’s a racial division in this country that’s being instigated by the president," Le Batard said. "It is so wrong what the president of our country is doing, trying to go down getting reelected by dividing the masses at a time when the old white man, the old, rich white man feels oppressed being attacked by minorities. Black people, brown people, women — that's who we're going after now."

When Pitaro became ESPN’s president in May of 2018, he said publicly: “Without question our data tells us our fans do not want us to cover politics. My job is to provide clarity. I really believe that some of our talent was confused on what was expected of them. If you fast-forward to today, I don’t believe they are confused.”

Former "SportsCenter anchor and ESPN writer Jemele Hill left the company in September 2018 after she helped spark a redefined no-politics policy a year earlier by calling Trump a "white supremacist" and suffering backlash and the Trump administration calling for her firing. 

"We here at ESPN haven't had the stomach for that fight because Jemele (Hill) did some things on Twitter, and you saw what happened after that," Le Batard said of Hill, who publicly said she left prominent roles and ultimately the company on her own terms. "Then, here, all of the sudden, 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.

"We only talk about it around here when (Golden State coach) Steve Kerr or (San Antonio Spurs coach Greg) Popovich says something."

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