ESPN executed the perfect Friday afternoon news dump when it disclosed that Jason Whitlock is out as the head of “The Undefeated” just weeks before its launch.
Clearly, something happened to knock out Whitlock from the African-American-based site that was conceived with him as the standard bearer. I have a hard time believing the release’s statement that ESPN and Whitlock “collectively decided to make some structural adjustments that will maximize the skill sets and strengths of our team, leading to the best possible output for the site and for all of ESPN.”
I’m not buying that notion that Whitlock took one for the team. This is a major embarrassment for someone of his stature, not to mention ego.
Greg Howard’s massive takedown of Whitlock on Deadspin was damning to say the least. Yet that story was published on April 27.
ESPN didn’t make a move back then. In fact, it seemed all systems appeared to be go when Tom Hoffarth of the Los Angeles Daily News wrote a big piece on Whitlock and the site on May 30.
The story contains this passage:
His riposte appears to be transparency. As the editor-in-chief and full-frontal embodiment of this project de rigueur, conceived two years ago and perhaps ready to officially launch next month, when have you ever known Whitlock to play coy about something that’s got his name stamped on it?
“What we’re doing is, to me, one of the most difficult things in journalism,” the 48-year-old said this week from the province he has occupied since last September. “We’re going to be debating and discussing and analyzing race and culture. That’s a high-risk, high-reward endeavor. It requires very smart people. This isn’t going to be about writing game stories or ‘hot takes.’ It’s about actual journalism and reporting on really big issues.
“And one thing I’ve learned in my short time as a manager and executive is hire really slow and deliberately.”
Apparently, Whitlock didn’t learn all his lessons in being an effective manager. Otherwise, he still would be running the show.
If this situation involved a coach or a general manager being ousted so close to the start of the season, Whitlock would demand an explanation for all involved. He wouldn’t settle for a press release on a Friday afternoon.
The same now holds true for Whitlock. When he writes again, he can’t do a standard sports column.
He needs to explain what happened and why he won’t be the head of “The Undefeated.” If Whitlock is all for transparency in his reporting, that has to include him.
I’m looking forward to reading that column.