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After ESPN “SportsCenter” anchor Jemele Hill tweeted that President Donald Trump was a “white supremacist” and the network admonished her, many conservative critics questioned why she wasn’t punished more severely.
Some pointed to ESPN’s 2016 firing of Curt Schilling – who had shared several controversial, right-leaning memes on social media – as an example of the network’s left-leaning tendencies.
Others pointed to “SportsCenter” anchor Linda Cohn’s comments about ESPN in April as proof of the network’s political hypocrisy.
Cohn had appeared on WABC Radio’s “The Bernie and Sid Show” and said she thought ESPN had lost some of its base by becoming too political:
“You’re right. That is definitely a percentage of it. I don’t know how big a percentage. But if anyone wants to ignore that fact, they’re blind. That’s what I meant about the core group that made ESPN so successful …
“I felt that the old-school viewers were put in a corner and not appreciated with all these other changes.”
On Wednesday, Clay Travis of Outkick the Coverage and Ben Koo of Awful Announcing reported that after the comments, ESPN told Cohn not to come into the office – Koo reported it was a day off, while Travis said it was a suspension.
A source familiar with the matter confirmed to Business Insider that Cohn did meet with ESPN’s president, John Skipper, after the comments. The person said Skipper told Cohn to take a day off, though it was not an official suspension.
When news of Cohn’s punishment emerged this week, many critics felt it was proof that ESPN leaned left. They argued that Hill was merely slapped on the wrist while Cohn was “suspended” and Schilling was fired.
The incidents aren’t apples-to-apples comparisons, but the same source said Cohn’s punishment had less to do with politics than public appearance, as ESPN wants employees not involved in the day-to-day business side of things to avoid publicly speculating on its business decisions. When someone like Cohn puts it out there, the source said, people listen.
Hill, on the other hand, expressed an opinion that ESPN did not want to reflect the network.
Cohn did not respond to a request for comment.
As Business Insider’s sports editor, Cork Gaines, wrote on Wednesday, the key difference between Hill’s and Schilling’s punishments was that Schilling had been made aware of what types of content crossed the line and repeatedly crossed it.