ESPN radio host decries racism

US President Donald Trump.
US President Donald Trump.
Image: REUTERS/Leah Millis. File Photo

ESPN radio show host Dan Le Batard's criticism of US President Donald Trump and his own network prompted the sports broadcasting giant to remind employees to steer clear of politics on air, the Hollywood Reporter said Friday.

The entertainment industry publication said it had obtained a memo from ESPN executive vice president Norby Williamson to staff reminding them of the company's policies concerning talking "pure politics" on air.

"It's not about the message," the memo said, according to the Hollywood Reporter. "It's about the use of (the) ESPN platform."

Le Batard ripped Trump in the wake of a campaign rally where Trump supporters erupted in cries of "Send her back" aimed at Ilhan Omar - one of four progressive Democratic congresswomen of color who have been urged by the President to "go back" to their countries of origin.

"This felt un-American," said Le Batard, the son of Cuban immigrants. "Basically, a chant, 'send her back.' It's not the America that my parents came to get for us ... There's a racial division in this country that's being instigated by the president.

"We here at ESPN haven't had the stomach for that fight," he added, referencing Jemele Hill, a former host of ESPN television's flagship show "SportsCenter" who was suspended and later left the network.

On social media, Hill had called Trump a white supremacist and proposed a boycott of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys after owner Jerry Jones warned players who didn't stand for the national anthem would be benched.

"Here all of a sudden nobody (at ESPN) talks politics on anything unless we can use one of these sports figures as a meat-shield in the most cowardly way possible to discuss these subjects," Le Batard said.

"We only talk about it around here when (NBA coaches) Steve Kerr or (Gregg) Popovich says something. We don't talk about what is happening unless there's some sort of weak, cowardly sports angle that we can run it through. When sports has been a place where this stuff changes."

ESPN did not announce any discipline of Le Batard - who was absent from the first hour of his show on Friday but was then heard on the air.

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