ESPN’s latest controversy reminds me why I left the sports media industry

via Neil Dwyer

In the wake of Jemele Hill’s accusations that the President is a white supremacist, I reminded myself why I write about politics, instead of sports.

As a child I dreamt of a career in sports media, specifically sports talk radio. I attended the University of Miami and had a memorable three and a half years studying communications. However, along the way, I discovered who I was politically. Originally admiring President Obama, I became a Republican and would go on to vote for Mitt Romney in 2012.

With the increasing emphasis on diversity and political correctness, I kept my newfound opinions to myself. This was painstakingly difficult when I had to cover different current events for classes. I remember a poetry slam where one reader smugly proclaimed that Obama would win again easily, and the elites in the room smirked and giggled. I lowered my head. I also questioned how my diverse group of friends would feel about my views. After all, if you were a Republican, you had to be a racist/sexist/homophobe. Long story short, being a Republican at Donna Shalala’s University of Miami meant keeping quiet.

When I graduated, I felt as though I could finally be open as a conservative. I noticed that as I shared my views, I lost college friends as followers on Twitter. Nevertheless, I enjoyed freestyling my debate, honing my research skills, and being openly on the right, with no shame. When it came time for the job search, I didn’t want to figuratively go back in the closet.

The sports market was certainly shifting to the left coinciding with Obama’s integration into the sports community, especially basketball. As seen recently, the NBA now encourages its players to embrace social justice. In fact, players at the ESPYs commented on issues of race, gun rights, and transgender equality.

Last summer, I tried out to be the Brooklyn Nets public address announcer. One thing my dad brought up was my public Twitter account. He wondered if my politics would keep me out of big-league basketball. To alleviate his fears, I brushed it off, but I will admit it got me wondering. After all, the judges had me read more than others before me (that I saw). I felt I had the final round in the bag!

Ultimately, I knew that I would need to hide my political views in order to work in the industry, and that was something I was unwilling to do. I cannot imagine being a young intern at ESPN or any other network that fears being outed – how they know they could be ruined, even doing a good job, by someone RTing a line from when they were in high school or before they chose to be disciplined for the media.

In today’s world of sports, Jemele Hill is tying the President I voted for to white supremacy. Shannon Sharpe is tying Kaepernick’s lack of a job to racial intolerance in the NFL, the Republican party, and across the country. I made a good decision by leaving the sports media market. Truly, where would my place in sports media be when they alienate their right-of-center base?

Neil Dwyer is a graduate of the University of Miami, and is a political and sports broadcaster, as well as a freelance writer.