On Wednesday, ESPN President John Skipper said Keith Olbermann will be able to discuss politics on his new late-night talk show on ESPN2 and noted that any opinions Olbermann had to offer about Trayvon Martin would be acceptable so long as they were “responsible.”
“Olbermann” will debut on August 26, and the one-hour show will try to blunt the buzz that will surround Fox Sports 1’s debut the week before. The New York Times had reported on Tuesday that Olbermann’s contract prohibited him from discussing politics:
On his new show, Olbermann will be free to discuss matters other than sports, including pop culture and current events, but not politics, the two-year pact specifies.
ESPN said there were no prohibitions on political discussions but emphasized that Olbermann would only discuss politics when it intersected with sports and culture.
Speaking to Variety on Wednesday, Skipper said while “politics and governance and elections are not going to be the subject of a show,” there is “no prohibition against speaking up when sports runs up against anything else in our culture.”
“Trayvon Martin is an excellent example; we expect Keith to have some point of view there. It only has to be responsible,” he said.
ESPN abandoned its social media policy last year to allow its personalities to express support for Trayvon Martin and tweet photos of themselves in hoodies. And after a Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of all charges last weekend, athletes like New York Giants star wide receiver Victor Cruz tweeted vitriol. Cruz apologized for tweeting that Zimmerman would not last “a year before the hood catches up to him.” Since sports often intersects with culture and politics, Olbermann will have plenty of opportunities to opine on such issues.
Olbermann said, “if the House is considering a bill to make PED use a capital offense, we’ll cover it.” He also reportedly cited other examples, like a a hypothetical interview with President George W. Bush, who used to own the Texas Rangers.
“We’re not going to talk politics (for the sake of politics),” Olbermann said. “I read something about there being a contract clause (related to it). I don’t know where that came from.”
From Jason Collins to the Washington Redskins, sports is often the place where politics and social issues are discussed. Since Olbermann will be allowed to discuss politics when it intersects with sports, there is likely to be plenty of MSNBC-style opining on his show.
Olbermann was responsible for moving MSNBC sharply to the left, branding the network as the shrill, vitriolic and blatantly partisan network that it is today.