After three years of development and a whole lot of discussion, ESPN has finally launched its new African-American sports and culture blog, the Undefeated. The site’s debut on Tuesday came with several longform articles on black athletes and artists, as well as an introduction from editor-in-chief and former Washington Post managing editor Kevin Merida.
“At The Undefeated, every day will feature a surprise. Every day, some joy. And no day without swagger,” wrote Merida. “We want The Undefeated to feel urgent, necessary, not dutiful. Ours won’t be a site of sermons and scoldings (unless, of course, they’re earned).”
The launch coincided with the 62nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling, which ended racial segregation in schools. The site’s first wave of sports articles include feature columns on Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston and recently retired Seattle Seahawks star Marshawn Lynch. Other features include a piece on Marvel Studios producer Nate Moore and a section on historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
The Undefeated had originally been scheduled to launch last summer but was delayed after the site’s original editor-in-chief, Jason Whitlock, was removed from the project. Whitlock was first hired for the project in August 2013, but according to reports from the New York Times and Deadspin, Whitlock’s leadership was marked by controversial managerial decisions and inappropriate e-mails. Whitlock parted ways with ESPN in October and has since returned to Fox Sports. Merida was hired as the Undefeated’s new editor-in-chief the following month.
The Undefeated has received early praise from writers and readers alike and has been compared to Grantland, the defunct sports commentary site once run by former ESPN star Bill Simmons.
At his upfronts presentation on Tuesday, ESPN president John Skipper said that the company is committed to the Undefeated “as long as the content is good.”
“Kevin Merida, whom we met with, asked us, ‘How will I know if I’m succeeding?'” said Skipper. “I said, ‘You’ll know you’re succeeding if you’re publishing great content that people care about … and that makes people re-question things.’ That is our only measure of success.”
– Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) May 17, 2016
– Doug Hicks (@DougCFSC) May 17, 2016
Brian Flood contributed to this report.