The man who might know ESPN better than anyone believes that former president John Skipper did a pretty good job.
“John Skipper had a real commitment to originality and quality,” author James Andrew Miller told TheWrap in the wake of the network chief’s resignation on Monday, in which he cited “substance addiction.”
Miller — who famously charted the rise of the sports behemoth in his 2011 book, “Those Guys Have All the Fun” — pointed to ESPN’s emphasis on live programming, and “original intellectual property” like Grantland, FiveThirtyEight, and the Emmy-winning “30 for 30” documentary series as feathers in Skipper’s cap.
Another important move, according to Miller: Skipper’s record on diversity — putting former softball player Jessica Mendoza in the booth for its MLB broadcasts, and hiring Doris Burke as a basketball commentator for the its NBA coverage were two moves that grabbed his attention. Launching “The Undefeated,” ESPN’s website for “exploring the intersections of race, sports and culture,” also stood out.
The writer also discussed “SportsCenter” host Jemele Hill’s recent suspension for tweeting that people should boycott Dallas Cowboys advertisers after owner Jerry Jones demanded the team stand for the national anthem.
“One of the ironic things about the protests in the wake of [Hill’s] Twitter activity from people like Al Sharpton and others, was they were protesting against a company led by a guy [Skipper] that had an unbelievable, outstanding track record of empowering as much diversity as possible,” Miller said.
Coincidentally, the author is set to release the last recorded interview with Skipper as president of ESPN, when the latest episode of his podcast “Origins Chapter 2: ESPN” comes out on Thursday.