ESPN announced yesterday that it has formally parted ways with controversial and prolific sports journalist Jason Whitlock, buying out his contract a few weeks ago. This marks the second time that the network and journalist have split, following Whitlock’s 2002 to 2006 tenure at ESPN.com.
The end of Whitlock’s scandal-plagued tenure as editor-in-chief of The Undefeated, a still-largely-unlaunched ESPN-backed website that would explore the interesection of race and sports, was announced in June. He was replaced by sports editor Leon Carter. That announcement came on the heels of reports by Deadspin’s Greg Howard that regarded Whitlock as a poor and vindictive manager who employs problematic, “pulled up by the bootstraps” racial narratives, as the following passage from one of Howard’s most-incisive pieces details:
There is no way a room full of intelligent thinkers and writers can be united behind Whitlock’s crass appeal to sports-as-American values, or his far-right dog whistles, or his musings on the inherent sicknesses of black people. The site isn’t for them, though. Rather than a salon for various and varying black voices, The Undefeated is an instrument to trumpet Whitlock’s own. And this, more than anything else, is the problem. By setting the site up as a justification not just for his own unpopular and long-held stances but for himself—by making it the sort of black-interest site that surveys the United States as it is in 2015 and identifies black people using the word “nigga” as the single cause most worth its time and attention—Whitlock has condemned it to irrelevance, his grievances finally winning out over his ambitions.
After more than two years of development, The Undefeated has yet to be officially launched. The site’s home page simply links to a few stories that seem to be posted on ESPN.com and not the actual site. In a statement to Sports Illustrated, ESPN insisted that The Undefeated will still be launched:
We have mutually agreed to part ways, which was Jason’s preference following the shift from his role as editor-in-chief. Jason is a talented print and television commentator, and we wish him success in his next chapter. ESPN remains fully committed to The Undefeated and plans continue toward an official launch.
Whitlock’s future is uncertain, although Sports Illustrated guesses that he’ll make a return to Fox Sports, where he worked from 2007 to 2013.