The decline of ESPN

Bilal Suleiman, Opinion Writer

These days, it seems that everyone has an opinion about the current state of the media. Ever since last year’s presidential election, news media has received a lot of flak for being biased, publishing “fake news” and sensationalizing stories in an effort to retain viewership.

These are complex matters that will take time and effort to solve, but in the meantime I have a few thoughts on an area of news reporting that should be held more accountable: sports. I’m looking at you, ESPN.

Sports news outlets, namely ESPN, fabricate drama to fill their 24/7 news cycle. Their daytime programming is filled with debate shows where analysts spend all day yelling at each other about mundane issues.

This week, NBA basketball analyst and former all-star forward Charles Barkley called Lebron James a “drama queen.” LeBron was chosen to be the captain of the all-star team through the fan vote, but he did not win the players’ vote, and Barkley believes it is because he (LeBron) is a drama queen.

It’s a valid opinion to have and coming from a former player, it has credibility. That’s all good with me. It’s fine that ESPN gave the story coverage because LeBron has such high visibility. My problem with this is what happens afterwards. ESPN beat the topic to death by spending full segments of their shows discussing and debating every possible angle and view, to my annoyance.

Regular news media got ahold of the story and now his words are being blown out of proportion. This is a side effect of having 24/7 coverage: eventually there is just nothing left to talk about.

People who want publicity and are aware of this situation will take advantage of it. To fill their airtime, ESPN will notice a story and run with it just so they can have something to talk about.

Lavar Ball, the father of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball, is one of the most talked about figures in sports right now. Using the platform his talented son gave him access to, Lavar made a series of outrageous claims that gained him notoriety in the sports world.

Less than a year ago, no one knew who Lavar Ball was. Now he’s having Twitter battles with President Donald Trump.

In his most recent incident, Lavar told ESPN that Lakers Head Coach Luke Walton has lost control of the team and that the players don’t want to play for him. ESPN published these comments in an article without speaking to credible sources to see if these accusations have any merit.

The NBA Coaches Association released a statement afterwards stating, “The article attacked Coach Walton on the basis of one person’s unsubstantiated opinion. The story failed to provide quotes or perspectives from any players, or from Lakers management, either named or unnamed, verifying the claims made in the story.”

ESPN works closely with sports leagues to provide unparalleled access to players and coaches. Part of the reason they’ve dominated sports coverage in the past is due to their credibility, their access and their relationships with sports leagues and teams.

The deterioration of relationships with sports leagues would spell disaster for ESPN, whose ratings are already dropping due to the internet. They’re already putting out a shabby product to begin with, so, if I were ESPN, I would avoid burning any bridges in order to slow the deterioration of the company’s reputation.

Bilal Suleiman is a columnist  for Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]