ESPN Cutting 500 Jobs: Network Blames COVID, Fails To Mention Ratings Plunge Due To "Woke" Messaging

ESPN is cutting another 500 jobs as pressures from the Covid-19 pandemic are weighing on the sports network. Apparently, the restart of almost all major sports - albeit draped in political messaging for the last 6 months - hasn't been enough to save the network from a fresh round of layoffs. 

The network is blaming the coronavirus, naturally, because it certainly can't blame its own politicized discussions during almost every major sporting event it has broadcast over the last few months. 

A memo circulated on Thursday from Jimmy Pitaro, the head of ESPN, said the cuts will include 300 layoffs and the elimination of another 200 open positions. The company has 5,000 employees worldwide, according to the LA Times

The memo said: “Prior to the pandemic, we had been deeply engaged in strategizing how best to position ESPN for future success amidst tremendous disruption in how fans consume sports. The pandemic’s significant impact on our business clearly accelerated those forward-looking discussions.”

The cuts are reportedly occurring across several departments and employees will "learn about their future" at the network next week. During the beginning of the pandemic, ESPN had lost a fair amount of its programming when Major League Baseball and the NBA both upended their seasons early. 

Since the leagues have decided to "get woke", embracing the political "Black Lives Matter" messaging before coming back on the air, they have seen their ratings plunge

The cuts come right after ESPN's parent company, Disney, also announced a sweeping round of more than 25,000 job cuts days ago. Recall, back in early October we reported that the network was planning "sweeping layoffs". We noted then that the network was trying to cut "tens of millions" in salary.

Days prior to that, we pointed out that amidst a ratings plunge, the NBA is likely going to be pulling its BLM messaging from its courts and jerseys next season. 

Here is the full text of the memo that went out to ESPN employees, per CNBC:

Dear colleagues,

As you know, we value transparency in our internal dialogue, and that means in both good and challenging times. After much consideration, I have some difficult organizational decisions to share. We will be reducing our workforce, impacting approximately 300 valued team members, in addition to 200 open positions.

Today is hard because ESPN has always been — and will always be — fortified by its fantastic people. Teamwork, dedication, spirit and grit have built this place and are what make ESPN special. Prior to the pandemic, we had been deeply engaged in strategizing how best to position ESPN for future success amidst tremendous disruption in how fans consume sports. The pandemic’s significant impact on our business clearly accelerated those forward-looking discussions. In the short term, we enacted various steps like executive and talent salary reductions, furloughs and budget cuts, and we implemented innovative operations and production approaches, all in an effort to weather the COVID storm.

We have, however, reached an inflection point. The speed at which change is occurring requires great urgency, and we must now deliver on serving sports fans in a myriad of new ways. Placing resources in support of our direct-to-consumer business strategy, digital, and, of course, continued innovative television experiences, is more critical than ever. However, building a successful future in a changing world means facing hard choices. Making informed decisions about how and where we need to go – and, as always, in the most efficient way possible - is by far the most challenging job of any leadership team.

And, while it must be done looking through a business lens, it also must be done with great respect and genuine concern for people. We are parting ways with some exceptional team members - some of whom have been here for a long time – and all of whom have made important contributions to ESPN. We’re very grateful for all they’ve meant to us, and I assure you we are taking steps to make their transitions easier. I am proud of the people at ESPN.

Together, we have overcome tremendous challenges and adversity over these past several months and please know that the decisions and plans executed today were not made lightly. They are, however, necessary and I am convinced that we will move forward and effectively navigate this unprecedented disruption. Our Human Resources and Communications teams will continue to keep you posted on any updates, and you’ll be hearing more detail about our future direction in the next few weeks. In the meantime, if you have questions about anything outlined in this note, please do not hesitate to raise them with your leadership team or HR Business Partner.

With gratitude,

Jimmy