About a year ago, I sent a tweet calling President Donald Trump a white supremacist. The president’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, promptly called for me to be fired from ESPN, where I was an anchor. John Skipper, then ESPN’s president, was furious. We had an emotional meeting. I cried. It wasn’t Skipper’s anger that got to me. It was reconciling the fact that even though I believed what I said was true and knew that I was on the right side of history, the collateral damage was sitting right there in front of me. I made the job of someone who had created a wealth of opportunities for me that much harder.
A few weeks later, Skipper suspended me for two weeks, for another set of tweets. In that instance, I suggested that Dallas Cowboys fans upset at the owner, Jerry Jones—who said he would bench any player who took a knee during the national anthem—should boycott the team’s advertisers. It was too much, too soon.
The Trump drama and ensuing suspension were the first moments of tension in my 11-year working relationship with Skipper.
Tension, not anger. Although I didn’t always agree with Skipper’s decisions when he was my boss, the suspension I could more or less understand. The thing that really bothered me was that he didn’t take the chance to condemn the White House even as he rebuked me. Corporate America has to do what corporate America has to do—but it’s not the government’s place to attack private citizens, and Skipper could have said so.