With the name Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk on the palm of his right hand, Jon « Stugotz » Weiner marched the line around and around the corner of the Gramercy Theater. He offered exorbitant amounts of money for tickets and hugs that cost between $ 200 and $ 10. 000 US dollars to see a show. Stugotz – Master Bullshitter – was only partially bullshitting this time. There was actually a show to be seen.
The show was Le Batard Live in Gramercy on Jan.. May 2019, where the Dan Le Batard Show found a temporary home in New York City and grossly underestimated its impact in the process. Le Batard often refers to the show as the « Marching Band To Nowhere » because of its inability to get ideas through. So there was doubt that they would even make it to NYC, let alone hold a successful event on 23rd Street.
Miraculously, my guy Joe somehow survived the Blitz and secured an extra ticket that I paid him for to take part. The show would likely have sold out elsewhere, but in many ways the cozy setting that Gramercy provided was the best scenario possible. Fans lined up to meet show members Greg Cote as well as shipping container members Michael Ryan Ruiz, Roy Bellamy, Billy Gil and Chris Cote. (We’ll get into some of the others later. )
Le Batard told me to keep talking while we posed for pictures. Knowing we had three minutes if we were lucky, we let him know how long we’d been watching the show. I kept him informed as efficiently as possible about his impact on other creatives, especially on color, which has been increasing steadily over the past few years.
Le Batard, a Cuban-American son of exile from Miami, Florida, has been a preeminent voice for ESPN not only on sports but also on the social issues they overlap and transcend. He never willingly escaped a sobering manner, even as the network attempted to water down such comments in the age of the President of the World Wide Leader, Jimmy Pitaro. Le Batard was part of a group that included Bomani Jones, Pablo Torre and Jemele Hill and Michael Smith, who were among the pillars of modern commentary, « More Than Sport ». The network tried to downplay this content, but it became increasingly difficult in a COVID-marked and socially conscious era. Le Batard always urged the network to lean into these social constructs, thanking them for allowing his show to soar to unforeseen heights in the same breath.
His advocacy of social change also carries the much-needed visibility of a prominent Latino voice in the sports media. In a country where Latinos made up the second largest electoral bloc in America, you stand a better chance of hearing an insightful Tekashi69 song than of finding an English-speaking, prominent Latino in the sports media. People in leadership positions in these networks are often conservative whites who do not see the benefit of having voices that represent other communities. That’s not to say that it was or wasn’t the case with ESPN in this particular case.
The reason the English-speaking Latino voice is so important is because in our communities we are often encouraged by our friends and families when doing sports media: “Why not access ESPN Deportes? “There’s nothing wrong with that, but what I often explain to others is that it limits our overall impact. Just because blacks are black doesn’t mean they should just strive to be on BET or Revolt. For us, our upper limit shouldn’t be limited to Telemundo or Univision. That’s not to say that our minority-owned platforms are insignificant, but to achieve social change it will take some people of color to tear down the normalized white walls of established businesses. It should provide an olive branch to others in our communities and fill the gap to a more inclusive media landscape. In our case, by speaking only Spanish we will not connect with other communities and remain withdrawn among our own, thus limiting our overall influence.
Then there is the other route, which in many cases has been continued due to necessity. Here it is your choice. It’s clear that Le Batard and his team – a mix of Latin Americans, whites, and blacks – are ready to do what most minority creators seem to need to do to achieve the balance they want between work and fun: bet on yourself.
In this way, Telemundo, BET, Futuro Media, Revolt, Latino Rebels and other minority-owned media conglomerates have provided additional voices in the constant battle for social equality that Le Batard has sought to wage in the sports world. Not having that prominent English-speaking Latino voice on ESPN is a loss, but one that will be Le Batard’s independent gain. Unless he decides to move his marching band to another major sports media company, and that future home is likely to need representation too.
Le Batard’s mutual departure from ESPN symbolizes the struggle between creatives and corporations, the call for inclusivity, and the need for diversity that corporations have claimed to want throughout 2020. But it also shows that you can get to a point where you no longer need the company you’ve worked with for so long, even as a minority. That you can work yourself into a position of freedom. That you don’t have to stick to structures that no longer work for you. And that there is power to exercise your decision to act.
At Le Batard Live it wasn’t just the show either: Bomani Jones, Pablo Torre, Katie Nolan, Stephen A.. Smith, Mike Golic Jr. , Nick Wright and Randy Scott were among many colleagues present. Le Batard has also provided a platform for countless other contributors including Jorge Sedano, Israel Gutierrez, Mina Kimes, Sarah Spain, Domonique Foxworth, Amin Elhassan, Marty Smith and Elle Duncan on his show, Highly Questionable and podcast. South Beach Sessions. He’s got used to numerous other people outside of sports and ESPN as well, which is likely to reinforce their new venture.
As the show says, « Thanks Dan. Thank you for leading an industry of followers, paving the way for other Latinos to do their best to find out, and for always being your authentic self when you leave ESPN to continue. ¡Sigue así!
Host: Podcast (@AHTTPodcast) isn’t hard to say | Founder: Side Hustle, digital series | 18x Film Festival Selectee | Award-winning content creator | Video game player | Puerto Rican |
ESPN, The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, Jon Weiner, highly questionable
World News – USA – Thank you, Dan Le Batard: A symbol for the good of the sports media, and a torchbearer for the Latin American community
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