ESPN president John Skipper sent a memo to employees of the company Friday reminding them the network "is about sports" but because they are "intertwined with society and culture ... 'sticking to sports' is not so simple."
Sports Illustrated tweeted out the memo, and a person who was not authorized to speak publicly at ESPN confirmed to USA TODAY Sports that Skipper sent the email to employees.
Skipper's note was in response to the controversy this week over tweets by SportsCenter anchor Jemele Hill that called President Trump "a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists."
Skipper said that when athletes engage in protests, the network will "cover, report and comment on that."
He then said "ESPN is not a political organization" and that the network does not tell its employees "what view they must express." But, he said, the network "has values" and is "committed to inclusion and an environment of tolerance where everyone in a diverse work force has the equal opportunity to succeed."
From John Skipper: pic.twitter.com/wEofFfhCC3— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) September 15, 2017
He went on to say that "social platforms are public and their comments on them will reflect on ESPN. At a minimum, comments should not be inflammatory or personal.
"We had a violation of those standards in recent days and our handling of this is a private matter. As always, in each circumstance we look to do what is best for our business."
The day after Hill's tweets, the network sent out a tweet of its own saying that her views did not reflect those of ESPN.
ESPN Statement on Jemele Hill: pic.twitter.com/3kfexjx9zQ— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) September 12, 2017
Thursday, it was reported by Think Progress that ESPN attempted to pull Hill from her 6 p.m. ET show and that co-host Michael Smith refused to do the show without her. The network denied that through a communications manager.
White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday called ESPN "hypocritical," hours after Trump criticized the network.
Friday morning, Trump tweeted: "ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming). People are dumping it in RECORD numbers. Apologize for untruth!”
ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming). People are dumping it in RECORD numbers. Apologize for untruth!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 15, 2017