Wednesday Hot Topic: Stick to Sports?

Wednesday Hot Topic: Stick to Sports?

by mike in boston / @mikeinbostonemail


Sean Fitz-Gerald of The Athletic has a great article about the differences between TSN and Sportsnet when it comes to talking politics. He quotes execs from both networks, and the contrast boils down to this:


  1. Sportsnet allows their personalities to talk politics on air and on social media
  2. TSN doesn’t


There is a little more nuance to the policies. TSN doesn’t want their talent to be the story, but will certainly cover political issues when they see fit. By contrast, Sportsnet has no objection to their talent using their platforms to espouse personal opinions. A clear example of this was when Jamie Campbell became the story during the playoffs by publicly denouncing use of the Cleveland Indians name. He was praised by Sportsnet for taking that stance though it is worth pointing out that the network didn’t go so far as to ban the name.


Every time we discuss these issues I like to point of the Goddard counter-example. I don’t know all the facts regarding his dismissal however we do know that his tweet in defense of traditional marriage was a catalyst. This would suggest that Sportsnet’s policy is not exactly carte blanche. So there is some risk in taking unpopular political stances. I wrote at length about the Goddard case here.


When it comes to TSN, they have allowed Bruce Arthur to use his affiliation with the network to discuss the issue of athletes refusing to visit  the White House under Trump. So their policy seems to have some flexibility as well. However this may be the exception that proves the rule. For example, how many TSN personalities have made public statements about the ongoing CHL lawsuit? Rick Westhead is all over this story (crickets from SN as far as I can tell) but what do McKenzie or Duthie or Dreger or other major faces think? I don’t know.


Final thought: The Athletic are proving their value as an independent voice. Who else was going to write this piece? The papers barely care about sports media issues. While we here at TSM are read by everyone in the industry, most of the bigwigs refuse to take my calls or answer my emails. If there is communication, it is a one-way street.  I won’t speak for Jonah, however I find this more than slightly hypocritical. I won’t press the issue here. Anyway, here’s hoping The Athletic keep writing these kinds of pieces. Great job by Sean.


Over to you: what do you think about the different editorial policies?




thanks for reading and commenting,

until next time …

mike (not really in boston)


  • comment-avatar

    I could give a rats ass what actors/actresses/entertainers think about politics so why the hell would I want to hear from sports scribes? Stick to sports folks, it makes for a much more pleasant day!!

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    WestDale Rocks 3 years ago

    I don’t believe “unpopular stances” are the issue. It’s whether the stance is offensive. Ask yourself who is being offended by a particular stance. Criticizing politics, be it presidents, prime ministers, or governments, is a daily event and should be acceptable. If Arthur takes on the subject of the whiteness of the Republican party, or the background of Steve Bannon and Breitbart, who is he offending? White supremacists? Racists? No question, a lot of people are uncomfortable that race discussions, and discussions about white supremacy in government are now a part of every day life. But being uncomfortable about discussing something is a LONG way from being offended by the same conversation! With the questionable backgrounds of many of Trump’s high evil supporters (Bannon, Miller, Duke, Sessions, etc). these are conversations we have to have! With Jamie Campbell, who exactly is being offended by his stance on the Indians logo? Racists? I’m sure there’s a fairly large segment of people who honestly didn’t think of the Indians name as being offensive, and there’s probably also a large group who is annoyed at what they feel is “political correctness” gone too far. But I would suggest neither of those groups are actually offended by what Campbell said. As for Damian Goddard, his tweet was offensive to any same sex legally married couple.

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    WestDale Rocks 3 years ago

    Meant high “level” supporters. But high “evil” works, too!!!! Hahaha.

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    It’s okay for sports media personalities to comment as long as they regurgitate the politically correct rightspeak. But if you have a different viewpoint expect to be fired and ostracized. Got it. SMH

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    Marcus 3 years ago

    Damien Goddard’s dismissal proved that certain viewpoints are more tolerated than others. Bruce Arthur once commented on air to Kate Beirness that beating a team of five white guys in basketball should never be considered an upset. [Beirness, to her credit, let the remark die in the dead air that briefly followed before she moved the conversation forward.] I can think of many people who would consider Bruce’s remark offensive, but he is still allowed to broadcast his opinions without censure.

    There may be times when some political events are so overwhelming, especially those that affect sporting events such as the Boston Marathon bombing, where commentary can and should be allowed from all corners, the sports arena included.

    But otherwise, sports should be considered as recess to the “school” of politics. You can say that one is more important in our lives, but the other serves a break to refresh and recharge ourselves to deal with it. Kids shouldn’t have to do homework at recess. And adults shouldn’t have to constantly confront the political world when they choose to watch sports and entertainment. We aren’t hiding from it. We just need that time away for perspective so that we can deal with it when we return to it. It isn’t going anywhere. It can tolerate our absence for a couple of hours a day, maybe the only hours we enjoy.

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    I had never thought about it because I never experienced as stark a difference as described above. ( Twitter feeds excluded) I have found both TSN and Sportsnet generally the same on discussing LGBT issues, You Can Play, depression issues etc. Neither are out there on gun control or immigration bans etc. Regardless of your personal political leanings, if your on-air personalities lean left, you are objectively dividing your viewership. Stephen Colbert experienced this the first few months of his new late night show. Conservatives are out there, a lot of them, but they don’t speak up because they want to avoid the liberal backlash. This issue also split pro sports locker rooms and I imagine a lot of workplaces. Hoping this doesn’t descend into a debate about individual issues which isn’t the point here.


    “In an essay posted at Outkick the Coverage, Fox sports Radio Clay Travis argues that ESPN is tanking in the ratings generally because of an emphasis on political correctness and progressive political activism, thereby alienating 75 percent of the viewership who just want to watch sports, sports highlights, or discussions directly sports related.”

    ESPN profits are way down. NFL ratings down.

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    I’m glad Damien Goddard was brought up. Sportsnet say they allow their personnel to discuss issues, but Goddard was fired because his views differed from the network’s (and others). Whether Goddard was right or wrong to express what he did in the way he did, I personally thought his firing was unwarranted. It’s as if people can’t have their own thoughts or beliefs.

    I generally don’t mind a bit of political talk if it is kept in check and civilized. A few minutes or a short segment on major political news, or major non-sports related news in general (ie. Nelson Mandela’s death), I can live with. However, I do not want to read/hear Bruce Arthur rant about every stupid little thing that gets him in a tizzy (which seems to be everything). Do I also care to hear McCown and Cox talk about Trump and call him a buffoon? Nope. Generally I find these people, because of the industry they are in, feel they have the authority to influence their thoughts onto others. Just my take on it.

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    “When it comes to TSN, they have allowed Bruce Arthur to use his affiliation with the network to discuss the issue of athletes refusing to visit the White House under Trump.”

    When it comes to TSN, they (and the Star) have allowed Bruce Arthur to comment constantly, repetitively and profanely on all sorts of issues, political or otherwise. It’s the main reason I had to unfollow him. I am VERY surprised Star/TSN has not ‘cautioned’ him.

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    “Stick to sports” has never been more relevant than it is now. As a society we’re having this phenomenon of “politics fatigue” setting in after a hyper-charged Canadian election campaign followed by a year and a half of US elections and Trump’s victory. I can’t go to any dinner, any social outing, or even a god damn basketball game nowadays without hearing politics brought up in some way. It’s getting tiresome. And I’m a big political junkie.

    Sports are an escape from politics. Sports leave everything on the field; it doesn’t matter what anyone’s views are or what their background is, all that matters is the game. If I wanted to hear about politics I’d read newspapers or watch cable news. When I engage with sports I only want to hear about sports. Simple as that. If PTS is talking Trump again I turn off the channel – there’s a reason I’m listening to 590 and not 1010. It’s a different story when political issues creep into sports naturally like with public funding of stadiums, but I don’t need to hear or read Bruce Arthur’s latest hyperbolic ranting and raving about Trump for example. Whether it’s opinions I agree or disagree with, I believe politics and sports should be kept separate for the most part. Fully support TSN and their “stick to sports” policy.

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    Clay Travis’ argument is nonsense. There isn’t anything to attribute an across the board decline in TV viewers to ESPN talent’s political leanings. And he works for their competition.

    NFL audiences bounced back after the election was over. It was the elephant in the room taking up attention.

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    I’d say that if you come out against the basic rights of other citizens you can likely expect repercussions.

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    I don’t care either way to be honest. I respect everyone’s right to express their views. I also understand if a employer feels it’s best for business if they don’t.

    I do enjoy hearing non sports talk. I don’t need hosts to stick to sports. I love sports but I also enjoy politics, current events and comedy If done right.

    I do get fired up when a host’s views are too far from my own, but that also applies to sports views. I hate Trumps so if you spew pro trump stuff i’ll get fired up. But I also hate Michel Therrien so if you support him my reaction will be the same.

    So either way works for me.

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    It really doesn’t phase me, go ahead and mix some current events into the topics. We’re in unusual times here with Trump.

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    Well stated. I am a politics and news junkie, however I rely on sports media for related content in that field.

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    Original Mitch 3 years ago

    What a bunch of horse crap from Sportsnet. Complete and utter BS. Like someone brought up, being “offended” by Indians logo isn’t exactly a controversial hot take. Let’s see Campbell or company advocate guns or (à la Goddard) question same sex issue. Let’s see how SN reacts (oops we already did with Goddard). Let’s see one of their “personalities” take a harsh right wing stance on an issue like immigration and see how quick they get reprimanded. What a load of BS. Yikes.

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    Someone at the Toronto Star needs to corral Arthur and put a muzzle on him. His anti-Trump hysteria is bordering on a creepy fetish-like obsession. He HAS to tweet about it 47 times a day, he just CAN’T help it. It’s a shame because an otherwise highly-talented writer is dragging his own name and reputation through the mud because of his incessant twitter drivel.

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    My thoughts exactly Justin. Well said and thank you for saving me a lot of typing. Just yesterday, listening to TSN, they announced the next guest as Bruce Arthur. My preset finger immediately was ready to engage Dan Patricks station, the second Arthur started to utter his political preferences. He didn’t. Stuck to sports, so I listened.
    I was a long time listener of PTS. However, I started switching to Overdrive, when Damien Cox was on PTS. Now. I rarely switch over to PTS. Overdrive has my ears now. No Politics, just the way I like it.

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    jackbee 3 years ago

    I’ll comment on issues brought into this specific blog another time. For now I want to discuss the mess that is talk radio mornings and Bob McCown gaffes this past hour on PTS.

    With the thankful firing of Blundell and his Company it is left to the ragtag end of Sportsnet 590 radio filling in until Brady et al com on the air. Ricio — who once mentioned on air a nickname Jays OF Ezekail to be akain to Zeka virus, Bastl and Wong who are on the periphery in terms of being taken serious as sports journalists

    Naylor and Landsberg – do they really only have 0.4 audience rating, if so yeesh – reached a new low yesterday morning in one of their contests. When caller chose money amount rather than being in a draw for trip to JAMAICA, Landsberg told caller he was cheapskate for keeping monies for Valentine’s Day and not entering the draw. Caller wanted to change his mind and Landsberg insulted the guy by telling him he made his decision which he did – but could’ve been bit more nice to the
    poor guy.

    As for McCown — for those who say he’s ‘mailing in’ his shows, it certainly seemed the case in 500 -m PTS hour speaking with Buck Martinez. In reference to former MLB player Mike Stanley he mistakingly indicated Staley was OF when I evn recall him as a catcher. He also mistakingly thought that Vladdy G. jR upcoming season if spent at Lansing would be summer season, and was corrected by Buck that Lansing team plays in full season mode like Buch corrected Bob with Stanley.

    McCown’s most ludicrous statement that hour was stating that not only was Liriano best 5th rotation starter in MLB but wouldn’t surprise him if Liriano won 15-20 games in 5th rotation slot.
    Methinks Bob needs a little vacation in the sun like I had last week in Jamaica,, to clear his cobwebs and gt him back on logical train of thought.

    He must’ve been told by Rogers like Blundell stated in a tweet, to tow the co. name and be rah, rah Jays supporter

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    (Another) Andrew 3 years ago

    If Arthur takes on the subject of the whiteness of the Republican party, or the background of Steve Bannon and Breitbart, who is he offending? White supremacists?

    What if he takes on the Jewishness of sports franchise ownership (especially the NBA which is over one third Jewish despite being only 2% of the population) or the Jewishness of sports commissioners (until recently four out of five including MLS)? As you say: Who is he offending? Jewish supremacists? See where we are going here? What about black overrepresentation in pro-sports but not in swimming? Perhaps we could get into genetic issues with Sid Sexeiro and Ken Reid!

    I don’t think there are any prominent sports journalists in Canada who are knowledgeable or tactful enough to discuss such things in an intelligent and responsible manner. Even on basic politics all they do is rehash cable news talking points. We can get that on cable news and elsewhere so why would we go to The Fan to hear it? I care no more about McCown’s politics than I do about Wolf Blitzer’s thoughts on starting extra innings with a runner on second.

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    That fact that we’re even *discussing* the whole “just stick to sports” thing says that we as a society have hit the “politics wall” but I think rather than turning back, or tearing down the wall, we need to move over it.

    If history has taught us anything, its that politics and sport will always mix when there are people of conviction willing to stand up for what they believe in, for good or ill.

    But if their stand is unpopular, folks should expect a backlash, “free speech” is never truly “free”

    Or are we saying that Mohammed Ali was wrong?

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    MontFromLondonOnt 3 years ago

    I agree – I don’t tune in political talk shows to hear their opinions of the Tigers –

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    off topic but.. Mike Richards has some big announcement happening today on twitter at 5pm. Anyone have any idea what it could be? Anyone want to take a guess?

    Any chance TSN 1050 is taking him back for the mornings? Naylor and Landsberg has been a major failure.

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    Bruce Arthur used to be an entertaining follow when he “stuck to sports”. Now it seems his tweets are 99% anti-Trump and 1% sports. Not a good thing.

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    To play devil’s advocate: there are heaps of other places you can get Bruce’s sports takes (print, TV, radio). If he wants to use Twitter for non-sports discussion, it’s not like he is depriving you of the stuff you want.

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    cirroc 3 years ago

    I find Blair to be pretty much unlistenable at this point due to his smug political takes. I don’t tune in to sports radio to hear about politics. We get it. You don’t like Trump. Way to go out on a limb.

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    It’s a podcast on a website…. YAWN. Likely the same stuff as before, but this time he can say bullshit a bunch.

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    So the big announcememt was launching April 12. He posted a youtube video where he basiclly called out the guys who run the corprate media. “Guys who don’t know what they are doing”

    Could be intresting. I like Mike and I’ll be checking it out.

    Buy man I can smell the bridges burning from here.

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    Mullah_Kintyre 3 years ago

    No surprise as he had already strongly hinted at doing his own thing and made it seem unlikely he would be returning to being on a major mainstream radio (or TV) outlet owned by Rogers, Bell, CBC, etc.
    And with the present situation of the mainstream media outlets having their audiences erode and having to cut staff, probably none of them were going to pay him what he would want. I wouldn’t know for sure, but maybe he could still earn a living through personal appearances and getting one or two sponsors for his website. But of course, as with others (Humble and Fred, Ed The Sock, etc.) who have done the same thing, it largely limits his exposure to any potential new audience, since few people will now hear him apart from the relatively small number of existing fans who will have to seek him out to hear him on the internet and YouTube.

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    Anthony 3 years ago

    They can comment all they want, I could care less. As you guys say, I watch them for sports coverage, not because they are political geniuses.

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    This design is steller!

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    Jonah has you covered this weekend but maybe you can throw some feedback here about the new layout. Anything you’d like to see us add to the site in terms of look or functionality?

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    I’d like to see the exact date and times of posts again, as opposed to 5 hours, 2 days ago, etc. It’s easier to search and find the posts you have not read since your last visit.

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    monologue 3 years ago

    came here to say this basically. Criticizing gay marriage is pm hate speech. Talking about politics in general doesn’t by default get into this kind of obviously not ok territory. The Cleveland thing is a good example actually. Sportsnet has allowed various media personalities to discuss the team name and logo and they do not all agree on the issue.

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    yeah, that sucks. I’m turning off replies until we get that sorted.

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    MattK 3 years ago

    I don’t mind when they talk politics considering Trump is a embarrassment and the way he attacks journalist and the truth is disgusting, I have no problem with people pointing it out.

    @Jackbee Why are Bastl and Wong on the “periphery” of being sports journalists. Both have been involved in sports media for over 10 years, and have spent 1000’s of hours at sporting events and lots of time in locker rooms and post game interviews. Some of the best sports radio on the fan is when the fan 590 has some of the younger guys talk sports, because they actually know stuff and don’t just do hot takes.

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    Comment at 12:41 w jet pack on

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    Comment at 1:07 jet pack comments off

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    Sportsnet allows it’s on air personalities to talk politics?
    I would prefer they actually allow them to even try to do real reporting.
    The CHL case is going to change hockey in Canada at every major level – the NHL included.
    These teams are making millions and Sportsnet is lapping up whatever the CHL dishes out to them.
    I heard an interview with TSN’s Westhead. At one point he was only reporter in the court covering this story. How can that be?
    Saw an interesting post from him yesterday.
    Maybe instead of talking Trump, Sportsnet can do a better job covering stories like Peluso.

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    Kenny in Keswick 2 years ago

    I do not have a problem with on air talent expressing political opinions from time to time. However, I do have an issue with the arrogance some talent have when giving these opinions. Arthur and Cox are instant station changers due their arrogance and attitude that their opinions are right and if you disagree you are “clearly a moron”.

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    WestdaleRocks 2 years ago

    WTF is TSN Radio doing? It’s one thing to be badly behind in the ratings…it’s quite another to completely capitulate. Wednesday night’s fare on TSN Radio is the Duke/Syracuse basketball game. I would be shocked if it draws 10 listeners. Joe and his neighbour Rusty talking hockey in a garage with a dog barking in the background would EASILY garner more ears than US college B-Ball.