After leaving ESPN in 2006, sportswriter Jason Whitlock is returning to his roots as he will rejoin the "Worldwide Leader in Sports" following six years with Fox Sports.
UPDATE: Friday, Aug. 16, at 7:40 a.m. ET
USA Today's Nate Scott has the latest from Jason Whitlock regarding his return to ESPN:
Whitlock said a major factor was a conversation he had with ESPN president John Skipper, in which Skipper outlined a vision for Whitlock at ESPN.
'I met John Skipper,' said Whitlock. 'I fell in love with John Skipper, and I’m coming back to ESPN.'
Whitlock explained that Skipper seemed to understand exactly what he wanted to do with his career.
'For lack of a better description,' said Whitlock, 'I hope this isn’t offensive, but I want to get to do something along the lines of a black Grantland.'
Whitlock went on to clarify, saying that he was eager to start a website where he would get a chance to work with young writers and shape the conversation surrounding sports.
ESPN seems to be embracing this new model of launching sites around popular voices in their network. Grantland was launched with Bill Simmons as publisher, and the network has announced plans to develop an offshoot site centered around former New York Times writer Nate Silver.
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UPDATE: Wednesday, Aug. 14, at 3:50 p.m. ET
From Whitlock himself:
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UPDATE: Wednesday, Aug. 14, at 3:16 p.m. ET
From ESPN's David Scott:
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According to Jason McIntyre of TheBigLead.com, Whitlock is the latest in a long line of recent ESPN acquisitions as the company attempts to counteract the launch of Fox Sports 1. In addition to Whitlock, ESPN has brought in former SportsCenter anchor and political pundit Keith Olbermann, as well as former New York Times stat guy Nate Silver.
This particular move is somewhat surprising due to Whitlock's controversial departure from ESPN seven years ago. In an interview with McIntyre in 2006, Whitlock made some disparaging remarks about a couple of his ESPN colleagues, namely Mike Lupica and Scoop Jackson.
That led to him being disassociated from ESPN altogether, and it ultimately resulted in him joining Fox Sports in addition to his former position as a columnist for the Kansas City Star.
Apparently, Whitlock's comments are water under the bridge now as ESPN views him as a vital element in its battle against Fox Sports 1. Whitlock's opinions aren't always popular, but like many of the personalities already featured on ESPN, people listen and react when he speaks.
Although neither Whitlock nor ESPN president John Skipper have confirmed or denied the move at this point, Skipper made his intentions for the company clear in a recent appearance on CNN, per McIntyre's report: "We have long looked for smart talent and unique points of view … we’re on the lookout for people who can make us smarter."
There is little doubt that Whitlock fits in with ESPN's current direction, so perhaps it shouldn't come as such a shock that the sports media giant has reunited with the veteran sportswriter.
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