Former ESPN President John Skipper resigned abruptly from his job on Dec. 18 citing a substance addiction, after working for 27 years for network parent Disney.
Less than three months later, Skipper describes a scenario that does not sound like an addiction — one in which he used drugs recreationally, “quite infrequently,” and in a way that he said never impacted his work at ESPN.
He quit because his cocaine dealer threatened to extort him, Skipper said in a Hollywood Reporter interview published today.
“They threatened me, and I understood immediately that threat put me and my family at risk, and this exposure would put my professional life at risk as well. I foreclosed that possibility by disclosing the details to my family, and then when I discussed it with Bob (Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger), he and I agreed that I had placed the company in an untenable position and as a result, I should resign.”
Skipper, 62, became president of ESPN in 2012. He did not elaborate on who extorted him or why, Daily Mail reported. He was replaced by Jimmy Pitaro, Disney’s former chairman of consumer products and interactive media.
ESPN has faced negative publicity recently. Former ESPN host Adrienne Lawrence filed a sexual harassment lawsuit claiming the network is misogynistic.
The network also got blowback after suspending on-air personality Jemele Hill, who accused President Donald Trump in a tweet of being a racist.
Trump crowed about Hill’s suspension in a tweet:
‘With Jemele Hill at the mike (sic), it is no wonder ESPN ratings have “tanked,” in fact, tanked so badly it is the talk of the industry!’ Trump tweeted.
Hill has since returned to Disney — but not to ESPN’s Sports Center. She has a new role in a multi-year deal as chief correspondent and senior columnist on The Undefeated, an ESPN site that explores the intersections of sports, race and culture.
“Like other networks, ESPN has been affected by the changing habits of cable consumers – most notably cord cutters — Daily Mail reported. After being seen in 100.13 million households in 2011, ESPN reaches only 87.5 million today.”
ESPN has had several rounds of layoffs — reportedly to the tune of three figures — and went through internal battles with the National Football League.
The rising cost of league rights has also been an issue for ESPN, which faced Wall Street backlash after the network bought the rights to the NBA, along with Turner Sports, for nine years at a cost of $24 billion, according to Daily Mail.
The NBA announced the nine-year, $24 billion TV rights deal with ESPN and Turner in 2014. It took effect this season.
He’ll bounce back like a basketball….too bad if he was of a different hue the same could not have been said….
— DLE (@zeekclyde) March 15, 2018
Old, white, wealthy, closet cokeheads cant trust anyone nowadays.
— Stephanie (@honesteph) March 15, 2018
Lol that should be a t-shirt
— Jeff modzelewski (@Jeffmodzelewsk1) March 15, 2018
When does Skipper begin working at the White House?
— Friedrich Hayek (@PDX_native) March 15, 2018
ESPN wants to lecture the world about morality and what is right. Also, ESPN's president had to resign over a cocaine extortion plot.
I believe that's called being a hypocrite. https://t.co/FC1npRc8oj
— David Hookstead (@dhookstead) March 15, 2018
What the doggone hell?
— ✊🏾Kenny Purnell✊🏾 (@kjpstorm) March 15, 2018
— Ice-Cold Jay (@Cryo_Hermit) March 15, 2018
So the extortion wasn’t about him having a cocaine dealer? Hmm.
— Stephanie Smith (@stephela) March 15, 2018