ESPN blowhard Jason Whitlock is out as head of his own passion project, the still unlaunched web site The Undefeated which Whitlock had billed as “black Grantland.”
As of Friday afternoon, when ESPN announced that Whitlock would be departing from the site he founded but continuing to write for ESPN and appear on the network, Whitlock’s name was still on The Undefeated’s masthead. The front page of the site still featured the words “Presented by ESPN & Jason Whitlock” and “Coming Summer 2015” prominently when the news broke.
“We are fully committed to hosting a site that is home to deeper conversation about race and sports,” ESPN said in a statement. “Ultimately, we collectively determined that having Jason focus his time and energy solely on creating thought-provoking content—his hallmark—across various ESPN platforms will make our overall content even better.”
The site’s current editorial director Leon Carter, formerly of New York Daily News and ESPNNewYork.com, will replace Whitlock as the head of the project.
Deadspin’s Greg Howard has reported fantastically for months on the disaster that has been the site's stunted efforts to get off the ground. A 10,000-plus word story by Howard this past April captured the apparent backbiting, managerial incompetence, and employee mistreatment that has reportedly plagued the site since its inception. It is worth a full read, but here is an excerpt:
Thus far, The Undefeated has produced vastly more inward-facing copy than outward-facing copy. Whitlock is big on having detailed notes taken on phone calls and meetings; they are often routed to one of his private email accounts in ways that bypass ESPN servers. But the portrait of Whitlock that emerges from these notes is not flattering. He comes across as a catastrophe as a manager—paranoid, demeaning, oblivious, vindictive, unbelievably self-regarding, and, in some cases, truly destructive. In these documents, for instance, is evidence that Whitlock used a friend’s work in a column without proper attribution, hired her, and then fired her after having asked her, among other things, not to speak unless spoken to in meetings. ESPN later allowed that in his dealings with her, he had violated its conduct policy.
With Whitlock's move and the announcement of the removal of founding editor Bill Simmons from Grantland and from ESPN last month, it appears that the network is removing the “personal vanity” from its personal vanity prestige journalistic properties.