The Undefeated: ESPN’s New Website, Part 1

Brief History of ESPN

On September 7, 1979, ESPN was launched. The American sports media network was founded the year before by Bill Rasmussen, Ed Eagan, and Scott Rasmussen at a time when such a network operating 24/7 was unheard of. The concept of a 24-hour all-sports network defied imagination, with many at the time predicting its early demise, including the three biggest networks: ABC, CBS, and NBC. Yet, as soon as it was launched, there was no stopping ESPN’s phenomenal journey to success.

Entrepreneurial daring, irrepressible enthusiasm and a dash of good luck gave America its first 24-hour sports network. Once unleashed upon sports fans, ESPN’s impact forever changed the way we watch television. Now ESPN has become the world standard for sports television.

Since it was launched, ESPN’s growth has skyrocketed, and its history is filled with stories of innovation, expansion, and evolution.

Fast forward to 2016, and ESPN has once again pioneered a new movement, stepping into unchartered waters with ‘The Undefeated,’ a website it built solely to be run by Black Americans, a move towards enriching diversity in sports media, and promoting equity and inclusion.

The Undefeated, ESPN’s Newest Platform

“The Undefeated” is an ESPN website focused on sports, race, and culture. It has actually taken a long time to launch since its first conceptualization.

Last year, the New York Times reported the site was stuck in digital limbo. However, reports earlier this year said the new website would go live later this same year. 

After a series of setbacks that included the ousting of founding editor Jason Whitlock, ESPN’s The Undefeated is primed for a launch in 2016, according to this article.

In a statement, ESPN announced that it had collectively decided to make some structural adjustments to maximize the skill sets and strengths of its team, leading to the best possible output for the site and for all of ESPN. 

To that end, Jason Whitlock will now be entirely focused on what he does best: creating distinctive and compelling content, which will live across various ESPN platforms. Jason’s thought-provoking perspective has always been a hallmark of his work, and this will allow him to completely devote his time and energy to that.” 

A replacement for Jason Whitlock’s previous role was announced late last year. USA Today said that, in November, Kevin Merida left his prestigious job as the managing editor of The Washington Post to lead ESPN’s The Undefeated, a job he sees as “an adventure.”

What ESPN’s The Undefeated Is About

Here is an excerpt from ESPN’s press release announcing Merida as the new chief editor of The Undefeated, which also mentions the direction the new website will take:

Kevin Merida, managing editor at The Washington Post, has been named editor-in-chief for “The Undefeated, ESPN’s upcoming site that will provide in-depth reporting, commentary and insight on race and culture through the lens of sports. Merida will be a senior vice president and responsible for the editorial direction, tone and policies of the site, and provide oversight for key initiatives undertaken by“The Undefeated.” […]

“I’m excited to join ESPN and to help establish “The Undefeated” as a destination for the most vibrant, provocative, thoughtful work on sports, race, and culture in the country,” Merida said. “It will become a home for innovative storytelling, new voices, and the exploration of athletes and ideas by writers you’ll want to read.”

The second of this three-part article will present the main ideas behind “The Undefeated.”