John Skipper Says He Left ESPN After Someone He Bought Cocaine From Tried To Extort Him

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Former ESPN president John Skipper cited a substance abuse problem as the cause for his resignation when he left the network last December. There have since been no details revealed about the nature or severity of that problem, but in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter published today Skipper reveals two things: that he was a user of cocaine, and that he resigned after someone he had purchased cocaine from attempted to extort him.

The interview, conducted by James Andrew Miller, begins with Skipper stating that he checked himself into a facility in order to seek treatment for his abuse problem. After some pressing by Miller, Skipper reveals that the substance he was abusing was cocaine, but clarifies that he was never a daily user and didn’t allow his drug use to interfere with his work. Confused as to why what sounds like recreational drug use would necessitate Skipper’s resignation, Miller presses him for more specifics:

JAM: Well, John, with all due respect, I’m a bit confused. There seems to be a big piece missing to this story. I’m looking at my notes: First, you’ve shared that you were an infrequent user of cocaine — something that could be true of others in the entertainment and media business. I’m not an expert in this area, but I’m not sure some would even call that an addiction. Second, you’ve stated categorically that your use never got in the way of your work. And third, you’ve admitted that on the days leading up to your decision to resign, you had no thoughts of resigning. None of that seems to explain why you reached the decision you had to resign.

I know this is difficult, John. I hope you understand why I’m pushing a bit here.

Skipper: In December, someone from whom I bought cocaine attempted to extort me.


JAM: What did they say?

Skipper: 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, he and I agreed that I had placed the company in an untenable position and as a result, I should resign.


Skipper goes on to reiterate that his drug use had never previously led to any professional repercussions, and that he takes full responsibility for his actions. You can read the entire interview here.