Ever since he was booted from the website he was hired to create at the beginning of the summer, Jason Whitlock has aimlessly putzed around the ESPN empire, writing a couple of online columns and guest hosting PTI. Now the other shoe seems to be dropping, with Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand reporting that Whitlock is in negotiations to terminate his ESPN contract and return to Fox Sports (emphasis theirs):
Jason Whitlock is negotiating to leave ESPN before his contract ends officially, possibly as early as the next few weeks, according to several sources. Whitlock has had informal talks with Fox Sports that could see him return to work with former ESPN exec Jamie Horowitz, who currently is Fox Sports National Networks President. Neither ESPN nor Fox Sports would comment for this story. Whitlock’s possible role at Fox Sports is not known, but if he moves over to Fox Sports, it is expected to include both a television role on FS1 and regular contributions on FoxSports.com.
Once ESPN decided to remove Whitlock from The Undefeated—which still has yet to officially launch or find a permanent editor-in-chief—it always seemed like a matter of time before he left the network. Ourand reports that Whitlock remains under contract for “at least another year,” but unless ESPN is going to build an entirely new television show around him, it makes sense that they would prefer not to pay him the kind of money they’re paying him just to get the occasional column.
When Whitlock left Fox Sports to return to ESPN two years ago, he was working on a television show called Red, White, and Truth for the then-soon-to-launch Fox Sports 1. Fox Sports 1 bafflingly positioned itself as the “fun” alternative to the “serious and boring” ESPN, a branding that didn’t work out well for its ratings. (To be fair, FS1 was always going to struggle going up against the behemoth of ESPN with a significantly weaker portfolio of live rights.)
In the last six months Fox Sports has repositioned itself around “edgy” sports content, hiring patron saint of Embrace Debate Jamie Horowitz and repeated race-baiter Colin Cowherd, as well as expanding the role of horrible-blog proprietor Clay Travis. If he does indeed return to Fox Sports, Whitlock will fit right in with this lineup.