Maria Taylor’s recent exodus from ESPN has drawn attention to a disturbing pattern of exceptional Black talent departing from the network on questionable terms. In recent years, we’ve seen familiar names like Amin Elhassan, Michael Smith, Cari Champion, Jemele Hill and others exit the network in favor of more supportive work environments.
“There’s not been one Black person—that’s been on air and that I can think of right now—that’s not gone through hell at ESPN,” said former SportsCenter host Mike Hill, who spent nine years at the network.
And as the dominoes continue to fall, veteran journalist LZ Granderson took to Instagram to announce his own departure from “the worldwide leader in sports” after 17 years of duty. In doing so, he offered an honest assessment of his lengthy tenure: “ESPN is not the same company it was when I started and I’m not the same man.”
“I was hired to be the No. 2 in the NBA department for ESPN the Magazine,” he began. “I quickly got involved with tennis and ascended to the No. 1. Over the next 17 years I vacillated between being tolerated and being ignored. Like for years I had to scramble to find someone to do my locs during Wimbledon because they never hired anyone to do natural Black hair…and yes, I asked.”
He continued, “But hey, I got to cover Wimbledon. The NBA Finals. The Super Bowl. I helped establish the LGBTQ employee resource group and got the company to be a Gay Games sponsor. I joined with @roxxiej to create digital content way back when ESPN plus was still ESPN360. Few knew what to do with digital back then but I saw the potential right away. So I kept grinding. When my boss said ‘you know so much about the NBA I forget that you’re gay’, I was angry but I kept grinding.”
Throughout his time at ESPN, the 2009 winner of GLAAD’s Media Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism Article served as both a writer and editor at ESPN The Magazine as well as digital properties within the company. He also co-hosted SportsNation, lent his analysis and insight to popular shows like Around the Horn and First Take, and most recently was a popular presence on ESPN 710 in Los Angeles. But unlike others who’ve departed the network, it appears that the 49-year-old had his exit strategy mapped out years ago.
“I knew this day was coming,” he wrote on Instagram. “In fact, I planned for this day 3 years ago when I signed my last contract. I told my friends then I was ready. I knew I was just scratching the surface. I just lacked the courage to bet on myself. Comfort has killed more dreams than the grind ever could.”
For those curious about what the future holds for the Western Michigan University alum, he’ll continue to contribute at the L.A. Times while also hosting ABC News’ Life Out Loud, a podcast that explores the policies, cultural touchstones, and historical events that have shaped the collective LGBTQ+ experience.
We at The Root wish LZ all the best in his future endeavors.