Wednesday December 6, 2023

Sources: Top Leader of ESPN’s ‘Andscape’ Poised To Leave

  • Raina Kelley is departing ESPN for a post at another company.
  • She's the site's third editor after Kevin Merida and Jason Whitlock.
Raina Kelley of ESPN
Kelly Backus / ESPN Images)
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UPDATE: ESPN announced internally that Jason Aidoo will succeed departing Raina Kelley as boss of Andscape, sources told Front Office Sports.

Aidoo, who had run business operations for Andscape, will add editorial oversight to his responsibilities but will not pick up her editor-in-chief title, said sources.

As vice president of Andscape, Aidoo will oversee all aspects of business and content for the multimedia platform devoted to the intersection of Black culture and sports.

The former Walt Disney Co. executive joined Andscape as vice president of content business strategy and operations in December, 2020. The London native previously worked overseas for the Walt Disney Co.

ESPN executive vice president Rosalyn Durant announced Kelley’s pending departure to another company in an internal memo on Friday.

PREVIOUS: ESPN’s Raina Kelley is set to leave her post as the top editor of Andscape, Front Office Sports has learned.

On Friday, ESPN executive vice president Rosalyn Durant sent an internal memo announcing Kelley’s pending departure as editor-in-chief and vice president of the website devoted to the intersection of Black culture and sports.

Kelley is poised to take a position at another company, said sources. ESPN has not yet announced her successor.

Kelley was the third top leader in the seven-year history of ESPN’s black-focused platform.

Former ESPN president John Skipper recruited Jason Whitlock as the site’s first editor-in-chief in 2013. 

During a podcast with “Grantland” founder Bill Simmons, Whitlock described the new site as the “Black Grantland.” He later dubbed it “The Undefeated.”

However, the developing website was plagued with years of delays. Eventually, Skipper stripped Whitlock of his EIC title and then bought out his contract. Whitlock then joined Fox Sports and is now at TheBlaze.

Under the direction of new editor-in-chief Kevin Merida, “The Undefeated” finally launched in May 2016.

Kelley served for five years as “The Undefeated’s” managing editor. When Merida left to become executive editor of the Los Angeles Times in May 2021, she succeeded him in the top job. 

Under her leadership, “The Undefeated” was rebranded as “Andscape” in February 2022.

“It’s time to talk about Black AND everything,” said Kelley at the time. “Far beyond just sports and athletes.”

The recent years have not been kind to ESPN’s siloed, stand-alone websites. 

ESPN took over Nate Silver’s “FiveThirtyEight” political site in 2013. But it shifted to sister Walt Disney Co. network ABC News in 2018. 

Silver announced this year that he was leaving after Disney-driven layoffs “substantially impacted” his site.

After clashing with ESPN management, ESPN did not renew Simmons’ contract in 2015. 

ESPN shuttered his “Grantland” site a year later. Simmons went on to recreate the site as “The Ringer.”

For now, “Andscape” is expected to survive as a multimedia platform, said sources. Staffers are expected to gather soon for a previously scheduled town hall meeting.

Over the last few years, the platform has expanded beyond news with a film and TV unit and book and music publishing groups. 

Similarly, espnW has pivoted from its original mission to focus on women-themed live events and executive summits. 

ESPN declined to comment Monday.

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