- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 14, 2017

Sports network ESPN will bid President Obama a long farewell in a series of tributes throughout its Martin Luther King Jr. Day programming on Monday.

The coverage kicks off with a feature documenting the outgoing president’s love of basketball, ESPN announced in a press release on Friday. Highlights of Mr. Obama filling out his annual March Madness brackets on ESPN will be included.

ESPN will then air the White House ceremony honoring the World Series champion Chicago Cubs, followed by highlights of other championship teams that have visited Mr. Obama over the years.

Next up, “Pardon the Interruption” co-host Michael Wilbon will weigh in on “the significance and legacy of Obama’s presidency.”

Network personalities Michael Smith and Jemele Hill, who co-host “His & Hers” on ESPN2, will have a conversation about Mr. Obama’s effect on “sports and culture while in office.”

“The observance will continue in the 6 p.m. ET edition of SportsCenter on MLK Day with segments saluting the ‘First Fan’ only a few days before he leaves the presidency, ending his historic eight years as the first African-American to hold the office,” the network said.

Peppered in throughout the day will be short tributes to Mr. Obama featuring various sports figures.

In recent years, conservative media critics have accused ESPN of covering sports through a liberal lens.

The network awarded Caitlyn Jenner the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2015 ESPY Awards after the gold-medal-winning decathlete came out as a transgender woman.

​And last year, ESPN fired baseball analyst Curt Schilling, an outspoken conservative, for posting a picture on social media criticizing laws regulating bathrooms on the basis of gender identity. He was earlier suspended for posting a graphic comparing the percentage of Muslims who are extremists to the number of Germans who were Nazis at the height of World War II.

The network attempted to take a more neutral stance on politics during the presidential race, telling employees in a memo last January to “refrain from political editorializing, personal attacks and ‘drive-by’ comments” about the election.

But in July, ESPN pulled its ESPY Celebrity Golf Classic from Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles​ due to its connection with then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.

“Diversity and inclusion are core values at ESPN and our decision also supports that commitment,” ESPN said in a statement at the time.

In a bid at bipartisan coverage, though,​ ESPN said it will air a segment on President-elect Trump’s connection to sports coinciding with his inauguration.

“Continuing ESPN’s long history of documenting the president’s sports connections, SportsCenter will air a feature on the sports involvement of President-elect Trump later next week,” Friday’s press release said.​

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