Disney CEO Bob Iger on political controversies in sports: 'It's complicated'

Key Points
  • ESPN's digital service will include content people can access through apps by authenticating with their cable, satellite or over-the-top service credentials, Disney CEO Bob Iger said.
  • It will also include a yet-to-be-named "plus" service that will give people access to 10,000 additional live sporting events. No fee has been announced.
  • Iger also addressed the Jemele Hill and NFL controversies, saying people need to understand why there is so much "anger" over civil rights these days.
Here's what Disney CEO Bob Iger just said about ESPN & the NFL

ESPN's upcoming digital service will give viewers access to content not seen on TV , Disney CEO Bob Iger told CNBC's "Fast Money."

The "add-on" service will let people watch ESPN content via mobile app. To watch, viewers will have to provide information from their current cable, satellite or over-the-top streaming services. The same app will have a yet-to-be named "plus product," which will give people access to 10,000 additional live sporting events. No price has been announced for the additional product.

"That will give you the ability on the same apps to see content you may not be able to see on the channels, and scores and highlights," Iger explained.

Iger also stood by Disney's decision to retain Jemele Hill, after the ESPN anchor called President Donald Trump a "bigot" and "a white supremacist who has surrounded himself with other white supremacists" on Twitter. Trump demanded an apology tweeting ESPN was "paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming)."


The company would not "engage" on Trump or the White House on the issue, Iger said. Though it preferred it anchors not talk about politics, Disney and ESPN took into account the context in which Hill spoke out and decided not to fire her.

"It's complicated these days because we have employees that feel the need to speak out -- particularly black employees -- who are angered by what they see societally, with prejudice racism or rights that they feel were hard-fought.... We have to take that into account," he said.

In response to the ongoing NFL kneeling protests, Iger said he was a "patriot" who believes in standing for the national anthem as a sign of respect. However he also believed people have to respect constitutional rights.

"I don't really think it has a long-term negative effect on the sport... I would advise everyone to put themselves in those people's shoes and understand what might be going on in those people's lives," Iger said.

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