The Undefeated is a sports and pop culture website owned and operated by ESPN. Officially launched May 17, 2016, the site describes itself as “the premier platform for exploring the intersections of race, sports and culture.” The Undefeated is overseen by ESPN senior VP and editor-in-chief Kevin Merida.
In 2014, ESPN announced the creation of a new website focused on sports, race and culture. Editor-in-chief Jason Whitlock described the then-unnamed site as a “Black Grantland,” a reference to the now-defunct ESPN sports website overseen by popular sports columnist Bill Simmons. Whitlock said the name “The Undefeated” was inspired by a passage from American poet Maya Angelou: “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated.”
While the site was still in development, a Deadspin report alleged that Whitlock was “poisoning” the Undefeated with an unconventional management style that made it difficult for the site to attract and retain prime talent, with several anonymous sources documenting an extremely negative work environment.
On June 12, 2015, the New York Times reported that Whitlock had been removed from his post. Whitlock attributed his dismissal to “numerous reasons, including my foolish belief that I could manage like a football coach. I learned there’s an art to corporate politics that I’m not good at.”
On Oct. 19, 2015, ESPN issued a statement announcing that author, journalist and Washington Post managing editor Kevin Merida would assume the editor-in-chief position at TheUndefeated.com.
On June 25, 2016, Michael Jordan issued an exclusive statement to The Undefeated announcing his $2 million donation to organizations working to improve police-community relations. In August, 2015, The Undefeated hosted a town hall meeting entitled “An Undefeated Conversation: Athletes, Responsibility, and Violence.” The event occurred at the South Side YMCA in Chicago. Among the panelists was Chicago native and Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade, who appeared via satellite. Other panelists included Chicago Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo, former Detroit Pistons point guard Isiah Thomas, WNBA/Chicago Sky guard Cappie Pondexter, and ESPN analysts Doug Glanville and Marcellus Wiley.