Jason Whitlock (AP Photo)

BRISTOL, Conn. (New York Times) — Jason Whitlock stood before a group of ESPN employees last week, not in his customary role as a sports columnist, but as the public face of The Undefeated, the media giant’s soon-to-go-live website that will examine race through the prism of sports. With his baggage lost on the flight east from Los Angeles, Whitlock wore a red T-shirt and black warm-up suit. He was warm and funny, and he occasionally teased his largely African-American staff — a style that appeared at odds with his occasionally combustible writing and his firing by ESPN nine years ago for publicly criticizing two of his colleagues.

These days he is a prince of ESPN, a beneficiary of its financial backing to develop a journalistic site that will address issues central to his commentaries.

“We have an awesome opportunity to do something great and important,” he said in his typically bombastic style to his small staff and a much larger audience of ESPN employees from around the company who will support the site — from “SportsCenter” to advertising sales. As he often does in his writing, he cited one of his heroes, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Dr. King,” he said, “sacrificed so we could get this opportunity.”

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