In a move that many people have anticipated, the folks at ESPN have put more distance between themselves and snowmobile freestyle competitions (and motorized freestyle competition in general) with an announcement Tuesday that Moto Best Trick and Snowmobile Best Trick events at the X Games are being discontinued.
The move comes in the wake of the tragic death of snowmobile/ATV freestyle artist Caleb Moore in January in a snowmobile freestyle competition, and ESPN’s subsequent cancellation of snowmobile freestyle at a European X Games event this winter.
With Tuesday’s move, ESPN took Best Trick out of play for dirt bikes and sleds, but the TV network that hosts the event also called into question all future snowmobile freestyle competitions while attempting to also claim that this is not a reaction to the Moore incident.
“Moto X Best Trick and Snowmobile Best Trick were not dropped in response to what happened in Aspen,” an ESPN spokesman is quoted as saying in a story on the network’s own website — ESPN.com. “This decision was under consideration before Aspen, and, in fact, our review of Snowmobile Freestyle continues.”
Also on the website, ESPN released a statement saying, “This change reflects our decision to focus on motor sports disciplines which feature athletes who also compete in multiple, world-class competitions [e.g., professional events and tours] reflecting the highest degree of athlete participation, competitive development and the global nature of our X Games franchise. Over the past 18 years we have made more than 60 changes to our competition lineups at X Games events to capture the evolution of the sport and these continue that growth.”
It should be noted that Moore’s death occurred not during the Best Trick competition that was held on a Sunday night but rather in a more standard Freestyle competition held the previous Thursday. Many in the snowmobile freestyle community have expressed outrage at the TV network’s attempt to distance itself from their form of competition, saying that Moore would not want his tragic accident to cause the downward spiral of the sport he loved so much.