ESPN & United Masters Join Forces To Boost Programming Diversity

Knicks new PR guru and former music executive Steve Stoute is making moves again. ESPN today announced that it has entered into a multi-year agreement with music distributor UnitedMasters, founded by Stoute. 

The new collaboration will expand ESPN’s growing reach to diverse audiences and relevance to sports fans through programming and promotional content.

“ESPN has always covered the intersection of sports and culture, and music plays a key role in that,” said Jimmy Pitaro, president, ESPN and co-chairman, Disney Media Networks. 

“We’re looking forward to strengthening that connection through this new collaboration with UnitedMasters, while at the same time giving up-and-coming artists a platform for national exposure to showcase their music to a broad, diverse and engaged audience of fans.”

“We are thrilled to be partnering with ESPN. They have a massive platform with the potential to make a career-changing impact on up-and-coming, independent artists,” said Steve Stoute, Founder and CEO of UnitedMasters. “The UnitedMasters ‘Select’ roster will serve as an unparalleled library of new and untapped music, and we can’t wait to hear our artists on ESPN shows for years to come.”

According to, “ESPN will curate music from the UnitedMasters “Select” artists to use within its sports programming and promotional content. This will give independent artists an opportunity to connect with fans and grow their audience through the vast reach and scale of ESPN across platforms, including SportsCenter, First Take, The Jump, and more.

“Select,” announced today by UnitedMasters, is a new subscription offering from the digital music distribution platform, providing artists with a suite of tools to operationalize independent success and the ability to retain 100% of their royalties.

Since its launch in 2017, UnitedMasters has seen its artist-first approach pick up steam launching the careers of chart toppers like platinum-selling rapper NLE Choppa, Billboard-charting artist Lil Tecca, Lil XXEL, Future Kingz, and many more.

In just 18 months, UM has amassed over 400k artists, 5 billion streams, and over half a million distributed tracks.

United Masters is bumrushing its way into the sports industry. Back in January, we reported on Apple Music, The NBA, and UnitedMasters teaming up to create an independent music playlist to discover the best talent. With that power move, Hot 97 radio host Ebro Darden doubled up on his leverage with the station and his power to make and break careers. 

This partnership with Apple Music will engage the NBA’s global audience around music that resonates with our players and fans,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “Working together with Apple Music and UnitedMasters, we are excited to provide a massive digital stage for their extensive list of top and emerging artists.”

Darden was named Apple Music’s global editorial head of hip-hop and R&B. In this newly designated role, Darden manages a team of hip-hop and R&B editors in developing editorial strategies for artists, albums, and song releases in the U.S. and globally.

United Masters and Steve Stoute further reinforcing the cultural and business connection between sports and hip-hop.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.