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Whitlock Out As Head of ESPN Website

Jason Barrett

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Jason Whitlock was replaced Friday as the head of The Undefeated, ESPN’s website about the intersection of race and sports, just weeks before its planned kickoff.

He will be replaced on an interim basis by Leon Carter, the site’s editorial director.

The site was built largely around Whitlock, who has written for years about race, sometimes provocatively, sometimes angrily. He had been fired from a previous stint at ESPN in 2006.

But John Skipper, the president of ESPN, rehired him in 2013 to fulfill the company’s hope for a site that would be a hub to discuss race and sports. In late March, Skipper praised Whitlock for “being unafraid to take unpopular stands, to challenge the perceived wisdom of any community.” As for bringing Whitlock back, Skipper said, “Talent and intellect can overrule past problems.”

But it was not to be. Whitlock had no management experience but returned to ESPN as part of the hierarchy that had a role in hiring and strategy. He was also editing articles and writing columns.

In a statement, ESPN did not cite any recent incidents that prompted the change but implied that he did not have the management skills to run the site.

The company “decided to make some structural adjustments that will maximize the skill sets and strengths of our team,” ESPN said. The statement also said Whitlock “will now be entirely focused on what he does best: creating distinctive and compelling content, which will live across various ESPN platforms.” ESPN praised his work building the site’s editorial team.

Asked in March how he felt he was evolving as a manager, Whitlock replied, “I think it’s going well because I’m taking it seriously.” He added, “You’ve got to have enough self-awareness to know that you’re going to make mistakes. You can’t let your ego tell you, ‘I’m smarter than everyone, so I don’t make mistakes.’ I’m not smarter than anyone. I’m still the guy with a 2.3 G.P.A.”

A lengthy story in April about The Undefeated on Deadspin — which drew on internal documents, including emails — painted Whitlock as a “catastrophe” as a manager and said, “Before it’s even launched, this site is already doomed.”

The site’s staff, based in Los Angeles, was given the news about Whitlock in a telephone call with Marie Donoghue, the ESPN executive who oversees The Undefeated.

Despite the announcement, the home page of The Undefeated still read: “Presented by ESPN & Jason Whitlock. Coming Summer 2015.”

The turmoil caused by Whitlock’s departure — and the search for his permanent successor — will most likely require a further delay of the site’s debut.

Whitlock declined to comment on the matter, as did Skipper.

Whitlock’s ouster means that a second major site created by ESPN needs a new leader. Last month, Skipper decided he would not renew the contract of Bill Simmons, the editor in chief of Grantland, the sports and culture site that was home to his columns and podcasts. Explaining the decision, Skipper said: “It’s about what he wants to do, what value that creates, what we want to do together and deciding whether there was going to be a match. We decided ultimately there wouldn’t be.”

An agreement was soon reached for Simmons to be paid through the end of September, when his contract is to end, but he will no longer run Grantland.

Chris Connelly subsequently took over as the site’s interim editor in chief.

Nate Silver, around whom the FiveThirtyEight site is built, remains atop its masthead as editor in chief.

So far, only five articles have been published by The Undefeated — including one about Charles Barkley’s Alabama’s roots — all with links on its home page.

Credit to the NY Times who originally published this article

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Howie Schwab, Longtime ESPN Producer and Feature of ‘Stump the Schwab’, Dies

Many former ESPN colleagues, and those in the sports media at large, paid homage to Schwab’s memory after the announcement of his passing.

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A photo of Howie Schwab
(Photo: ESPN)

Longtime ESPN researcher and feature of the mid-2000s ESPN game show Stump the Schwab Howie Schwab has died.

Schwab joined ESPN in 1987 after serving as the editor-in-chief of College & Pro Football News Weekly. He then worked as a producer for ESPN.com before joining ESPN’s studio production team, working on shows like Outside the Lines and SportsCenter.

In 2004, ESPN launched a sports trivia game show — Stump the Schwab — hosted by Stuart Scott, which pitted contestants against Schwab in a test of sports knowledge. The program ran for four seasons, featuring 80 episodes in total, before ending in 2006.

Howie Schwab was part of widespread layoffs at ESPN in 2013. He then worked on Sports Jeopardy! alongside Dan Patrick as a writer beginning in 2014, and also briefly spent time at FOX Sports after his departure from ESPN.

Many former ESPN colleagues, and those in the sports media at large, paid homage to Schwab’s memory after the announcement of his passing.

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Report: ESPN Seems Likely to Renew NFL Draft Media Rights

ESPN has been broadcasting the NFL Draft since 1980.

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ESPN Logo, ESPN NFL Studio Bristol Headquarters

ESPN has been the broadcast home of the NFL Draft since 1980, and the property has become one of the network’s hallmark events within its overall coverage of the National Football League. Analyst Mel Kiper Jr. will return on the airwaves this year for the broadcast of the event, which will include separate feeds on ABC and ESPN on Thursday night.

ESPN has had the rights to the event for several years and attained improvements in ratings with an average of approximately 9.73 million viewers across networks on Day 1 last year. As a whole, the NFL Draft attained a total, unduplicated audience of 54.4 million viewers over the course of the three days on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, NFL Network and additional digital platforms, and will make its return next Wednesday from Detroit, Mich.

John Ourand of Puck News reported that the deal for ESPN to broadcast the NFL Draft will expire in 2025. Within his report, he noted that ESPN is likely to renew its deal with the league, but other media companies could be interested in exploring potentially assuming the property. Some of the companies Ourand includes within his report are FOX, NBC and perhaps Amazon.

ESPN announced its plans for coverage of the 2024 NFL Draft earlier in the week, which will include two broadcasts on ESPN and ABC for the first two days. This year’s draft class contains several top-tier college quarterbacks who will be looking to make an impact at the NFL level, including USC star Caleb Williams. The Chicago Bears hold the first-overall pick for the 2024 NFL Draft and are projected by several insiders to select Williams after trading away quarterback Justin Fields earlier in the offseason.

ESPN and NFL Network will bring back a crossover element to the NFL Draft broadcast this year, something that both entities collaborated on in 2020 and 2023. On Tuesday, April 16, Kiper Jr. will appear on NFL Network for NFL Total Access. ESPN NFL insider Field Yates will appear on NFL Network Wednesday, April 17 for Path to the Draft while NFL Network analyst Steve Smith Sr. appears on SportsCenter. Both programs will last from 6 to 7 p.m. EST on their respective networks. Mina Kimes will appear on Move the Sticks Thursday, April 18 on NFL Network, while Kurt Warner and Daniel Jeremiah will be on Get Up and NFL Live, respectively, the following day.

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NBA TV Announces Playoff Coverage, Gus Johnson to Call Game 2 of Pacers-Bucks

Coverage of games throughout the NBA Playoffs on NBA TV will include pregame, halftime and studio coverage as well.

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NBA TV Logo
(Illustration) Courtesy: National Basketball Association, Warner Bros. Discovery

Warner Bros. Discovery has announced coverage plans for the first round of the National Basketball Association Playoffs on NBA TV, which includes back-to-back nights of live game broadcasts beginning on Monday, April 22. The Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers will face off from Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio featuring play-by-play announcer Kevin Calabro, analyst Brendan Haywood and sideline reporter Lauren Jbara. This will mark Jbara’s playoff debut with NBA TV, which comes after officially joining TNT Sports last fall. Calabro, Haywood and Jbara will also return on Thursday, April 25 at 7 p.m. EST for Game 3 between the Magic and Cavaliers from Kia Center in Orlando, Fla.

The second game of the series between the Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks will be presented on NBA TV at 8:30 p.m. EST and features the return of Gus Johnson behind the microphone for playoff action. Johnson, who serves as the lead play-by-play voice for college football and college basketball coverage for FOX Sports, will work with Jim Jackson and Dennis Scott on the call from Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisc.

Over the course of the 2023-24 NBA season, Johnson filled in on select New York Knicks game telecasts on MSG Networks, where he previously served as an announcer and studio host for 16 years. Coverage of games throughout the NBA Playoffs on NBA TV will include pregame, halftime and studio coverage as well.

NBA TV could televise up to nine games throughout the 2024 NBA Playoffs depending on the outcomes of the individual series. Star players such as Paolo Banchero, Damian Lillard, Tyrese Haliburton and Donovan Mitchell are expected to participate across the matchups. The league-owned broadcast entity jointly managed by the NBA and Warner Bros. Discovery is coming off its most-viewed season since 2015-16.

TNT Sports will also present playoff games on TNT and available to stream utilizing the B/R Sports Add-On through Max. Coverage will conclude with the Western Conference Finals with a spot to compete for the Larry O’Brien Trophy in the balance.

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