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Hollywood Reporter Sheds Light on ESPN Divide Over SC6

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A new story in the Hollywood Reporter written by Marissa Guthrie sheds some light on the behind the scenes drama that surrounded ESPN’s attempt to report the 6pm SportsCenter with Jemele Hill and Michael Smith. It’s something, she writes, that still has Bristol divided.

Internal discord over the 6 p.m. SportsCenterexperiment co-hosted by Jemele Hill and Michael Smith — and yanked after less than a year despite four-year deals worth $10 million each — still lingers.

The whole piece focuses on ESPN’s obsession with reversing the whole “MSESPN” image that Fox Sports Radio’s Clay Travis helped cement last year in his numerous media appearances and written pieces complaining of the network’s liberal bias. Travis is also the one who dubbed Hill and Smith’s take on SportsCenter as “WokeCenter,” which apparently was a real problem for some ESPN executives, who saw Hill’s exit as a good thing for the brand.

When Hill, who became a lightning rod with critics dubbing the show “WokeCenter,” left in February, Norby Williamson, ESPN’s executive vp and executive editor of studio production, quipped in front of a room full of people: “One down, one to go.” Four ESPN employees tell THR that Dave Roberts, ESPN’s vp content, was heard characterizing the show as “too black.” (Through a spokesperson, Roberts, who is African-American, vehemently denies saying this.)

Still, not everyone shared this opinion of Hill or Smith or their take on SportsCenter.

“It’s not that they were too woke, or too black, the problem was they were too new,” says a veteran senior executive. “They were too unfamiliar to the 6 p.m. audience. From the second they started they were up against internal crap, the traditionalists shitting on them, and they faced harsh criticism externally. It was panic from moment one. And the network didn’t do a good job of defending and supporting them.”

ESPN has attempted to remove any potential controversy from the SportsCenter brand by putting Sage Steele (who may step in some PR hot water from time to time, but those times are never on air) and Kevin Negandhi in the anchor chairs at 6pm. Guthrie also notes that in other areas, ESPN is adding conservative voices, particularly on First Take.

Among its biggest stars is First Take‘s Stephen A. Smith, who has professed support for Donald Trump, though not on every issue. Meanwhile, Will Cain, a conservative who has had stints at The Blaze and CNN and has been an ESPN contributor since 2015, got his own ESPN Radio program in January and is now part of the ESPN TV firmament. And Roberts, say three sources, has suggested replacing First Take moderator Molly Qerim with Cain.

Guthrie’s piece focuses on the factions within ESPN. She posits that there are people who believe a return to the opinion-less highlights-driven content the network was built on is the only way to survive. Others say that ESPN has to experiment to find its groove in a world that is full of more choices for sports fans. That is why Hill and Smith were allowed to try something new with SportsCenter. The same is true of Scott Van Pelt’s midnight show and the company’s investment in digital products like the Snapchat edition of SportsCenter or ESPN+.

“Norby is pushing antiquated SportsCenter stuff wherever he can,” says an on-air personality. “There are good creative people there. I don’t think it’s an accident that if you did a happiness quotient, the farther way from Bristol people are, the happier and the more productive they are.” Or as one source puts it: “It’s a battle for the soul of ESPN.”

You can read the full article here.

 

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John Skipper: Media Has Not Treated Adam Silver Like He’s Teflon

“I don’t think anyone has hesitated to criticize him when he has done things that are controversial or difficult. Certainly, our friends at FOX News have not provided him with a Teflon coating.”

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Dan Le Batard hosted an interesting conversation on his Thursday show examining the performance of NBA commissioner Adam Silver during the press conference in which he announced the suspension of Suns owner Robert Sarver. David Samson and John Skipper joined Le Batard in the discussion.

Samson, former president of Major League Baseball’s Miami Marlins, said of Silver “it’s amazing the level of Teflon he’s had, and I don’t know that it’s deserved in any way.” He added that the NBA commissioner’s performance was “not very well workshopped” when addressing the media.

John Skipper, co-founder of Meadowlark Media, acknowledged that the performance was not strong. He said that it was clear that Adam Silver was frustrated by the limitations his job put on what he could do about someone behaving in a way that he did not think was appropriate for the NBA. He did pushback on the idea that Silver had been immune from criticism.

“I’m not sure that I accept that he’s Teflon-like,” Skipper said. “He’s actually made most of the right decisions and done most of the right things and he’s gotten credit for that. I don’t think anyone has hesitated to criticize him when he has done things that are controversial or difficult. Certainly, our friends at FOX News have not provided him with a Teflon coating.”

Samson smiled during the answer, which Skipper addressed by acknowledging that Samson knows that Skipper is friends with Adam Silver. The Meadowlark boss called himself an “apologist” for Silver, but added

“I mostly think he’s done a fabulous job. If you want to hold up what commissioner has done most of the right things in the last seven or eight years, he’s not Teflon-coated, but he has a tremendous track record, which I think deserves our support.”

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Chris Long Tells Jim Rome He’s Gambled on Games to Keep Him Interested For His Podcast

“So you’re like alright I need to do my job tonight, and I’m tired I want to go to bed, but maybe I’ll just throw a couple hundred bucks on the Jaguars,” Long said. “And now I’m invested…”

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Placing bets on NFL games adds a whole other layer to the NFL viewing experience, and Super Bowl champion Chris Long understands that.

Long, who is not that far removed from his playing days in the league, was a guest on The Jim Rome Podcast, and said he initially considered gambling on football as something to compete at after retiring.

But now that he’s had some time to better learn the ins and outs of wagering, he’s become wiser and better informed. It’s helped him when talking about gambling on his own podcast, Green Light with Chris Long.

“I want to be responsible and give out good picks,” Long said. “I don’t want to just throw stuff out there because I’m getting paid by a casino. I’m really interested in the artform of gambling if that makes any sense.”

Long added that having that wagering itch definitely keeps him enthralled in watching football all day like a lot of other NFL fans, even those games people generally think won’t be that good competitively ahead of time.

He said it’s definitely helped with his show.

“I’m not even gonna lie, dude, sometimes you get burned out by football, right? I played it for a long time, now I’m covering it. So you’re like alright I need to do my job tonight, and I’m tired I want to go to bed, but maybe I’ll just throw a couple hundred bucks on the Jaguars,” Long said. “And now I’m invested and I can do my job more effectively because I’m gonna be glued to the TV. So like in a weird way it’s held me a little bit more accountable when it comes to staying on my game.”

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Shams Charania Signs New Contracts to Remain with Stadium and The Athletic

Shams joined those outlets in 2018 and had agreed to two other deals with them in that span.

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After speculation over his future, NBA insider Shams Charania is not going somewhere new.

Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reported Wednesday night that Charania has signed new contracts to remain at Stadium/Bally Sports and The Athletic.

Shams joined those outlets in 2018 and had agreed to two other deals with them in that span.

Shams has been an integral piece in the growth and evolution of Stadium, elevating our content across both digital media and television experiences,” said Stadium CEO Jason Coyle. “He is one of the finest professionals and people in our industry, and we are truly excited to continue building upon our longstanding and trusted relationship.”

Charania, 28, is an integral part of Stadium/Bally Sports NBA coverage. He makes regular appearances on the Sinclair-owned networks on shows like Inside the Association and The Rally.

Shams has not yet addressed the news on his Twitter account, which has 1.8 million followers.

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