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Sports Media Vs. The Social Media Mob

“If I agree with the consensus on social media, I check my sanity. Social media is a stage where people perform.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Social media is a blessing and a curse for the sports media world. So many of us check out what is trending on Twitter as we’re putting together our rundowns. We use comments from Twitter and Facebook in place of phone calls. ESPN and FS1 routinely use Instagram and Snapchat videos to spur discussions on their various debate shows. It has become every bit as important to our professional lives as it is in some people’s social lives.

That is the blessing side. The curse is that with social media comes constant access. People that don’t like you always have a way of reaching you. There are block and mute buttons, and I think anyone in this industry would highly recommend making use of them.

Image result for block twitter

What about when the barrage is constant though? This column isn’t about the art of a good hot take. That is a different discussion for a different day.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been talking to people that have found themselves on the wrong side of the social media mob. Some of the names might surprise you. Others probably won’t. Your opinions of them (hell, mine too really) don’t matter. What I want to know is what it’s like to live on the wrong side of the hive mind.

There are a lot of ways to earn yourself a public shaming on social media. Sometimes it’s as simple as being downright offensive and ignorant. Remember when Mike Bell referred to ESPN’s Jessica Mendoza as Tits McGee? That was ignorant and inexcusable. Any public shaming he received was warranted.

The people I wanted to talk to have found themselves in the same position as bell for far more minor offenses. Sometimes, it has just been the result of being who they are. Take Dan Dakich for example. The ESPN college basketball analyst and midday host on 1070/107.5 the Fan in Indianapolis is very aware that anything he Tweets will be met with at least some scorn.

“Look, I totally understand who I am to people on social media,” he told me. “There are some of us that are like a cancer on social media and people are going to  say what a jackass I am, and that’s probably self-inflicted I would think.”

Recently a Tweet about Andrew Luck’s sudden retirement was met with more than just some scorn. Dakich didn’t hold back. Whether or not he intended to imply Luck was soft, it certainly read that way.

https://twitter.com/dandakich/status/1165454716739956736

According to Dakich, this wasn’t a hot take. He was at a wedding with his wife, who is a former coach, and one of his best friends from childhood, who is a longtime Colts season ticket holder, and this is what he was hearing them say. Dan agreed and wanted to use his platform to express that sentiment from people in Indianapolis.

“What I say on social media I do believe,” Dakich says. “Like, I’ve always said this and I have been very consistent. I never thought Andrew Luck was the guy that was all encompassed in football like Peyton Manning or Drew Brees, and good for him that he has other interests. Any scout that has scouted him will tell you the same thing. All I’ve ever said is he is not the guy that everyone is saying he is, because in his offseason Luck is going to head to Prague instead of Zionsville High School’s practice field.”

Dakich wasn’t afraid to double down on his point as countless people fired back at him on social media. Whether you agreed or not, Dakich thought he was right. He also swears his intention wasn’t to imply Andrew Luck was soft.

“I’ve always said he plays football as a tough guy. I was stunned at how so many people took that [Tweet] and said I was saying Andrew Luck was soft. That wasn’t what I was saying. I literally sent another Tweet out that said ‘Look, if you don’t love football anymore and you’ve got enough money and you wanna walk away, just tell us that. That’s cool.’ I put that in a Tweet after, but no one paid attention to that.”

There was only one comment Dan Dakich was taken aback by. ESPN Radio morning man Trey Wingo referenced Dakich’s abrupt exit as West Virginia University’s men’s basketball coach and said that Dakich should “clean up his own backyard” before commenting on anyone else.

Dakich Tweeted his objections.

https://twitter.com/dandakich/status/1165971926885556228

He told me that it actually lead to phone calls with Trey Wingo and ESPN’s Executive Senior Vice President of Studio and Event Production, Norby Williamson.

“Trey was great. ESPN was fantastic with it. I made my opinion known to the higher-ups. Trey and I had a long conversation, then Trey apologized on air…He was great. He was really, really good with it. Norby Williamson was great with it. We got it resolved once we were able to get on the phone, Trey and I, and it was very nice of him to apologize.”

Sometimes hosts can find themselves the focus of a social media mob because the local fanbase isn’t ready to hear anything negative about the home team.

Lauren Rew of 1010XL in Jacksonville had just come to town from Tulsa in July of last year. The Jaguars were just coming off of a trip to the AFC Championship Game, and fans and fellow hosts were confident the team would go further in 2018. Rew didn’t buy it.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing and closeup

“I said on-air the Jaguars wouldn’t go to the Super Bowl and probably wouldn’t make the playoffs, my main reason: Blake Bortles,” Rew told me in an email.

The Jags finished 5-11, traded for Nick Foles and let Bortles go to LA where he is now backing up Jared Goff. Rew says that didn’t change the way listeners in her new home town reacted to her.

“Let’s just say, I didn’t make a whole lot of ‘friends’ early on and I 100% felt the mob mentality of social media throughout the season. But! I want to make this very clear, I didn’t (and still don’t) come up with ‘hot takes’ or go against the grain to be controversial or a contrarian. If I’m passionate or strongly agree/disagree with something, you’ll know it and I will say it because I genuinely feel that way.”

Rew adds, “Thank the Twitter Gods for the mute and block options.”

Josh Parcell co-hosts Wilson & Parcell on WFNZ in Charlotte. While he also insists that he never goes out of his way to spout a hot take (a common theme in all these conversations you’ll notice) he makes no qualms about being one of the few hosts on his station to point out the failings and flaws of the Carolina Panthers, namely the team’s franchise quarterback Cam Newton.

That has drawn some fire from co-workers and listeners alike. I had lunch with Josh a few months ago and he told me that he had been called “Little Cowherd” and “Danny Kannel Jr” with regularity.

Image result for josh parcell

In an email this week, he told me that he doesn’t shrink from any criticism of the Panthers or their biggest star. He also isn’t surprised that Panthers fans don’t want to hear any of it.

“For the first 15 years of the franchise, they watched Kerry Collins, Chris Weinke, Steve Buerlein, Jake Delhomme and Jimmy Clausen lead the team through a ton of ups and downs,” Josh says. “Cam is the biggest star and brightest personality the franchise has ever had. He’s made them relevant outside of the Carolinas.

“Because he came into the league after one of the greatest single seasons we’ve ever seen in college football and claimed to want to be an “icon” before ever playing a down in the NFL, Cam set the bar incredibly high for himself when he joined the Panthers. And let’s face it, Cam isn’t perfect — as a player or as a person. His ceiling as a player is as high as anyone we’ve ever seen. No one in the league is as athletically gifted as Cam. Whenever he fails to live up to that lofty standard, he’s easy to criticize.

“Panthers fans can’t stand the thought of going back to the Clausen era, or even a guy like Delhomme, so they’ll do everything they can to defend Cam against the negative criticism that comes his way.”

I live in North Carolina, and really there is no reason I should like Cam Newton. He plays for the Panthers and I grew up a fan of the division rival Buccaneers. I went to the University of Alabama and he played college football at Auburn, the team that I would openly root against even if they were playing Taliban A&M.

Still, I can’t help but be charmed by Cam and his unflinching devotion to being himself. I mean the guy once wore a fox tail to a press conference just because he wanted to. How can the thought of an NFL quarterback dressing like Raccoon Mario not make you smile?

Image result for cam newton fox tail

That devotion to self-expression has drawn plenty of criticism of Newton, some of it fair, some of it insane, and some of it clearly racially motivated. I asked Josh if he thought that some of the coded critiques of Cam have made his fans even more dogged in their defense of him. He didn’t disagree exactly, but Josh doesn’t think Cam Newton’s detractors have been as motivated by his race as his fans think they are.

“I think we judge quarterbacks based on their behavior much more than their skin color. Deshaun Watson is a quiet guy, doesn’t wear flashy outfits, doesn’t generally draw attention to himself on the field like Cam does. and no one seems to have a problem with him, right? In fact, the only time anyone had a problem was when he was celebrating first downs in a blowout loss in the Playoffs. That’s a behavioral criticism, not a racial one. 

“Baker Mayfield, on the other hand, was arrested for a fairly trivial crime in college, won a Heisman Trophy, was the #1 pick, is very outspoken and doesn’t lack for confidence. Baker’s been criticized (and lauded) for a lot of what he says and does. Sound familiar? Most people expect quarterbacks to be boring. When they’re not, it’s interesting. Cam is interesting. Baker Mayfield is interesting. Some people love it, others hate it. I’m not altogether dismissing the idea that there are people out there who have a racial bias towards Cam Newton, but I think the racial element of the Cam Newton criticism is wildly overstated.”

A guy that is more than comfortable with detractors coming after him on social media is FS1’s Jason Whitlock. The Speak For Yourself co-host doesn’t mind people disagreeing with him. He just hopes that when they do, they are speaking for themselves (pardon the pun) and not trying to score points by regurgitating a popular opinion.

“There’s good information and insight on social media as long as you dig beneath the surface and ignore the trolls and Artificial Intelligence,” Whitlock told me in an email. “It’s a good way to engage with authentic fans and critics. I like engaging with my critics. Keeps my perspective sharp. Helps me avoid complacency. You just have to dig beneath the pile of shit Twitter and its algorithms try to stuff down your throat.”

Sometimes, what people that are ready to pile on Whitlock at a moment’s notice see as controversial, he sees as merely pointing out logical fallacies. Recently, he tweeted about an ESPN segment about USWNT star Carli Lloyd’s plans to work toward an NFL tryout after kicking a 55-yard field goal at a training camp practice with the Philadelphia Eagles.

https://twitter.com/WhitlockJason/status/1166340102613651457

Now, to be honest, I tend to think Carli Lloyd showed the ability to kick in the NFL and the idea of “What is she going to do if a kick is blocked and she has to play defense?” is kinda bullshit. No NFL team has ever taken that into consideration when evaluating any other kicker.

That being said, I don’t think Whitlock’s point is wrong here. Four guys all agreeing on any point, let alone one that some people very passionately disagree on, is boring television done in the name of playing it safe. I asked him if his Tweet was a comment on Carli Lloyd or on the ESPN panel.

“They all said the same thing, which I just don’t think is reflective of reality,” Whitlock responded. “Four guys, two of them being high-level former football players, won’t all agree that Carli Lloyd or any woman could kick in the NFL. It makes no sense. One person should’ve expressed some skepticism. Hell, all four should’ve expressed some skepticism. But it’s not worth it because they’re smart enough to realize the blowback they would receive via social media.”

How does a guy like Jason Whitlock view social media? I wondered if he looked at it as something of a sparring partner. Does he digest the popular opinion and try to see how he can challenge it, and are there ever times where he finds himself arguing that the popular talking points on social media are the right ones?

“If I agree with the consensus on social media, I check my sanity. Social media is a stage where people perform. That’s what you do on a stage. You act. You perform. Social media is a platform for inauthentic thought.”

Image result for jason whitlock

So how do the people that find themselves in the crosshairs of the social media mob view social media? Well, all four of the people I talked to gave different answers. Most of them wanted to make it clear that they don’t ever form an opinion just to be controversial.

And then there’s Dakich, who when I ask if knowing his reputation, is there a part of him that enjoys needling people on social media responds with an enthusiastic “OH GOD, YEAH!”.

He tells me a story about driving home with his wife after calling a game. She is in the driver’s seat. He is checking Twitter and seeing people ripping the job he just did. Dan says it is the element of him that is still a fan that makes him want to interact with even the people calling him names.

“I’ll respond to them. I would have thought it would have been cool when I was in high school or when I was in grade school to watch Al Maguire and then have him respond to me immediately after a game.”

There is a great line from the original Men in Black where Agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) are discussing what would happen if people ever found out aliens not only existed but were here on Earth. J asks why not just put the truth out there. “People are smart. They can handle it,” he says.

Image result for men in black j and k a person is smart

“A person is smart,” K responds. “People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals, and you know it.”

I tell Rew about this line and ask her if that sentiment could be applied to social media as well.

“I honestly think that’s the first time I’ve seen/heard anyone reference a line from Men In Black, but damn it’s a good one. And yes, I completely agree that part of the mob mentality on social media stems from people not being able to think for themselves. All it takes is a ‘leader’ from ANY group (sports, politics, music, etc.) to make a claim about what someone said/did and usually his/her followers will jump at the opportunity to pile on; usually doing so without doing any research themselves or in the case of something a radio host has said, having heard it themselves.”

I’m going to close with a quote from Whitlock here. I asked him how he viewed being branded as “controversial.” What even is controversy when small pockets of people get loud voices because of the reach of social media?

His response was unfiltered and very…is Whitlockian a word? If not, I am making it one right now.

“Twitter has made common sense ‘controversial.’ If I say LeBron James shouldn’t celebrate on the court during his son’s AAU game, that’s basic common sense. The overreaction to my common-sense statement is controversial. My opinion wasn’t. People like the NFL Network’s Nate Burleson went to Twitter and performed like my LeBron comment was controversial. Think about it. I said a parent shouldn’t be on the court during a game and people acted like I said LeBron James is the worst parent on the planet.

“Twitter is a platform operating as a marketing/public relations tool for elite celebrities and athletes, particularly the celebrities and athletes who promote far left ideology. Much of the Twitter lynch mob is Artificial Intelligence bots/algorithms that agencies and PR firms buy for their top clients. We act like only the Russians manipulate social media. People with money and an interest in controlling public perception or protecting a brand manipulate social media.

“Painting me as ‘controversial’ and spamming me with Twitter criticism are ways to tell other people in the sports media to avoid criticizing LeBron. If you’re black, you’ll be labeled a sellout. If you’re white, you’ll be labeled racist. Don’t criticize LeBron!!! Celebrate Taco Tuesday! Criticize Carli Lloyd’s NFL publicity stunt and Twitter will paint you as sexist. If Joseph McCarthy and Joseph Stalin had a baby, they’d name it Twitter.”

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Sports Radio Advertising is a Great Alternative to Expensive Team Sponsorships

There are plenty of creative ways to tie into sports radio stations, where the fans listen daily, and the investment is often much less than team sponsorships.

Jeff Caves

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Photo of Citi Field in New York
Photo Credit: Stadium Sponsorship

Not everyone can afford to sponsor a local NFL or college football team. However, there are plenty of creative ways to tie into sports radio stations, where the fans listen daily, and the investment is often much less than team sponsorships. Here are some ideas:

Pitchmen for Hire: Leverage Local Personalities

Thousands of listeners tune in to hear local sports personalities discuss their favorite teams. Hiring these “football expert” personalities to represent your business can significantly boost your ad response. Their endorsement can help you rise above the fray and double your ad response.

Get More Bang for Your Buck: Stand Out

Tie into station activities that make your brand stand out. Sponsor the local team poll on the station’s website, host a remote broadcast the day before a big game, or sponsor a charity promotion and donate to the cause. Breaking through the clutter of commercial breaks requires creativity and involvement in station activities.

Tie into Local Teams Without Sponsoring Them

You don’t have to sponsor the local team to run a promotion about them. Consider running ads offering discounts if the team wins and even more significant discounts if they lose. Your ad rep can help you phrase these promotions to avoid legal issues. True fans listen to sports radio weekly for team-related content, so tap into that passion.

Become a Title Sponsor

Be the title sponsor for interview segments with local players. If the station is conducting regular player interviews, sponsor these segments. If shows don’t run many interviews, consider sponsoring newscasts that feature excerpts from these interviews.

Hire Retired Fan Favorites

Retired players beloved by fans can be an excellent asset for your business. They are often less expensive than current stars but still hold significant appeal. Think of players like Mike Alstott, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, or Nate Newton. These personalities can do spots or appear at your location, adding a memorable touch to your advertising efforts.

Adopt a ‘Mattress Mack’ Strategy

Make an offer based on the local team’s success, like Gallery Furniture in Houston‘s Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale. In 2022, he offered customers double their money back if the Astros won the World Series. Such promotions generate significant publicity and engage the local community, even if the offer is temporary.

Sponsoring a local NFL or major college football team may be out of reach for many clients. Still, numerous creative strategies exist to maximize a sports radio advertising investment. By leveraging local personalities, participating in station activities, and creatively tying your promotions to local sports teams, you can effectively break through the clutter and make a lasting impression on listeners. Engaging fans with innovative offers and memorable endorsements enhances your brand’s visibility and builds a loyal customer base.

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Caitlin Clark Media Coverage is Good for Everybody in the WNBA

By tuning in to see what Clark does, viewers are also noticing the many other great WNBA players.

John Molori

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Screengrab from ESPN's Get Up covering Caitlin Clark
Screengrab: ESPN Get Up

It’s time to talk about Caitlin Clark. The rookie guard for the WNBA’s Indiana Fever has become a legit phenomenon in the media. She has singlehandedly, and I repeat, singlehandedly put the focus on a league that has been largely ignored by mainstream sports talk shows for a quarter century.

Nobody wants to admit that one person can change a sport or a league. It is viewed as a slight to people who came before that special athlete and that special athlete’s contemporaries, but it has happened on numerous occasions, and we’ll get to that.

From a marketing and media standpoint, Caitlin Clark is a human tidal wave of interest, excitement, and anticipation. She quite literally brought tens of millions of eyes to the 2024 Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, and deservedly so, she will most likely earn tens of millions of endorsement dollars from a variety of corporations and their products. She has inspired congratulations and controversy, especially with her recent exclusion from the USA Basketball Women’s National team.

The reaction to Clark’s success and attention from some members of the media and WNBA players has been shocking. Tremendous commentators such as Andraya Carter, Chiney Ogwumike, and Rebecca Lobo have, at times, come off as apologists for WNBA players who are just plain jealous of Clark’s unprecedented popularity.

As ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith has explained eloquently, these critics are missing the point from a marketing and economic perspective. Clark has not only helped herself with her play, but has also brought attention and focus to women’s hoops as a whole.

By tuning in to see what Clark does, viewers are also noticing the many other great WNBA players. Clark is that rare breed of athlete who is truly changing the game, making it better and more profitable not only for herself, but for everyone involved at all levels.

On recent editions of ESPN’s First Take, Smith has gone toe to toe with Carter, Ogwumike, and Monica McNutt on the Caitlin Clark issue. The fascinating exchange between Smith and McNutt on the June 3 edition was a watershed moment in recent sports television.

Smith, McNutt, and host Molly Qerim were discussing the hard foul/shove that Chicago’s Chennedy Carter laid on Clark in a WNBA game. The course of the discussion moved toward the rise in WNBA ratings mainly because of Clark’s presence in the league.

The debate eventually came down to a back-and-forth between Smith and McNutt. Smith reiterated his longtime dedication to the WNBA and women’s sports in general. In response, McNutt said that with Smith’s platform, he could’ve been talking as much about the WNBA three years ago, long before Clark’s debut.

Smith was visibly angered and disappointed by McNutt’s comments. On The Stephen A. Smith Show podcast that same day, he defended himself and his show, saying that First Take has been at the forefront of promoting gender, race, age, and all forms of equality and respect.

Smith is 100% correct. This chap has been a champion of women, minorities, and even older media personalities, such as Christopher Russo, whom he has brought to a whole new audience on First Take. Stephen A. Smith is the Arsenio Hall and David Letterman of sports talk. When the syndicated Arsenio Hall Show hit the airwaves in 1989, he was the first late night host to bring hip-hop artists to center stage on a regular basis.

Similarly, Letterman’s “Late Night” on NBC showcased new talent in comedy and music, while bringing irreverence and originality to the tired old talk show format. Smith has done the same. He has made stars out of Ryan Clark, Mina Kimes, Marcus Spears, Kimberley Martin, and many others. He has also raised the profile of already renowned commentators such as Shannon Sharpe, Qerim, and the aforementioned Russo.

Smith has been a stalwart of equity, but that’s not what McNutt was saying. She was saying that with his audience, Smith could’ve talked about the WNBA thereby creating popularity and exposure for the league long before now.

McNutt’s jarring comment put Smith in a humbled position and really hit at his very core, but he took his game to a whole new level the very next day. McNutt was back on First Take, which right there shows the utter gumption that Smith possesses. He could’ve easily let things settle down a bit before he brought McNutt back on the show, but he didn’t. That’s classic Smith – encouraging discourse and disagreement.

When you get to the level of a Stephen A. Smith, you welcome a debating challenge. The last guests you want are sycophantic suck-ups who cowardly agree, no matter what the subject. Smith’s high point on the June 4 episode was when he said in a loud voice, “Caitlin Clark is white.”

He acknowledged the fact that it makes a difference. He also stated that black players who have been just as talented as Clark have not been given their rightful attention – also true. Regarding the perceived negative treatment of Clark by some WNBA players, Smith made it clear that they should not go easy on Clark on the court, but their mindsets need to recognize that Clark is benefitting the WNBA and putting dollars in their collective pockets.

Whether you agree with Smith or not, the fact is that this is what special players like Caitlin Clark do. They raise the level of discussion and simultaneously raise the profile of their respective sports. The WNBA is now in the A-block on highly rated shows like First Take and ESPN’s Get Up.

The league and its players are on the front burner of discussion for Smith, Nick Wright, Colin Cowherd and many other top-tier, multimedia sports debaters. This fact was straight up impossible one year ago. This is what Caitlin Clark has done.

Clark’s impact and stamp on women’s basketball is not unique. There are precedents where one person has made such a difference.

Larry Bird looked different, played different, restored a dead Celtics franchise, and made his mark in a sport that was on life support in terms of media coverage and fan interest. Bird and Magic Johnson rescued the league – a black man on the west coast and a white man on the east coast, two wunderkinds who changed the NBA forever. Caitlin Clark is Larry Bird.

Tiger Woods burst onto the PGA TOUR and won the Masters in 1997, embarking on a run that would see him change the game of golf from a competitive, performance, historic standpoint, and social standpoint. He was charismatic, focused, and yes, an African American phenom smashing records in a white-dominated sport. Caitlin Clark is Tiger Woods.

In 1965, Alabama quarterback Joe Namath eschewed the NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals and signed with the AFL’s New York Jets. He raised the profile of the league and garnered more attention and dollars than established AFL stars which made him a target. As the league’s popularity grew however, opposing players recognized his significance beyond the field. They did not go easy on him during games, just ask his knees, but they knew that his success was theirs as well. Namath was the key figure in the eventual AFL/NFL merger. Caitlin Clark is Joe Namath.

Serena Williams was smart, savvy, athletic, fashion conscious, and just plain great. Williams shattered the traditional mold and became an iconoclastic figure in women’s tennis with both her play and personae. The lineage with her sister Venus ushered in a new era in the sport. Serena attacked the game in a unique way. She was exciting and original, and lifted her sport and fellow athletes. Caitlin Clark is Serena Williams.

I am not saying that Clark will have a legendary or Hall of Fame career akin to these illustrious athletes, but the immediate impact she has had on her sport and the media coverage of her sport is similar.

As Smith so often states, Clark is “box office.” You can debate the reasons why, but you cannot debate the fact that she has supremely raised the profile and the financial prospects of women’s basketball and its players.

I understand that other WNBA players want their share of the credit for improving the league. I also understand that WNBA commentators want fairness and equity in terms of attention and the spotlight. However, both groups need to realize that Clark is the main reason that they are getting this increased exposure. On the court, be competitive against Clark and try to beat her and her team. On the air, be critical of Clark and analyze her game, but on a larger scale, understand, accept, and embrace that Caitlin Clark’s most important assist might just be to you.

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Joe Tipton Turned Sports Graphics Into a National Reporting Role With On3

“There’s definitely a competitive aspect of it, which I really enjoy actually because it just kind of keeps you on your toes.”

Derek Futterman

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(Illustration) | Courtesy: On3

In the moments when athletes make a monumental decision about their playing careers, news outlets frequently try to cover the story in a timely and accurate manner. Whether it is signing with a new team in free agency, inking a new endorsement deal or retiring, basketball has plenty of these occurrences annually. These announcements are sometimes accompanied by graphics, adding visual elements of branding and allure to the development. Joe Tipton learned the nuances of photo editing and graphic design at a young age, leading him to create images of NBA players and share them on social media. Observing a lack of interest within the space, he considered doing the same for high school players nearing college commitments.

Tipton Edits, an independent business venture that he began shortly after starting in sports graphic design, provides athletes with a free edit in which their new uniform is superimposed onto an image divulging their new team. These recruits then share the photos on social media and tag Tipton. Especially at the start of the entrepreneurial property, he viewed gaining followers as remuneration, an invaluable currency as digital media continues its swift proliferation.

“I didn’t start making the graphics at 17 to have a job in it – I was just kind of doing it on the side for fun and then just kind of [seeing] where it would go,” Tipton said. “Since I was one of the first people to make graphics for these high school players in their recruiting decisions and now transfers, and now that I’ve built up the presence online and the credibility and the reputation, a lot of them will flock to me, and I think that’s what’s so sustainable about it now.”

The transfer portal keeps Tipton busy in creating and delivering graphics to collegiate athletes moving to a new school. Remaining prepared to create an enticing visual featuring the player in their new uniform and distributing it on social media requires a commitment to the craft. Even though he was a marketing student at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, he was still trying to determine the best path forward and ended up transforming his hobby into a sustainable career.

“I was able to communicate with high-level basketball players and create something for them – and all of it free of charge – in exchange just for a tag on Instagram and Twitter, which helped propel me and grow my brand and following online,” Tipton said, “and over the years, [it] got me to where I am now.”

By designing these graphics in advance, Tipton was privy to coveted information and recognized that he could effectively reveal where players were signing. His work has been featured on various sports outlets such as ESPN and Bleacher Report and shared by NBA legends including Shaquille O’Neal and Scottie Pippen.

On3, a digital sports media brand that delivers news, analysis and insights to consumers regarding college sports, recruiting and NIL, added Tipton as a national basketball reporter after he graduated from college. Since that time, he has established himself as a distinguished journalist covering high school and college basketball.

“[I] had an opportunity to join On3 because basically what I was doing when supplying the graphic to a high school recruit and even transfers now in the portal, I am being gifted the knowledge of where a player is going,” Tipton said, “so I’m able to report that information, and that’s basically what I serve as now for On3.”

Joining On3 provided him with another platform to disseminate this information and expand his audience while assisting the company in its own growth. Shannon Terry founded On3 in 2021, and the platform has continued to expand with dedicated coverage of NIL, the transfer portal and the NFL Draft, along with adding subsidiary verticals such as On3 Elite and On3 HER.

“When it comes to the transfers and their decision making, it’s so rapid fire, and there’s so many players that enter the transfer portal because of NIL, because of instant opportunities and also the ability to play right away and not have to sit out like the previous rules stated,” Tipton articulated, “so it increased the need for what I do and just the coverage of the transfer portal in general has taken a significant leap, which is great for those who cover the portal and recruiting in general.”

Tipton earned a contract extension at On3 earlier in the year, but he has always operated with a chip on his shoulder to prove that he is more than just a graphic designer. While he is a recent graduate and continuing to shape his identity and forge relationships, he believes the process has been considerably slow to this point. Nonetheless, he remains optimistic that working with On3 will be able to propel him to the next level.

“They didn’t view me as a reporter even though I was breaking news, so especially in the earlier stages, I wasn’t getting credit for breaking the news just because I guess they didn’t view me as a reporter [or] traditional media outlet,” Tipton said. “But ever since joining On3, that’s kind of painted me in a new light, and people will look at me a little bit differently, especially with the coverage that I’m able to provide for On3 and then just the overall stories broken.”

There is an aspect of fluctuation that has become more embedded in college basketball, rendering it fundamental to verify information ahead of its circulation. For example, if a player informs Tipton that they are committing to a certain school, he will oftentimes call the coaches or athletics department to safeguard against complicating miscommunication between the two entities. In the end, he is never releasing graphics or reports without extreme confidence in its veracity.

“There’s definitely a competitive aspect of it, which I really enjoy actually because it just kind of keeps you on your toes,” Tipton said. “It’s kind of a rush as well to be able to get it out first, but the first year on the job with On3, there was an incredible amount of pressure that I put on myself to just achieve this at a high level, but there’s also a great deal of stress that comes with it because a lot of what I do is time sensitive.”

Although he has a stellar reporting record dating back to his days solely creating graphics, there are moments when other reporters or outlets beat him to the story. In these situations, the power of his brand and its identity assists in overcoming these impediments, indicative of his broad appeal and widespread reach. Establishing himself as a brand rather than being a graphic designer or reporter within a larger entity has been a key differentiator within his formative years in the business.

“I think it’s the key to sustainability and a way to separate yourself from other people, so I’m incredibly fortunate that the players believe in me, trust in me and then On3 does the same because I’m a source for the player that they can come to and trust, and we all grow together,” Tipton said. “I help grow the player, [and] I help grow On3. On3 helps grow me [and] the player helps grow me because they’re all posting my stuff, we’re posting them, so we’re all on this together, so it’s really nice.”

Tipton never envisioned himself appearing in front of the camera, but he is now doing so regularly for On3. As part of its content, he frequently discusses the latest news regarding recruitment, the transfer portal and NIL in addition to synthesizing player rankings.

“[I am] obviously only just scratching the surface of the on-camera stuff, but I think that is a strong potential avenue for me moving forward in my career,” Tipton said, “but then also my ability to break news at a high level and also the relationships that I have just when it comes to the recruiting insider portion of my job as well.”

Later this month, Tipton will see some of the players for whom he has created graphics soon enter the NBA when the NBA Draft takes place from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Although he has not assimilated into reporting on the NBA, he is competitive and has thought about his future work. Yet he understands that a majority of his verve is in college basketball and is focused on breaking news beyond recruiting.

“The good thing about me and kind of how I was brought up was I wasn’t raised in a family that was a fan of a specific team; in fact, my parents aren’t even sports fans at all,” Tipton said. “Sports was just not on at all growing up, so I never grew up a specific fan or a diehard of any specific program.”

Reflecting back on his journey thus far, Tipton feels that he stumbled into his career with fortuitous timing. The versatility he has developed, along with his persistence, networking and inexorable work ethic, has contributed to the growth of Tipton Edits and his role with On3.

Tipton found a way to cut through the media ecosystem, investing his time and effort into a niche that did not exist with the level of cache and emphasis that it currently possesses. The industry moves with unrelenting momentum and can seem imposing to shrewdly understand and cover, but Tipton aims to masterfully keep up while enjoying his journey to an unknown destination.

“We live in a world where, especially younger people, they’re keen on growing their social media presence,” Tipton said, “so On3, Tipton Edits and others alike are able to grow their channels, so they’re encouraged to utilize services like mine to help kind of propel their following and for it to reach a large number of people.”

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