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Does The NFL Need To Worry About Pushback To Anthem Protests?

“If racial justice becomes a major theme of this election, it is likely that the players’ message gets more focus than the mechanism. That could mean less concern from sponsors about showing the players some support.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Ever since Drew Brees acknowledged that responding to a question about players taking a knee in protest of police brutality and racial injustice with a statement about disrespecting the American flag was a mistake, plenty of media pundits have openly speculated about how Donald Trump would react and what effect that might have on television ratings and team owners.

President Trump has tweeted about the protests and railed against players taking a knee for the anthem at rallies. Vice President Pence made a show of walking out of an Indianapolis Colts game when he saw players kneeling during the anthem. With another presidential election coming up this year, it stands to reason that the Republican ticket wants to put the issue front and center after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell released a video on Friday acknowledging the league was wrong for how it handled player protests in 2016.

Sports Illustrated’s Jimmy Traina wrote in his “Extra Mustard” column on Tuesday that the League’s best move may simply be not taking the bait. The story could fade out quicker if Trump is shouting into the wind instead of getting a reaction.

“Forgive me for the terrible cliche, but it takes two to tango. The NFL shouldn’t tango,” Traina writes. “Of course, this would also require the NFL to not be afraid of Trump, Fox News and MAGA. The league also has to be OK with losing a few bucks, if it even gets to that point.”

It is fair to wonder if it would get to that point. Public sentiment is very different in 2020 than it was in 2016. If racial justice becomes a major theme of this election, it is likely that the players’ message gets more focus than the mechanism. That could mean less concern from sponsors about showing the players some support.

Another element to consider is television ratings. In 2016, TV ratings did take a hit for the NFL. Andrew Marchand was quick to point out in his Wednesday column for the New York Post that there is no way to say the decline in viewership was all about objections to players kneeling during the national anthem.

“While it may have had a slight impact on some ratings, overall the numbers fall then and subsequent rise has been due to a number of factors that media writer Anthony Crupi, who studies this exact thing, has pointed to. There were an inordinate amount of bad games in 2016, Crupi’s studies showed, and an oversaturation of football combined with an explosion of cord-cutting.”

A major difference between 2016 and 2020 is the proliferation of legalized sports betting. Even though people have always bet on NFL games, most of it was done underground until 2018. Multiple states legalizing the action has completely de-stigmatized wagering and made it easier to do. That means there are more people paying attention to games. Could that be enough to make up for whatever ratings hit the league might take due to players kneeling during the anthem?

Finally, there is no bigger factor on the NFL’s side than just playing the games. Sports has been mostly at a standstill in 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic. It is hard to imagine the return of live football games is met with anything other than jubilation this fall after a spring and summer with few to no live sports at all.

Make no mistake. There is still a tightrope to walk here. If the president and conservative media outlets decide to make players kneeling a talking point in the fall, it will have some effect on the NFL. The NFL is in a strong position though, and if owners and Roger Goodell decide to follow Traina’s advice and not engage or overreact, it would not be surprising.

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Diamond Sports Group Approved to Hold Creditor Vote on Reorganization

“We are focused on reaching long-term agreements with our partners to enable us to continue serving fans across the U.S. and delivering meaningful value to distributors, teams and leagues.”

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Bally Sports
Courtesy: Diamond Sports Group

Diamond Sports Group has been within bankruptcy proceedings for over a year as it looks to restructure its debt, but received news on Wednesday that could potentially point in a positive direction. Judge Christopher M. Lopez has approved a disclosure statement that will help guide Diamond out of the bankruptcy, which includes $450 million of debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing, $350 million of which will pay its first-lien debt holders. The plan Diamond outlined within its DIP approval was that the remainder of the funding would be transferred to the company’s balance sheet concurrent with broadcasts of National Basketball Association, National Hockey League and Major League Baseball games.

The Sinclair subsidiary, which was created upon the acquisition of the then-FOX Sports-branded regional sports networks as part of a $10.6 billion deal with The Walt Disney Company so it could complete its acquisition of 21st Century Fox, currently serves as the broadcast home for 38 professional sports teams. Junior creditors are expected to assume operations of the subsidiary should it be able to successfully emerge from bankruptcy and enact its restructuring support agreement (RSA).

“Approval of the disclosure statement is another important step forward in our restructuring and we are working toward confirming our plan and emerging as a sustainable, go-forward business,” a Diamond Sports Group spokesperson said in a statement. “We are focused on reaching long-term agreements with our partners to enable us to continue serving fans across the U.S. and delivering meaningful value to distributors, teams and leagues.”

A hearing to determine the confirmation of the plan will take place on Tuesday, June 18 at 10 am. CST, and objections to which must be filed by Wednesday, May 22 at 4 p.m. CST. Lopez will also take the results of a forthcoming creditor vote regarding the plan into account in his decision. The company recently reached a multi-year distribution deal with Charter that would come to fruition if it is able to emerge from bankruptcy. Diamond has yet to come to agreements with Comcast or DIRECTV on new deals, creating ambiguity surrounding revenue that comes from retransmission and advertising fees. John Ourand of Puck News reports that Diamond is closer to reaching a deal with DIRECTV than Comcast.

The NBA will reportedly not consider a long-term renewal with Diamond until its national media rights deals are in place, according to Anthony Crupi of Sportico. The expiration of its exclusive negotiating window with The Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros. Discovery closes on Monday, April 22, which will then allow other interested parties to bid for media rights associated with the league.

Earlier in the week, the NBA and NHL communicated concerns about the ongoing process because of the ambiguity it has engendered for planning its broadcast scheme after the year. Ahead of the hearing on Wednesday, Lopez had approved an extension that delayed the deadline to solicit acceptance of the company’s reorganization plan through and including Thursday, Nov. 14.

As part of the restructuring, Amazon will invest a reported $100 million in Diamond Sports Group that will have Prime Video become the primary streaming partner of the regional sports networks. Diamond owns digital rights to the NBA and NHL teams it carries; however, it does not have all of those rights for teams in MLB. Nine months after the restructuring plan is complete, Amazon will reportedly have the option to invest an additional $50 million into Diamond Sports Group.

Diamond claims that approximately 81% of its revenue is attributable to its deals with national multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) Charter, Comcast and DIRECTV. Furthermore, it stated that its subscribers have dropped by 35% from 2019 until the petition date in late-February of this year.

The company has been broadcasting Major League Baseball games as scheduled throughout the year following a season in which it terminated agreements with the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks. Recent court filings revealed that Diamond Sports Group and the San Diego Padres agreed to a settlement worth approximately $79 million. It remains unknown if Diamond discussed and/or reached a deal with the Diamondbacks or if the organization is in active litigation with the regional sports network operator.

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Woody Paige Inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame

“They must have run out of qualified people after the first four honorable and most worthy inductees were chosen for the 2024 class of the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.”

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Photo of Woody Paige on ESPN's Around the Horn

Longtime sports columnist and ESPN Around the Horn panelist Woody Paige was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame last night. Paige graduated from the University of Tennessee and wrote for the Knoxville Journal, The Commerical Appeal in Memphis and then the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. In 1981 he started at The Denver Post and stayed until 2016. He is still writing two columns per week for The Gazette.

In 2002, Paige became one of the original panelists on ESPN’s Around the Horn and he has appeared on the show almost 3,000 of the over 4,000 shows recorded. To date, he is the only panelist with more than 600 wins.

Paige was inducted along with four others, including longtime NFL player and Hall of Famer Tony Boselli who starred at Fairview High in Boulder. When the announcement was made back in October, Paige said, “They must have run out of qualified people after the first four honorable and most worthy inductees were chosen for the 2024 class of the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.”

Paige has written nine books and estimates he has written about nearly 10,000 sporting events.

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TNT Sports Registers Average of 4 Million Viewers Across NBA Play-In Tournament Doubleheader

As a whole, the two games averaged 4 million viewers across TNT, truTV and the B/R Sports Add-On, which is up 37% from 2023.

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(Illustration) | TNT Sports Logo – Courtesy: Warner Bros. Discovery Studio J – Courtesy: Raeford Dwyer Photography

The Western Conference slate of games within the National Basketball Association Play-In Tournament included plenty of star power and provided many exciting moments concurrent with the implications of the matchups. TNT Sports’ NBA on TNT provided coverage of the contests, the first of which squared the No. 7 New Orleans Pelicans against the No. 8 Los Angeles Lakers. Forward LeBron James and center Anthony Davis led the Lakers to a 110-106 victory in a game that an average of 3.91 million viewers watched across TNT and truTV.

The second game of the night featured the No. 9 Sacramento Kings against the No. 10 Golden State Warriors that measured an average audience size of 4.05 million viewers. Stephen Curry and the Warriors were eliminated after losing the contest 118-94, officially leading to a Friday night game between the Pelicans and Kings with the final conference playoff spot hanging in the balance. That matchup will be broadcast on TNT with tip off scheduled for approximately 9:30 a.m. EST from Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, Calif.

As a whole, the two games averaged 4 million viewers across TNT, truTV and the B/R Sports Add-On, which is up 37% from 2023. The Pelicans-Lakers game – broadcast by play-by-play announcer Kevin Harlan, analyst Reggie Miller and reporter Allie LaForce – was the third most-watched play-in game ever and up 74% over last year’s game between the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat.

Additionally, the Kings-Warriors game – broadcast by play-by-play announcer Brian Anderson, analyst Stan Van Gundy and reporter Chris Haynes – was the second most-watched play-in game ever and up 17% over last year when the Minnesota Timberwolves faced the Los Angeles Lakers. TNT was also the most-viewed network in prime-time television on Tuesday night among Persons 18-34, Persons 18-49 and Persons 25-54.

Jon Lewis of Sports Media Watch reports that the games rank fourth and sixth on the full season, four of which have included the Los Angeles Lakers. The Warriors have played in three of the six highest-rated NBA games in the season. Both contests also averaged a 1.5 rating among adults 18-49, which tripled the prime time broadcast of FBI on CBS. The only NBA Play-In Tournament game to top Tuesday night’s doubleheader was the Warriors and Lakers matchup in 2021 on ESPN, which averaged a total of 5.62 million viewers and ended in 103-100 Lakers victory.

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