Sports TV News
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.”
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.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.
Sports TV News
Neil Everett Exits ESPN After 23 Years
“ESPN changed my life, but now it’s time for me to change my life.”
Neil Everett’s SportsCenter days are over. Front Office Sports reports that the anchor has chosen to say goodbye to ESPN after 23 years at the network.
“ESPN changed my life, but now it’s time for me to change my life,” Everett said. “Time to write a new chapter.”
The network reportedly offered Everett a new deal. Had he agreed to it, the anchor would have taken a salary reduction.
This is a significant moment for SportsCenter. Everett moving on means one of the show’s longest-tenured partnership comes to an end. He had worked with Stan Verrett since 2009.
Everett’s exit comes in the same week that it was revealed Chris Chelios would not return to the network’s NHL coverage next season. The Walt Disney Company is currently in the middle of trying to cut 7000 jobs to save $5.5 billion.
As for the future, Everett says he will seek to increase his TV role with the Portland Trail Blazers. He has been part of the team’s broadcast crew on NBC Sports Northwest for the last two years.
Sports TV News
Chris ‘The Bear’ Fallica To Make FOX TV Debut on Belmont Coverage
“Everyone I’ve worked and interacted with at the company has been so helpful and open to someone who has spent his entire professional life elsewhere.”
As the college football season was winding down, fans found out one of the foundational members of the College Gameday staff would be leaving ESPN. Chris “The Bear” Fallica left the network and has been working for FOX since the new year. This weekend during the network’s coverage of The Belmont Stakes, he will finally make his TV debut for his employers.
“It’s been great. This will be my first TV appearance, so I’m excited,” Fallica said in an interview with FOXSports.com. “But we’ve been cranking out content on the digital side since January, and I’m very happy with how the USFL picks have been going (4-0 last week for those of you counting at home). Everyone I’ve worked and interacted with at the company has been so helpful and open to someone who has spent his entire professional life elsewhere.”
Fallica, who worked for ESPN for nearly three decades, is going to be a major presence in FOX’s gambling content both on air and online. Making picks is nothing new. He had been doing it on College GameDay for years prior to his exit.
In addition to making football picks, horse racing is going to be a major part of what The Bear does for FOX. While this will be his TV debut on FOX, Fallica put the spotlight on one of his colleagues.
“It was a great decision to bring Tom [Durkin] back for this call. His voice is synonymous with the sport for a generation of racing fans, so it will be a treat to hear him call a race again.”
Durbin is coming out of retirement to call the race. This is the first year that the Belmont is airing on FOX as part of a rights deal with the New York Racing Association.
Sports TV News
FOX Reportedly Considering Replacing Reggie Bush on Big Noon Kickoff
“Marchand writes that the favorite to replace the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner is the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner. Mark Ingram II is expected to retire from the NFL and join FOX.”
It looks like changes are coming to FOX’s college football coverage. Andrew Marchand reports that the network is considering replacing Reggie Bush on Big Noon Kickoff.
Bush and the network reportedly argued over money before the 2022 season. FOX kicked the tires on multiple options, including Desmond Howard and Robert Griffin III of ESPN. Eventually, it decided to bring Bush back on a one year deal. With that deal set to expire and the two sides again at an impasse, FOX is eyeing other options.
Marchand writes that the favorite to replace the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner is the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner. Mark Ingram II is expected to retire from the NFL and join FOX.
If Ingram does join the show, he would be the first analyst from outside of the conferences FOX carries. Ingram played his college football at Alabama. He has since amassed more than 8000 yards over 13 seasons in the NFL.
FOX declined to comment on the report. Marchand reports that with no deal finalized, there is an outside shot that Ingram returns to the NFL, Bush returns to FOX and there is no change at all. That, however, is considered a long shot.