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Sue Bird: Fans & Media Won’t Let WNBA Stick To Sports

“During an appearance on The Old Man and the Three podcast, Bird told hosts JJ Redick and Tommy Alter that the WNBA was made political by others.”

Brandon Contes

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In recent years, the WNBA has been one of the most outspoken leagues in American professional sports on social issues. Last week, 17-year WNBA veteran and 11-time All-Star Sue Bird said female athletes tried to stick to sports, but “nobody would let us.” 

There’s no question female athletes are judged differently than male athletes. Even the media has historically popularized women in sports based on their appearance more than performance. It’s rarely just about the game when the WNBA or female athletes are put on headlines. During an appearance on The Old Man and the Three podcast, Bird told hosts JJ Redick and Tommy Alter that the WNBA was made political by others. 

“All politicians are trying to say to us is, ‘keep politics out of sports, this is where I want to go to just watch a game,’” Bird said on the podcast. “I’m not the one that brought it in here. Because as female athletes we are judged based on everything except the game we’re playing. We’re being judged because we’re women. We’re being judged because we’re gay. We’re being judged because we’re black. All of these political things are being brought to us and that’s how we’ve had to find our way in this life, in this WNBA trying to be a business life. We’ve had to battle that. It’s never just been about basketball for us.”

The WNBA dedicated its 2020 season to Breonna Taylor, a 26-year old Black woman who was unjustly shot and killed by Louisville police in her own home earlier this year. After Georgia senator and Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler disagreed with the WNBA’s social stance, players began wearing t-shirts supporting her political opposition Raphael Warnock. 

Bird’s comments came just one day before former NHL defenseman and current NBC analyst Mike Milbury was criticized for saying “not even any woman here to disrupt your concentration,” while discussing the sport’s bubble system. 

JJ Redick and Tommy Alter launched their Old Man and the Three podcast earlier this month, after leaving The Ringer to start ThreeFourTwo Productions in a partnership with Entercom’s Cadence13.

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Cam Newton: How Can We Get Other Minority Broadcasters to Skip the Line, Too?

What type of media training did Tony Romo have before he just popped up and started commentating the game?

Barrett Sports Media

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Screengrab from 4th & 1 with Cam Newton
Screengrab: 4th & 1 with Cam Newton

Cam Newton is never one to shy away from controversy or a controversial topic. On his latest episode of his YouTube show 4th & 1, Newton tackled the topic of whether or not minorities are getting a fair share of certain broadcasting opportunities.

Newton and co-host Omari Collins brought up some of the contract numbers for certain top NFL and college football broadcasters. Newton said, “The truth is, when I see a guy like Tom Brady signs a 10-year contract worth $375 million dollars, Greg Olsen $3 million contract annually as a commentator, Tony Romo, 10 years $180 million, Troy Aikman, $18.5 million contract annually. And then you drop off to Ryan Clark with $2 million annually.” Newton said he is not saying any of them do not deserve the contracts they have been given.

He added, “I’m always gonna tell Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Greg Olsen, Troy Aikman, Matt Ryan to go get the bag. From one former player to another former player. I’m not hating on that. What I am doing is saying, how in the world are they the only ones that’s getting access to these types of contracts? Because somebody told me, they say, ‘Well, you don’t get these contracts because you’re not polished yet.’ What type of media training did Tony Romo have before he just popped up and started commentating the game? As the number one guy. And he does a damn good job. Tom Brady, same thing.”

Collins said, “They skipped the line of a lot of people.”

“That is my point,” Newton said. “How can we get other minorities to skip the line, too? Because we all know ball. We all can speak on our perspective of what we feel this place should be or analyze what the play was.”

Newton said he has tried to be his authentic self in his media endeavors and that he uses his platform to “deliver the truth, my way.”

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Tom Brady: ‘I’m Trying to Make Sure I Have the Right Tone’ as a Broadcaster

“Sometimes I get a little too serious because I see myself as ‘quarterback Tom Brady’ as opposed to ‘Let’s enjoy a great game of football Tom Brady.'”

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Tom Brady
Courtesy: Cliff Watts, Variety

On Wednesday night, seven-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady was honored by the New England Patriots with an induction ceremony at Gillette Stadium to celebrate being nominated into the team’s Hall of Fame. Patriots owner Robert Kraft surprised Brady by revealing that the team had also retired his No. 12 and thanked him for his contributions to the organizations over his 20 seasons with the organization. Brady will be joining the lead commentary booth for the NFL on FOX next season, commencing his work as an analyst alongside play-by-play announcer Kevin Burkhardt and reporters Erin Andrews and Tom Rinaldi.

Brady recently joined the SI Media with Jimmy Traina podcast and discussed his approach to joining the FOX Sports broadcasting team this fall for NFL games. Before he retired from the NFL, Brady signed what was reported to be a 10-year, $375 million deal to call NFL games in the network’s lead broadcasting booth. FOX Sports is entering the second year of its new 11-year media rights agreement with the NFL, which will culminate in Super Bowl LIX on FOX from the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, La.

“I love having a microphone that’s going to reach 30 million people on Sundays a week, [and] I love being a part of the best broadcast in sports,” Brady said, “so I think for me it was a no-brainer, and if you want to have an impact on people and you want to [have] impact on a sport you love, then you’ve got to work toward that.”

Although Brady retired from the NFL after the 2022 season, he did not immediately join the lead broadcast team on FOX Sports. Instead, he decided to wait a year before beginning his role, a decision that allowed him more time to prepare and become familiar with the broadcasting craft.

“For me, it was the only way to do it,” Brady explained. “I realized that to come off a playing season and then to jump right into that, it’s a whole [other] discipline to learn, and I really wanted to take some time to watch, listen, learn, talk to people – people who I really see as the greatest at what they’ve done – and everyone really opened their arms to embrace me and phone calls, and there’s still more I’m going to make before the start of the season, and I’m just very grateful for all the people that kind of shared a lot of incredible nuggets [and] ways to succeed that I’ll be able to involve myself in as I go forward.”

Brady believes that deciphering the game within his analysis will be a straightforward process since it is similar to what he did as a quarterback on a daily basis. Additionally, he anticipates enjoying the preparation and learning more about the teams ahead of the broadcast. A part of his approach he foresees being important, however, is in continuing to make the game fun for consumers so they can enjoy the viewing experience as a whole.

“Sometimes I get a little too serious because I see myself as ‘quarterback Tom Brady’ as opposed to ‘Let’s enjoy a great game of football Tom Brady,’” Brady articulated. “Sometimes I become a little too critical, so I’m trying to make sure I have the right tone.”

Traina found Brady’s answer about being too critical at times and having a specific way in which he believes the game to be played as rather interesting. One of the common critiques Traina has towards broadcast analysts with the exception of Troy Aikman on ESPN is that they are sometimes afraid to criticize players and referees. Although announcers do not need to call a decision dumb, there are moments he has perceived things to be glossed over. Brady wants to impart his wisdom throughout the broadcast with his many years playing in the NFL and help other people achieve their goals.

“I think there’s a high expectation of how I expect the game to be played because I was there and I saw Coach Belichick and I saw Hall of Famers and I played with them and played against them and I played in big games, and there’s just a certain expectation that I see for really great performers, and I want to see these guys perform really well,” Brady said. “But part of the contribution to make is, ‘How do I help other people be successful as well?’”

Brady understands that there will be opinions about his broadcasting abilities from the consumption audience from the moment he starts on the air. Yet over his 28 years playing college and professional sports, he has developed a thick skin and has heard plenty of plaudits and disapproval towards other broadcast analysts. Brady is ultimately going to focus on evaluating his effort, preparation, intention and if he gave his best to his colleagues at FOX Sports and the audience.

“You may not like it – I understand, it’s okay – but I’m just giving you my commentating, my analysis, so it’s really, in the end, kind of like I played quarterback was about satisfying me,” Brady said. “I could have had a bad outcome, but if I thought the process was good, ‘Alright, let me just work on the process to get the outcome I want.’ If the outcome was great, it was, ‘What did I do right that enabled me to be prepared and be successful in the moment?’”

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Dan Le Batard: Shams Charania Appearing on ‘The Pat McAfee Show’ is a Middle Finger to Adrian Wojnarowski

“No one is allowed on ESPN basketball stuff until Shams on McAfee that Woj isn’t good with.”

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Shams Charania
Courtesy: The Rally on X

Earlier in the week, there was considerable speculation surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers pursuit of UConn Huskies men’s basketball head coach Dan Hurley to fill the team’s head coaching vacancy. Hurley ultimately chose to stay at the University of Connecticut, a decision that elicited both surprise and relief in the basketball world, but his candidacy was relatively unknown before a report from ESPN senior basketball insider Adrian Wojnarowski. The report of Hurley being the frontrunner for the job came after Shams Charania, senior NBA insider at The Athletic, reported that NBA on ESPN analyst JJ Redick was the frontrunner instead.

Charania, who also works for Stadium and FanDuel TV outside of his reporting at The Athletic, appeared on ESPN Wednesday afternoon within The Pat McAfee Show where he outlined the Lakers coaching search and Hurley’s decision. Dan Le Batard, hosting an abridged version of The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz due to severe weather in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area, spoke about how he recently read a Substack by Ethan Strauss that mentioned the rivalry between Wojnarowski and Charania.

“It’s King Kong and Godzilla of the information business, and Shams learned it from his mentor [Wojnarowski], who is the most competitive person I’ve ever met in sports media, who has relationships with the executives, with the old guard in basketball – the people who have controlled all of the power in basketball,” Le Batard said. “And his protégé, who is 30 years old and much different than him, traffics in the information from labor, from the players, and so there has been a fight at the top of the food chain.”

Le Batard, who used to host on radio and television for ESPN, explained to co-host Jon “Stugotz” Weiner that Wojnarowski is one of the best sportswriters he had ever seen. As the world of disseminating information has changed though, Le Batard stated that Wojnarowski does not write in that manner anymore and is instead divulging “cubes of information” as fast as he can because of money, power and interest in the craft. Although Charania has been a guest on The Pat McAfee Show before since it began broadcasting the first two hours of the program on ESPN last year, Le Batard felt that this particular appearance carried extra merit.

“To see Shams on McAfee is such a ‘F**k you’ from McAfee to Woj and the established infrastructure,” Le Batard said. “No one is allowed on ESPN basketball stuff until Shams on McAfee that Woj isn’t good with. To see his enemy in the middle of the workday on McAfee is hugely interesting to me, and then to see them this far apart on what the Lakers were doing and fighting at the top of the information food chain to produce a story around Hurley that I don’t think any of us but Woj saw coming – like that was not something that people were talking about before Woj reported it after Shams had reported JJ Redick is the frontrunner.”

“I’m with you,” Weiner concurred. “No one saw this coming; the Laker job coming. It is interesting with McAfee because he is doing that just to piss of Woj, and believe me, it pisses of Woj.”

Wojnarowski and Charania previously worked together at Yahoo Sports on “The Vertical” where they broke news of several transactions within the NBA over the years. While Charania was in his junior year of college, Wojnarowski had called him “the best young basketball reporter on the planet.” A rivalry between the two reporters began to develop through the years and became noticeable to fans when Wojnarowski joined ESPN in 2017 and Charania moved to The Athletic and Stadium in the next year.

The aforementioned Strauss detailed the relationship between Wojnarowski and Charania in a Substack article in October 2021, in which he states that they are “highly motivated to beat one another in a battle for speed, conducted over Twitter, a medium built for it.” After Hurley rejected the Lakers’ reported offer, Charania stated on FanDuel TV that Hurley was not the No. 1 candidate for the job from the start, which was viewed by some people as a disputation of Wojnarowski’s report.

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