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Kenny Smith, Chris Webber Steal Show In Inside The NBA Special

“Wiping sweat from his brow and tears from his eyes, Webber said that he wanted to speak about the night, “because I feel like we always have the same couple voices talking during these times.”

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TNT aired a special edition of Inside the NBA on Wednesday evening in response to players boycotting Wednesday’s playoff games to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.

“Today players and coaches made a resounding and unified statement by refusing to take the court,” host Ernie Johnson Jr. said. “There are moments that have happened during my 30 years in this chair: Magic’s announcement in ‘91, Adam Silver addressing the Donald Sterling situation in 2014, banning him for life, and then today. There is no podium involved, just simply we are not going to take the floor.”

Charles Barkley says he is not surprised by the decision not to play.

“You heard guys talking about it (not playing) yesterday. That started the fire,” Barkley said. “Then the Milwaukee Bucks, who were scheduled to lead off today, cancelled. If the Bucks hadn’t cancelled, I don’t think anybody else would have cancelled. They should have given the Magic a heads up, but I do think it was appropriate that the Bucks did it because it happened in their home state. I think after that, you had to cancel the rest of the games. I think you need to cancel the games tomorrow also just so the different set of teams can let them know that they are standing with them. My question is what the game plan is after that?”

An emotional Kenny “the Jet” Smith said he had a difficult time processing his thoughts over the incident before abruptly leaving the set.

“I feel like my head is ready to explode,” Smith said. “I don’t think I can say anything that is appropriate for what players are thinking and feeling.  As a Black man and a former player I feel it is important to support the players and not be here tonight.”

Shaquille O’Neal adds that a unified stance among the players was key.

“If everybody wasn’t unified, we would be talking about something not nearly as important (who played and who did not play) instead of the real issue,” he said.  “I respect the decision. I respect the guys and how everybody deals with certain things differently. African-Americans are fed up and something has to change.”

Shaq then broaches the subject of boycotting the rest of the season.

“I’ll support whatever the players decide to do. Right now the games are just postponed,” he said. “Something like this is going to happen next week, next month and next year. Canceling one game is not going to make a racist person say, ‘oh, they canceled one game. I’m not going to be racist anymore.’ We have to identify certain areas and certain problems and we have to systematically take these things down.”

O’Neal adds that a good way to begin that process is to vote in the upcoming election.

“Make sure you get a new D.A. (District Attorney). Make sure you get a new Chief of Police. Make sure you get a new mayor and make sure you get a new president. It’s in our hands. We need to put people in place that understand our language and frustrations. That would be a good place to start.”

Former NBA player and TNT analyst Chris Webber joined the show from the arena in Orlando. His emotional reaction to the moment and the police shooting of another unarmed black man garnered a lot of attention and reaction across the media.

Wiping sweat from his brow and tears from his eyes, Webber said that he wanted to speak about the night, “because I feel like we always have the same couple voices talking during these times.”

“I keep hearing the question ‘What’s next?, What’s next?’. Well, you gotta plan what’s next. You have to figure out what’s next,” Webber continued. “Very proud of the players. I don’t know the next steps. Don’t really care what the next steps are, because the first steps are to garner attention, and they have everybody’s attention around the world right now. Then leadership and others will get together and decide the next steps.”

Webber said that he wanted to speak for the people in the neighborhoods “that we tell to vote and then just walk away.” He then spoke about conversations he has had to have with younger family members and asked “if not now when?” in reference to the need for police reform.

The powerful message, which ended with Webber praising young people for boycotting games and crying out for change, earned praise for the five-time all-star from the media, former teammates, and current players.

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NFL Considers Ending Pro Bowl Amidst Low Ratings

“Mark Maske of The Washington Post reports the future of the Pro Bowl was discussed on Tuesday during the owners’ meetings in Atlanta.”

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The NFL is obsessed with TV ratings. It isn’t a surprise that the league may not be willing to tolerate the Pro Bowl underperforming for much longer. 

In 2022, the NFL’s all-star game produced it’s lowest ratings in 16 years. Fewer that 7 million people tuned in to watch the game across ABC, ESPN and DisneyXD. 

“The (Pro Bowl) game doesn’t work,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday after the owners’ meeting in Atlanta. “We need to find another way to celebrate the players.”

There are two proposed alternatives that have been reported. The Washington Post says the league is considering launching a seven-on-seven competition. It would not include tackling or full clocks. The other report comes from Ian Rapport of the NFL Network. He says the league is considering hosting a series of skills competitions over the course of what would be branded an all-star week. The NFL has partnered with DirecTV in the past to present similar events during Super Bowl Week. 

No details have emerged or final decisions made. Mark Maske of The Washington Post reports the future of the Pro Bowl was discussed on Tuesday during the owners’ meetings in Atlanta.

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Former Hulu Exec Michael Schneider Hired To Run Bally Sports+

“Schneider previously was VP of brand and content marketing at Hulu, where he had involvement in various marketing efforts for Hulu + Live TV.”

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Sinclair Broadcast Group and Diamond Sports Group have tapped Michael Schneider as the chief operating officer and general manager of Bally Sports+ when it launches this year.

Schneider will oversee the direct-to-consumer platform that will also be the hub for Bally Sports live programming.

Schneider previously was VP of brand and content marketing at Hulu, where he had involvement in various marketing efforts for Hulu + Live TV.

“Throughout his career, Michael has successfully launched and developed DTC streaming and service platforms and created immersive engagement experiences,” said Sinclair COO and president of broadcast Rob Weisbord. “He is a terrific addition to the team as we build out the Bally Sports+ offering, its exclusive content and passionate fan community.”

Even before Hulu, Schneider had a hand in streaming. He was a founding member of the PlayStation Vue launch team.

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Marquee Sports Network Weighs Streaming Options Outside of Bally Sports+

“Marquee GM Mike McCarthy said to Sports Business Journal there’s no rush, but the network is hopeful they can have something in time for the 2023 season.”

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As Sinclair Broadcast Group prepares to launch Bally Sports+, its direct-to-consumer platform that will be home to Bally Sports live events, the Chicago Cubs are weighing their options for Marquee Sports Network, which the team co-owns with Sinclair.

Despite being under the Sinclair umbrella, Marquee is its own free-standing RSN from the rest of the Bally Sports networks across the country.

Marquee is readily available on a number of cable providers, but the only thing that’s really missing is its own standalone streaming platform for games. Marquee GM Mike McCarthy said to Sports Business Journal there’s no rush, but the network is hopeful they can have something in time for the 2023 season.

“We’re always interested in being on the cutting edge with the ultimate deliverable to our consumer,” McCarthy said. “But there isn’t any contractual clock ticking to make us feel that way. It’s how we’ve approached things from the beginning. Between our two ownership groups, there’s a lot of aggression to get it right. And I think you’ll see something along those lines shortly.”

The TV ratings will always be of top interest for MLB, especially regional ratings. But as the league has worked to embrace more streaming options for games, striking deals with Apple and Peacock for rights this season, it’s all about providing what the fans and viewers want.

“We now have the ability to do so much more, to properly tell the story of a 162-game season,” said Crane Kenney, Chicago Cubs president of business operations. Kenney was instrumental in the launch of Marquee. “We love baseball, we love the game, and we love the opportunity we have to share it with our fans in really deep ways.”

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