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Adam Silver On NBA, China Relationship: ‘Engagement is Better Than Isolation’

Silver talked to “Time” in a wide-ranging interview concerning the state of the NBA.

Russ Heltman

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TIME featured NBA commissioner Adam Silver among other high-profile executives for their May issue touching on a wide range of topics. Namely, the league’s relationship with China following an eventful two-year stretch.

China’s state television CCTV and streaming service Tencent suspended all preseason NBA game broadcasts following an October 2019 tweet by then-Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. The post showed support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Over a year passed before China started showing the games again. CCTV brought back the 2020 NBA Finals because of the league’s assistance to China in fighting COVID-19. Silver said the league is still broadcasting games in the country after the incident.

“We continue to televise our games in China,” Silver said to TIME. “Our most significant television partner is Tencent, which is a streaming service in China. And we have hundreds of millions of fans in China who we continue to serve.”

Silver opened up further about his feelings toward calls to boycott China and cut them out of the NBA world.

“The political science major in me believes that engagement is better than isolation,” Silver said. “That a so-called boycott of China, taking into account legitimate criticisms of the Chinese system, won’t further the agenda of those who seek to bring about global change. Working with Chinese solely on NBA basketball has been a net plus for building relationships between two superpowers.”

When pressed about specific human rights issues and what basketball can change about China’s ways, Silver had this to say.

“While there are many differences between our society and Chinese society, there are enormous commonalities as well. One of them is to love a sport. And basketball happens to be the most popular team sport in China right now. We think that through that common love and appreciation of the game of basketball, that that’s a way to bring people together. It’s as simple as that.”

Sports TV News

Pardon The Interruption Sees Highest-Rated Show in Five Years

It is the largest audience for the show since January 9th, 2018.

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ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption has reason to celebrate. The show’s highest-rated broadcast in five years aired earlier this week.

On Monday, January 16th, 1.1 million viewers tuned into Pardon The Interruption. It is the largest audience for the show since January 9th, 2018.

The program was helped by being a lead-in to the network’s coverage of the NFC Super Wild Card game that featured the Dallas Cowboys facing Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That game broadcast saw the most-watched NFL game from a Disney-owned network since Super Bowl XL in 2006. 30.6 million viewers tuned into the Cowboys victory.

The show — hosted by Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser — airs at 5:30 PM ET and has been a staple program in ESPN’s afternoon lineup since launching in 2001.

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Sports TV News

Stephen A. Smith Promises Mike and the Mad Dog Reunion on First Take

“They made sports talk radio what it is. I’m gonna bring them both in soon for an appearance on First Take.”

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Past reunions of Mike and the Mad Dog have been put on hold in the past, but ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith has now gone on the record promising he’ll bring Mike Francesa and Chris “Mad Dog” Russo together on First Take.

While appearing on The Howard Stern Show Wednesday to promote his book Straight Shooter, Smith was asked about the New York radio icons, and how his relationship has grown with Russo after Mad Dog joined First Take as a regular contributor.

“My respect for both of them is profound,” Smith said. “They are pioneers in this business. And when I brought Mad Dog on my show First Take, the bosses didn’t think they could get him. I picked up the phone and in like two seconds he was like, ‘I’m in. I’m there for you.’ I love the guy. This guy and Mike Francesa started sports talk radio. They made sports talk radio what it is. And guess what else I’m gonna do, Howard? I’m gonna bring them both in soon for an appearance on First Take.”

In December, Francesa admitted a report from Andrew Marchand of The New York Post linking an on-screen reunion with his longtime partner “had a lot of truth to it“.

“They did ask me to do it,” Francesa said on his podcast at the time. “It was — as far as I knew — a one time thing. That was my understanding at the time. We haven’t discussed it since last April, maybe May.”

The former WFAN personality added his discussions with First Take were not centered around joining the show on a permanent basis, but strictly as a one-time reunion with his former partner. Francesa declined the opportunity to surprise Russo, saying “I was a little leery of surprising anyone. I felt better if they knew about it.”

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Sports TV News

ESPN, FOX Executives Floated As Next Big Ten Commissioner

“Here’s the problem with getting a TV executive right now is that their media deal is done for long-term.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Last week it was announced that Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren would be departing for a job with the Chicago Bears, and the speculation on a replacement has started.

With the conference last year inking a multi-billion dollar media rights deal with CBS, NBC and FOX, it’s believed that a TV executive could be considered one of the top candidates.

But on The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast, Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand thought that might not be the play even though some names in various leadership positions have been floated around.

“Here’s the problem with getting a TV executive right now is that their media deal is done for long-term,” Ourand said. “So the names that consistently come up – Burke Magnus who has a big job at ESPN now, but he’s also the guy who launched the ACC Network, the SEC Network, he cut his teeth on ESPNU. He’s someone that knows, understands and loves the college game and somebody who would be great in that position I think.”

Ourand also wondered if FOX Sports president Mark Silverman would also be considered. But Ourand then thought about some of the other conference commissioners out there who could potentially throw their names in the running.

ACC commissioner Jim Phillips came to mind for Ourand.

“He’s cut his teeth as commissioner a the ACC,” he said. “Is this something that he could be interested in? I think that’s worthy of taking a look at.”

But Ourand did say when you look at conferences like the Pac-12, Big 12 and the Big Ten, often the name that emerges is someone that wasn’t necessarily grown in college sports.

“George Kliavkoff wasn’t on anybody’s list. He just sort of came out from nowhere,” Ourand said. “Brett Yormark at the Big 12. Nobody would’ve predicted that he would’ve gone in there. So the traditional route of you need to be an AD or you need to be in sort of college sports to rise up to commissioner, that’s been thrown on its head by the Pac-12 and the Big 12.”

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