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Insincerity Finally Caught Up To Stephen A. Smith and ESPN

“Essentially, ESPN has no problem inciting an angry social media mob, no matter who gets offended, as long as it offends a minority but increases viewership from the majority. “

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Mark Rebilas/USA Today

It’s a weird feeling to write about someone who I don’t watch or listen to. I do, however, know the reach that Stephen A. Smith has and after his comments about Angels All-Star Shohei Otani, I asked a longtime colleague and frequent critic of Smith whether his antics are good or bad for broadcasting.

Etan Thomas played 10 years in the NBA after a successful college career at Syracuse. Now he is an accomplished author, commentator, and activist on many social issues. We connected on this after having hosted many radio and twitch shows together.

Why Former NBA Player Etan Thomas Believes Athlete Activism Matters - The  Aspen Institute
Courtesy: Aspen Institute

“Disrespectful, inappropriate, I mean, I don’t know how many different adjectives I can use,” Thomas said exclusively to Barrett Sports Media when asked about Smith’s comments regarding Shohei Ohtani’s use of an interpreter. “It was uncalled for, but when people see him making comments like that, they always got to think about who backed him, who funds him. Who has made him the face of their network, who puts them on every single hour, every show, every commercial you see. They’re rewarding him for doing exactly what he’s doing. And that point can’t, can’t be lost at all because he wouldn’t be able to do that.”

Smith has questioned Ohtani’s star potential since he does not speak English. After social media backlash drew the attention of ESPN, Smith offered an apology.

“I am a Black man. I religiously go off on minorities being marginalized in this nation,” Smith said on ESPN. “The reality of the situation is that you have Asians and Asian Americans out there that obviously were very, very offended by what I had to say yesterday, and I just want to look into the camera and extend my sincere apologies.”

“So they apologized,” Thomas retorted. “Then they have the other writer (Max Kellerman) do a whole segment. Why was he doing more? He (Kellerman) went on and on saying it was offensive. ESPN just looked at their ratings.”

This is not a new phenomenon. My questions that stemmed from Etan’s comments were about Jemele Hill, who made inflammatory statements about politics that ESPN seemed to have issues with. How do they have issues with Hill but not Smith?  Why the double standard?

“I think that’s why they told him to apologize,” Thomas retorted. “But I think the thing was with Jemele is there’s a correlation to my playing days and NBA Commissioner David Stern. When he was the commissioner of the NBA, they wanted athletes to stay completely away from politics? Because in David Stern’s mind, if you voiced a different opinion, that’s going to make people stop viewing.”

Essentially, ESPN has no problem inciting an angry social media mob, no matter who gets offended, as long as it offends a minority but increases viewership from the majority.  

Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman took to Twitter after Smith had apologized with a snarky shot at ESPN.

Brennaman is referring to his son Thom who was caught on a live mic saying homophobic epithets. Thom was dismissed both by FOX Sports and the Reds.  Brennaman is inferring that Smith gets away with saying such bad things that other employers would not stand for.

This is not to say Thom Brennaman should not have been punished. His words were just as hurtful. 

This is also not a biased reference to ESPN either. It’s just a request for people to make sure that if someone is suspended for something they said, then there should not be different rules for different announcers.

“I think that they market him to be like a train wreck that you can’t take your eyes off of,” Thomas said. “That’s the reason why they paid him what they paid him. He (Smith) gets paid more than 75% of the players in the NBA. They wouldn’t pay him all that money if it wasn’t successful.

“If it wasn’t providing dividends or things of that nature,” Thomas added.  “But they know it’s working. You can not watch ESPN for 15, 20 minutes without seeing him. Then you go on their page and he’s everywhere on it. You go on their Twitter, he’s everywhere. They made him the face of ESPN.”

Finally, a reference to the initial paragraph of this column. I have never seen a full broadcast that Stephen A. Smith (or Skip Bayless for that matter) was on.

Even when I was an ESPN employee (2009-2011), I never had any use for Smith. I instantly saw that he pushed people’s buttons, and while that moves a needle, I want opinions that are less forced and more genuine. There are plenty of TV and radio hosts that bring compelling content that feels honest and sincere. I could listen or watch that.

There is one exception. 

Once, in a dentist’s office, a technician turned on ESPN in the exam room.  My mouth was filled with “stuff” and I had to wait until they finished working on my tooth before I could ask her to shut it off or change it. That is literally the only time I saw three whole minutes of First Take.

As for Skip Bayless, I can attest that I only know what he looks like because of promos for him during NFL broadcasts.

I watch a lot of sports.  Games. Not pre-game shows. Not analysis. No highlights shows. And as a cord-cutter, it is SO easy that way.

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BNM Writers

End The Shtick: Mispronouncing Last Names Isn’t Funny

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Ah-det-oh-KOON-boh if you’re using the Yoruba pronunciation. Or, you say An-tet-oh-KOON-poh in Greek.

That’s how you properly pronounce the last name of Giannis Antetokounmpo. He’s only one of the most popular players in the NBA, a two-time MVP and recently crowned champion.

When you’re preparing for a broadcast, taking the time to learn how to accurately say the name of one of the subjects should be the norm. It’s disrespectful not to. Google and YouTube can be your best friends for phonetic breakdowns.

End the shtick. Be better at your job.

Can you imagine if Mike Tirico and the dozens of other broadcasters working the Olympics for NBC just decided not to learn how to properly pronounce the last names of competing athletes? It would sound foolish.

This is where news anchors, in all size markets, deserve more recognition for properly doing their jobs. Do you know how quickly all credibility of a broadcast would disappear if the anchor refused to learn how to pronounce the names of foreign diplomats?

We need to stop giving sports broadcasters a free pass to sound uneducated.

Early in a broadcast career you’re basically a sponge. Personally, I liked to sit back, take notes, and really learn from those who have done it much longer than I could dream of.

Vividly I recall sitting in a very small, and hot, press box, shadowing a play-by-play broadcast for the Madison Mallards of the Northwoods League. I doubt I was even cleared to talk on the radio yet, so it really was just a learning experience.

The Northwoods League is a summer baseball league for current college athletes.

Gabe Neitzel was calling the game for ESPN Madison, where I interned during school. Late in the broadcast I remember a representative from the opposing team approaching him and letting him know that he had been saying the last name of one of their players wrong.

He was pissed.

Not because someone had corrected him but because someone hadn’t corrected him sooner. There was a misprint in the pronunciation guide. Neitzel quickly fixed his error and continued calling the game.

Afterwards he said that he was a “broadcast diva” and liked to make sure he was saying everything correctly. I thought to myself, that’s not diva-ish at all, you just like to say names the right way. As the athlete probably very much appreciated. I know I did.

Listening to Tirico during the opening ceremonies, I enjoyed the effort he and his team put in to learning how to flawlessly say every single flag bearers name. That’s also why I get so frustrated when I hear Major League Baseball announcers refuse to acknowledge that some letters in Spanish are pronounced much differently than in English. Take a class. Rosetta Stone. Learn the basics.

Once again, Google is a great resource.

During the 2021 NFL Draft the Baltimore Ravens selected Odafe Oweh. Except until draft night he had gone by his middle name “Jayson” because he felt Odafe was too hard for others to pronounce. When he switched back to his real name he said people were just going to have to get used to it.

As they should. Good for you, Odafe. Sorry you felt you had to go by a different name for so long because others refused to adapt.

I don’t want to sound as if I am the most refined broadcaster in the world. Far far far from it. However, there is a certain level of respect, in my opinion, that comes with accurately saying someone’s name. Making up a nickname because you’re uncomfortable with the pronunciation isn’t the move. Purposely sounding ignorant isn’t either.

Side note: Giannis isn’t said with a ‘gee’ to start, it’s ‘yaa.’

Be professional.

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BNM Writers

Media Forced to Cover the News

In the piece, the Fox News talk host opined that Big Media was forced to cover the scourge of the inner-city violence epidemic after a recent shooting outside a baseball game at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

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They say the key to effective humor is making sure the joke contains at least a little bit of truth. You get right up to the line and then hit the punch line, leaving your audience wondering exactly where the truth ended and the ridicule began.

Of this, Fox’s Greg Gutfeld is a master.

The comedian/television talk show host has a knack for hitting home with real people, by feeling what they feel and expressing those thoughts in a cogent, funny, and often irreverent manner. 

Last week, Gutfeld penned an opinion piece on FoxNews.com, in which he took aim at the mainstream liberal media, specifically CNN. The title of his piece was Greg Gutfeld: The crime problem the media pretends doesn’t exist actually found them at a baseball game.

In the piece, the Fox News talk host opined that Big Media was forced to cover the scourge of the inner-city violence epidemic after a recent shooting outside a baseball game at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. Many fault the corporate media for downplaying the escalating violence and rioting in Democrat-controlled inner cities in recent years.

Gutfeld, co-host of the networks The Five, and host of Gutfeld!, says the recent incident forced their hand and made them discuss the issue.

“Now obviously CNN covered the shooting, doing live shots outside the center field gate,” Gutfeld wrote on FoxNews.com. “Why is that important? Because it was refreshing to finally see CNN cover a crime story. For once. If you watched their network you were told crime was largely made up of hysteria. Just an idea, but nothing real.”

In reading Gutfield’s comments, one can recall the infamous clip of the reporter standing in front of fire-filled riots last year, telling viewers it was a “largely peaceful protest.” 

Gutfeld had previously commented that the only way big, corporate media would cover crime is if they were impacted. This game, he said, forced them to face the issue and report the facts that have been affecting much of America, outside the media bubble.

“For a brief moment that bubble popped Saturday night at a baseball game – where the true reality of our crime epidemic hit home, or rather home plate,” Gutfeld wrote. “They got a taste of how the rest of DC lives. Where policies the media supports have turned their neighborhoods into a John Wick movie.”

Gutfeld will continue to be irreverent, as he has been since he joined the network in 2007. He’ll surely continue to deride and mock the Left and their establishment media elite, right up to the line.

He summed up his piece, writing, “So will they learn any lessons from this? Will they reexamine their news coverage, especially regarding crime, and how they dropped that ball when it should have been a routine catch? Of course not. They’ll forget about it by tonight. And say the game was postponed due to climate change.”

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BNM Writers

Tony Katz: Facebook Should Act Like a Platform, Not a Publisher

Last week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told Fox News reporter Peter Doocy that the government is partnering with Facebook to quash misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines.

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If you have ever been censored, throttled, or banned from Facebook or any other social media platform because of your political beliefs, it’s likely that you will agree that we are witnessing the erosion of our right to free speech.

Big Tech has gone out of its way to censor conservative voices. The most prominent example, former President Donald Trump who was banned from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter following the riots at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg released a statement several months ago accusing Trump of undermining the “peaceful and lawful transition of power to his elected successor.” A bold assertion from a man whose company routinely allows content to be published that depicts things like underage sex, self-harm, fake news, and anti-police rhetoric.

While some prominent conservatives like Candace Owens, Tucker Carlson, and Charlie Kirk have pushed back against the obvious bias being carried out by Big Tech, censorship continues at a rampant pace.

Last week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told Fox News reporter Peter Doocy that the government is partnering with Facebook to quash misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines. Psaki’s statement sent shockwaves through the conservative talk community, fueling speculation that Silicon Valley is just an extension of the mainstream media dominated by liberals.

Award-winning Indianapolis radio host Tony Katz spoke to Barrett News Media this week about the Facebook platform. Tony Katz and the Morning News airs weekdays on 93.1FM WIBC. He also hosts the Midwest syndicated Tony Katz Today radio program.

Ryan Hedrick: Do you routinely make use of Facebook to promote your show?

Tony Katz: Yes. Facebook.com/tonykatztoday

RH: How should Facebook decide what’s allowed on its social network?

TK: Facebook should act as a platform, not a publisher. Outside of overt calls for violence, child endangerment or flagrant pornography (what one could consider accepted standards), Facebook should stay out of editing content.

RH: How aggressively should Facebook monitor and remove controversial posts?

TK: With the poor job they do of defining “controversial,” the aggression level is immaterial.

RH: Have you experienced being banned or warned?

TK: Once we had a post that got a warning

RH: Is Facebook good for democracy?

TK: It’s not as good as a free press that is more interested in journalism than narrative, but it doesn’t hurt.

RH: Do you feel Facebook has become a monopoly?

TK: Popularity is different from monopoly. Still time for people who can write big checks to invest in tech companies that will embrace free speech. Same with investing in film, TV, and publishing.

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