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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.

BNM Writers

The 790 Million Dollar Secret

Who knows if an expansion team was ever in the offering. If St Louis had pushed, would it have been possible? We’ll most likely never know.

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My Bad.

In recent columns, I suggested that the NFL was up against a wall and was going to be exposed. I’m sorry, I forgot the number one rule. Rich men tell no tales. They hide behind their money, and that’s exactly what the NFL and the now LA Rams did when they settled for $790 million dollars with the St Louis region.

Who knows if an expansion team was ever in the offering. If St Louis had pushed, would it have been possible? We’ll most likely never know.

(A silent wish of mine was that the Los Angeles Rams would have been forced to leave the Super Bowl Trophy in St Louis. It’s not Los Angeles’. It’s St Louis’. Put the trophy in a closet somewhere, but it should remain in St Louis where it was earned.)

To put it into perspective, the Rams paid the other NFL owners 145 million less as a relocation fee to move to Los Angeles, and the Rams/NFL paid almost $7 billion to leave St Louis. ($7 billion = 5.5 billion for SOFI stadium, 645 million for league relocation, $790 million to St. Louis region)

This was the last piece of the latest franchise musical chairs, with San Diego and Oakland also losing their teams. Now a quiet lull till the next round of demands from NFL owners to their hometowns.

Will Buffalo build the Bills a new stadium? Will Chicago build a new one? Jacksonville? I’m sure something is percolating. I’m also sure in the not too distant future. Some NFL teams will float the idea of St Louis being willing to build a stadium. Some owners, somewhere, will be willing to use St. Louis to extract something new out of their hometown. I hope that doesn’t happen, but if it does, remind people, the NFL paid almost 7 billion not to call St. Louis home.

In retrospect, St. Louis learned a few hard lessons losing two NFL teams in 40 years. The NFL will leave if they don’t get a stadium, and the NFL will leave if offered a new stadium. A city can’t win. Billionaires get what they want. The NFL owners get what they want.

Did St. Louis make it hurt? Was an expansion team possible? $790 million is a lot of “Jack.” A phrase Stan Kroenke used once when asked if wanted to keep the Rams in St Louis, “I put a lot of “Jack” into the community,” he said.

Come to think of it that might have been his last public comments he made on this team moving before they actually moved. It turns out he was truthful about that, at least.

Lastly, remember seeing a video of Robert Kraft visiting the Asian Day Spa in Jupiter, FL, before an AFC playoff game a few years ago? Of course, you don’t. His lawyers were able to convince a Florida court that he has a right to privacy while committing a crime of prostitution inside the spa. Very nice move for a billionaire. The video was never released.

In this St. Louis case, St. Louis gets the $790 million, paid in 30 days. What does the NFL get? A team in Los Angeles, and according to media reports, when the agreement is signed by all parties and all money is received, all documents will be destroyed.

So, just like the Kraft video, the public may never see the evidence of what really happened. The public might never know how the NFL said and did whatever they wanted, as they broke the hearts of St. Louis fans. It looks like it will remain a $790 million dollar secret. It’s good to be a billionaire.

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BNM Writers

America’s E-Bike Future

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes says he has had a great experience with his futuristic commuting method, and he believes that most Americans would feel the same.

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If only they’d give them a try, Americans would fall in love with E-Bikes. 

That is the opinion of MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, who discussed his newfound joy of commuting via an electric bike last week on his “All In with Chris Hayes” program. He has had a great experience with his futuristic commuting method, and he believes that most Americans would feel the same.

“Last fall, it was still Covid, and there was no vaccine, and I started to have to come into the studio to do the show,” Hayes began. “I had a little bit of a commuting problem. I didn’t want to start taking the subway at that point. I think there’s some of it that suggest that masking is pretty fine, but I was like, eh, I wasn’t that psyched about it. But I had to get from Brooklyn to Midtown, it’s about nine miles, and I had to do without the subway. I didn’t want to take a car every day. I came up with the ultimate solution – a foldable E-Bike.”

Hayes said he started to use the foldable e-Bike to make the 9-mile commute to the MSNBC Studios and then stored it in his office. Among its benefits, according to Hayes, was that he got to enjoy the sights of New York City while not arriving hot, sweaty, and disheveled for his television duties.

“Changed my life, best commute I have ever had in my life,” Hayes said, noting that he arrived each day “cool and clean.”

Hayes welcomed New York Times writer Jay Caspian Kang, who last week penned an Op-Ed titled “Free E-Bikes for Everyone!” Kang pointed out that his E-Bike conversion was much the same as Hayes’ and that his daughter now enjoys being brought to school on the bike. In addition, Kang said the bike had given him a liberating feeling, being able to travel to New York City after the past couple of years of Covid-related lockdowns.

“First of all, it’s a very cool feeling because you feel like a superhero. It’s like the vision I had as a kid of having a cyber-suit where you are like Ironman. It’s you, but you’re stronger,” Hayes said. “So when you’re pushing the pedals, there’s like this extra oomph, so you can put kids on it. You can run errands on it. It also means you’re not sweating in the same way. And it also just replaces a lot of car trips; I think that’s a key thing to think about.”

The MSNBC Segment by Hayes was titled “The Case For Giving Every American a Free E-Bike.”  

In his Times piece, Kang concurred, saying, “City governments should purchase an electronic bicycle for every resident over the age of 15 who wants one. They should also shut down a significant number of streets. Shutting down some streets for bikes is not only for safety but also because the more inconvenient driving becomes, the more people start to consider other options.” 

Some may see a similarity in this approach by Kang to the current president and administration increasing gasoline prices and the costs of many other goods. However, administration officials have made clear that one clear benefit and objective of these rising costs will be to change citizens’ behavior, similar to the change Kang hopes to see if New York were to use tax dollars to give bikes to New Yorkers.

“We have to get cars off the street somehow,” Kang said. “We have to get cars off the road somehow for every reason. Pedestrian safety, bike safety. But mostly because of climate change and the carbon that they emit. So I don’t know; I think you need to develop some kind of drastic measure that also incentivizes people. And I think that we’ve been waiting around for some sort of solution to this. I don’t know; I think every single person that I talk to who has ridden an E-Bike, and who has sort of committed to it in a way, has said it has replaced tons of their car trips.”

Kang said the only problem with having more people adopt the emerging technology is the expense, citing the high cost per E-Bike. (A quick internet search finds many E-Bikes priced near $1500 apiece.) Kang opined that only by “giving them away for free” could the plan be brought to fruition. 

“If you’re going to get cars off the road, you’re going to need something to replace that,” Kang said. “People are still going to want some sort of speed; they’re still going to want some sort of convenience. E-Bikes are the way right now.”

Hayes wrapped up the segment, saying that the key is for planners to think ahead and assess what cities, and suburban areas, would need as they move into the future. And as the holiday approached, he said he would soon be heading out on his E-Bike to pick up his Thanksgiving pies. 

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BNM Writers

Kyle Rittenhouse, Ahmaud Arbery Trials Captivate the Nation

The trial of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery from Georgia aired for 27 hours on HLN across Nov. 15-18 in daytime, averaging 288,000 total viewers and matching the demo from Rittenhouse — 67,000 adults 25-54.

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Both trials of Kyle Rittenhouse and those charged with the killing of Ahmaud Arbery continued to captivate the nation during the week of Nov. 15.

The announcement of Rittenhouse being acquitted on all counts including manslaughter occurred on the afternoon of Friday, Nov. 19, from Kenosha, Wisconsin. From 1-2 p.m. Eastern (noon-1 p.m. Central), Fox News Channel dominated the news landscape in breaking news coverage with 3.16 million total viewers and 620,000 viewers within the key 25-54 demographic, according to Nielsen Media Research. CNN was a distant runner-up in cable news in each key figure; they posted 1.23 million total viewers and 318,000 adults 25-54. MSNBC was close behind CNN in total audience with 1.19 million viewers but with 173,000 adults 25-54, earned about half of CNN’s demo delivery.

The rankings of the cable news networks remained in the following hour (2-3 p.m. ET) with featured reactions to Rittenhouse’s acquittal including from his attorney who had addressed reporters. Fox News Channel rose to 3.58 million total viewers and 761,000 adults 25-54. CNN also grew but only slightly: 1.23 million total viewers and 332,000 adults 25-54 (CNN’s top 25-54 hour of Nov. 15-21). Meanwhile, MSNBC was approximately steady: from 2-2:35 p.m. ET: 1.15 million total viewers / 182,000 adults 25-54; for Rittenhouse’s attorney address from 2:35-2:58 p.m. ET: 1.015 million total viewers / 172,000 adults 25-54.

Fox News Channel continued to thrive on Monday, Nov. 22 when Rittenhouse was interviewed by Tucker Carlson for his “Tucker Carlson Tonight” that evening. Rittenhouse had relayed to the Fox News host: “I’m not a racist person. I support the BLM movement. I support peacefully demonstrating. I believe there needs to be change. I believe there’s a lot of prosecutorial misconduct, not just in my case but in other cases. It’s just amazing to see how much a prosecutor can take advantage of someone.” “Tucker Carlson Tonight” posted its most-watched edition since Jan. 6 (hours following the Capitol insurrection): 5.05 million total viewers, a 3.0 household rating and approximately 912,000 adults 25-54.

Back to Nov. 19, 239,000 viewers tuned in to CNN-owned HLN for the Rittenhouse verdict at 1-2 p.m. ET; 211,000 for the verdict’s aftermath in the 2-3 p.m. ET hour. Its eleven hours of Rittenhouse trial coverage on Nov. 15 and Nov. 19 averaged 295,000 viewers and 67,000 adults 25-54.

The trial of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery from Georgia aired for 27 hours on HLN across Nov. 15-18 in daytime, averaging 288,000 total viewers and matching the demo from Rittenhouse — 67,000 adults 25-54.

Compared to last week’s total day delivery, HLN increased 14 percent in total audience. The network drew the most weekly total viewers since Apr. 19-25 (244,000).

Cable news averages for November 15-21, 2021. Fox News Channel extended their streaks to 40 weeks as cable’s most-watched network in total viewers..

Total Day (November 15-21 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.784 million viewers; 326,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 0.746 million viewers; 87,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.549 million viewers; 118,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.241 million viewers; 71,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.148 million viewers; 21,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.144 million viewers; 35,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.107 million viewers; 13,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.099 million viewers; 21,000 adults 25-54

Prime Time (November 15-20 @ 8-11 p.m.; November 21 @ 7-11 p.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 2.945 million viewers; 518,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 1.217 million viewers; 141,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.719 million viewers; 157,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.225 million viewers; 71,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.165 million viewers; 25,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.156 million viewers; 43,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.115 million viewers; 23,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.051 million viewers; 9,000 adults 25-54

Top 10 most-watched cable news programs (and the top MSNBC and CNN programs with their respective associated ranks) in total viewers:

1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Fri. 11/19/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 4.323 million viewers

2. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 11/19/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 4.203 million viewers

3. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 11/15/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.960 million viewers

4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 11/16/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.927 million viewers

5. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 11/16/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.907 million viewers

6. Hannity (FOXNC, Fri. 11/19/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.788 million viewers

7. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 11/17/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.727 million viewers

8. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 11/18/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.672 million viewers

9. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 11/15/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.640 million viewers

10. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 11/17/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.630 million viewers

53. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Wed. 11/17/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.163 million viewers

128. CNN Newsroom “Rittenhouse Trial Verdict” (CNN, Fri. 11/19/2021 2:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.273 million viewers

Top 10 cable news programs (and the top CNN, MSNBC and HLN programs with their respective associated ranks) among adults 25-54:

1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Fri. 11/19/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.913 million adults 25-54

2. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 11/19/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.791 million adults 25-54

3. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 11/15/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.774 million adults 25-54

4. Special Report with Bret Baier (FOXNC, Mon. 11/15/2021 6:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.763 million adults 25-54

5. America Reports (FOXNC, Fri. 11/19/2021 2:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.761 million adults 25-54

6. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 11/16/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.752 million adults 25-54

7. Hannity (FOXNC, Fri. 11/19/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.724 million adults 25-54

8. The Story (FOXNC, Fri. 11/19/2021 3:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.700 million adults 25-54

9. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 11/17/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.681 million adults 25-54

10. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 11/15/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.668 million adults 25-54

69. CNN Newsroom “Rittenhouse Trial Verdict” (CNN, Fri. 11/19/2021 2:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.332 million adults 25-54

86. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Wed. 11/17/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.281 million adults 25-54

178. Forensic Files “Order Up” (HLN, late Tue. 11/16/2021 2:30 AM, 30 min.) 0.168 million adults 25-54

Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research

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