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Stephen A. Smith ‘Appalled’ By Unvaccinated NFL Players

The commentator made his feelings known on Friday’s episode of “First Take.”

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Courtesy: ESPN

Kirk Cousins made headlines this week when he had to miss four practices as a close contact to a COVID-19 positive. He wouldn’t have had to miss that much time had he been vaccinated beforehand. Stephen A. Smith is tired of the excuses coming from the roughly 10% of NFL players who haven’t received the vaccine.

“I’m appalled by what Kirk Cousins just said,” Smith spouted off during Friday’s episode of First Take. “I’m appalled by the fact that he’s in a position that he’s in, and he would utter such ridiculousness.”

Cousins vowed to follow the strict protocols but still won’t get vaccinated. He even suggested building a plexiglass enclosure for himself in meeting rooms.

“I’m a proponent of the NFL…mandating that you be vaccinated, or you can’t be in the league. You can’t play,” Smith suggested to co-host Max Kellerman, after noting it needed to be collectively bargained. “The NFL is a private industry,” Smith added. “You don’t have to play. You can go home!”

For context around the job the NFL has done with vaccinating their workforce keep in mind that no country on earth currently has a vaccine rate over 90%.

“More than 99% of our population that is being hospitalized as we speak are among the unvaccinated.” Smith continued. “We have certain segments of this world’s population starving for a vaccine that we have at our disposal. Free! Right here!”

According to Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post, the Vikings have the lowest vaccination rate in the league, with 64.5% fully vaccinated as of Aug. 3.

“It’s perfectly within my right,” Smith concluded. “Particularly as an employer in the private sector to sit up there and say, ‘you don’t need to be a part of this.’ Because if Kirk Cousins somehow were to get (Covid), he ain’t gonna contaminate some players? This is ridiculous!” 

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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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Laura Rutledge Celebrates Chemistry Of NFL Live

“It is truly the absolute joy of my life to get their opinions and to sit with them every single day and hear what they have to say.”

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Laura Rutledge is very happy with where NFL Live is as the current lineup gets set to enter its third season together. She told The Big Lead that there is genuine chemistry between herself, Marcus Spears, Mina Kimes, and Dan Orlovsky and that is why she doesn’t feel the need to emulate any of sports television’s many debate shows.

“You don’t want to see people yelling at each other all the time and I’m really proud of the chemistry that we have struck and just letting that breathe on air and having so much fun. It is truly the absolute joy of my life to get their opinions and to sit with them every single day and hear what they have to say.”

The 2022 NFL season will have a very different feel for ESPN. The addition of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman for Monday Night Football adds new expectations to the network.

Rutledge said that the attention on the network means that she and her colleagues have to raise their respective games, but that shouldn’t be hard. There is always material to work with in this league.

“We’ve seen this offseason, we saw the previous offseason, how the NFL news cycle never stops. It’s funny because the news cycle becomes such a big piece of the story, but we’re like, we can’t wait for the games,” she said.

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