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NBC Doubles Down: Michele Tafoya Absences Are Not Punishment

“Any other speculation about her time off is blatantly false.”

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This is expected to be NFL sideline reporter Michele Tafoya’s final season in that role for Sunday Night Football games on NBC, but the network has not definitively said whether or not that was the case.

Tafoya has been absent from a few of the primetime telecasts recently. While some say she’s being punished for comments she made about former quarterback Colin Kaepernick on the Nov. 3 edition of ABC’s The View, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports an NBC spokesperson told them the absences were arranged before the season started.

“As we have done repeatedly, we’re again giving our announcers bye weeks in 2021, and we plan to do it well into the future,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying to the Inquirer. “Michele’s off weeks — which were determined prior to the season — were all in cold weather cities after Thanksgiving, and her final weekend off this season comes on Jan. 2 in Green Bay. Any other speculation about her time off is blatantly false.”

Tafoya made it clear in a discussion with the ABC talk show co-hosts that Kaepernick was no longer in the NFL because he no longer possessed the talent to be on a roster. She said Kaepernick has actually benefitted greatly since leaving the league, as evidenced by his Netflix series and Nike endorsement deal. She added that a planned open tryout in 2019 in front of NFL scouts ended up being moved by him and his entourage last-minute, and fewer scouts actually got to see the former San Francisco 49er work out. So that hindered his chances to get back to playing football also.

The counterpoint was made that Kaepernick was being made to sign an agreement he didn’t want to sign prior to the tryout, and that’s why it got moved. Tafoya then responded that ultimately the main reason he’s no longer being considered for quarterback jobs is not due to his stances on police, his kneeling protest during the National Anthem, or that the NFL as a whole is racist.

“I just want to give the benefit of the doubt to some people that there are two sides to this story,” she said. “I think all of us can agree that there is a lot to this story we still don’t know.”

That elicited groans from the live studio audience, to which Tafoya encouraged them to “Bring it on.”

Tafoya is not afraid to let her political views be known, and in the era of cancel culture, it makes sense that some would think that her thoughts, which many on one side of the political aisle would find controversial, being shared would result in some kind of reprimand by NBC in the form of missed time from game coverage.

Seems like Tafoya’s future at NBC will become official in due time. The network will have coverage of the Super Bowl this season, and Tafoya is expected to be a part of the broadcast team. According to Andrew Marchand, that will be the end of her time on NFL sidelines.

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Peter King: ‘Tom Brady Needs To Study Cris Collinsworth’

“He’ll know that to be good, he has to get out of his comfort zone of all niceties and tell it like it is.”

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Peter King dedicated a not-insignificant portion of his “Football Morning in America” column this week to advice for Tom Brady. FOX announced last week that the Buccaneers’ quarterback will become the network’s lead NFL analyst upon his retirement.

Brady’s decision and his reported salary have been the source of much speculation and prediction amongst his soon-to-be colleagues.

King is optimistic that Tom Brady will be entertaining and informative when he makes his FOX debut. He did offer the GOAT a little bit of advice about what he should be doing in the months leading up to calling it quits on his playing days and starting his new career.

“I think what I’d do if I were Brady is study Cris Collinsworth—and honest to goodness, I don’t say that because I work for NBC,” he wrote. “I say it because Collinsworth knows how to talk X’s-and-O’s conversationally, he’s an easy listen, and he can criticize when the time comes.”

Interestingly, last week, Collinsworth says he hears from most former players that are getting ready to make the jump to broadcasting. He was surprised he never heard from Tom Brady before FOX announced their deal.

King had two other suggestions. The first was that Brady watch multiple games from start to finish so that he can hear what the give-and-take between a broadcaster and analyst sounds like. The other is that he has to commit to being interesting and not censoring himself. King has faith that Brady will be able to do that.

“He’ll know that to be good, he has to get out of his comfort zone of all niceties and tell it like it is. On that LeBron James show last year, Brady said, ‘Ninety percent of what I say is not what I’m thinking. There’s a part of me that doesn’t like conflict, so in the end I always just try to play it super-flat.’ That has to end once he’s on TV if he wants to be any good.”

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Nick Wright Critical Of ABC Crew As Giannis Antetokounmpo Struggles In Game 7

“He reminded his followers on Twitter that the two-time MVP has put together some amazing performances in this series.”

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Giannis Antetokounmpo started hot in Game 7 on Sunday. By the time the game ended though, the Boston Celtics were on their way to Miami for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals and the defending champions were headed back to Milwaukee.

The Celtics’ defense gave the Milwaukee Bucks fits in the second half. The ABC broadcast put a special spotlight on Antetokounmpo, who got multiple drives to the basket that he could not finish.

“The best has got to show up when the best is needed, and Giannis has been disappointing,” said Mark Jackson over a package of highlights of Giannis missing shots. “As great of a player as he is, given credit to the Celtics’ defense, but he has struggled offensively time and time again.”

Nick Wright of FS1 noticed and he didn’t appreciate it. He reminded his followers on Twitter that the two-time MVP has put together some amazing performances in this series.

Mike Been, Mark Jackson, and Jeff Van Gundy were not particularly hard on Giannis. The trio made the typical comments we hear when things aren’t going a great player’s way.

Wright did not harp on the issue beyond the single tweet. The outcome was not in doubt as the clock winded down. He gave credit to the Celtics rather than tweet about the Bucks or Giannis.

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Stephanie McMahon: WWE Is A Better Advertising Investment Than Sports

“We can script the buzzer-beater moments, we can script the Hail Marys.”

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Everyone knows that professional wrestling is scripted. The storylines, the outcomes of matches, all of it is predetermined. But in the eyes of WWE, that’s what makes their product so different, and better than traditional sports.

WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon told Deadline that when it comes to pitching advertisers, sports entertainment allows room for a range of different approaches to make something work.

“We can script the buzzer-beater moments, we can script the Hail Marys,” she said. “We have a leg up on sports. … You may object to what we do, but you’re never going to be bored.”

McMahon added that WWE has a much easier process in dealing with sponsors. Everything is handled in-house.

“We own all of the IP,” she said. “When brands deal with us, they just deal with us. We create something together.”

WWE is coming off a positive Q1 earnings report, which had the company up 27% in total revenue. Its two weekly primetime shows, Monday Night RAW and Friday Night SmackDown, continue to do well in ratings, and all special and pay-per-view events, in addition to its streaming platform WWE Network, are all housed on Peacock.

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