Stephen A. Smith may be trying to turn himself down a bit since being hospitalized for COVID during the New Year’s holiday. But as pointed out by the New York Post‘s Ryan Glasspiegel, it sure didn’t look that way on Wednesday’s First Take while arguing about Kyrie Irving with guest co-host Jay Williams.
First Take viewers and sports media observers already know how Smith feels about Irving, who’s refused to take the COVID-19 vaccine and only played in four games for the Brooklyn Nets this season due to health and safety protocols throughout the league.
When Smith announced on-air in December that he tested positive for COVID and was experiencing symptoms, he ended the segment by criticizing the Nets for the “disgraceful move” of allowing Irving to rejoin the team despite only being able to play in road games. (He’s prohibited from playing in Brooklyn due to New York state vaccine mandates.)
On Wednesday, Smith repeated that assertion, adding that it would be bad for basketball if the Nets won the NBA championship with Irving only playing away from Brooklyn’s Barclay Center. And if it wasn’t certain how Smith feels, check out the look on his face at the 1:14 mark of the video below when Williams begins to defend the Nets.
With Kevin Durant out four to six weeks with a sprained knee, the Nets will likely slide down the Eastern Conference standings and possibly lose home-court advantage in the opening rounds of the NBA Playoffs. But with Irving allowed to play on the road, Williams argued that the Nets might enjoy an advantage in opposing arenas. Smith, to put it mildly, disagreed.
“Kyrie Irving being available for just road games and him playing for the Brooklyn Nets under those conditions,” said Smith, “you’re all in or you’re all out, I believe that if the Brooklyn Nets win the championship, it would be bad for basketball.”
Williams, who removed his jacket as he got more worked up, said Smith is attacking Irving’s character and created a narrative against the guard, who has every right not to take the vaccine if he so chooses.
The two probably could’ve gone on longer, but moderator Molly Qerim closed the segment because Williams had a radio appearance scheduled. Williams then amusingly accused Smith of planning a debate that he knew would be cut off. Smith responded by calling Williams “an apologist” for Irving.
This got heated! And they’ll shout it out over this topic again with fewer than 40 games remaining in the Nets’ season.
Poll Data Shows Tepid Response To Tom Brady Joining FOX
“A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.”
FOX Sports reportedly signed Tom Brady to a 10-year deal worth $375 million to make the seven-time Super Bowl champion the new lead analyst for its top NFL broadcast once his playing career is over.
A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.
The poll said 2 in 5 NFL fans have a better opinion of FOX Sports following the deal, with 41% of NFL fans being at least somewhat more likely to watch a game with Brady as an analyst.
Data shows one-third of NFL fans think the deal Brady reportedly agreed to is worth about the same as its reported value.
That reaction could probably be described as “tepid”. That may be exactly what FOX expects and maybe all it wants.
Last week, Domonique Foxworth of ESPN suggested that the paycheck is less about what the network thinks Tom Brady means to viewers and more about showing the NFL that the network values its product.
FOX Not Interested In Joining Streaming Sports Wars
“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take?”
The CEO of FOX doesn’t plan on forking over billions of dollars to be people’s last choice for paid streaming services.
Lachlan Murdoch said at a time when more than 80% of American homes already have some kind of paid streaming service, it’s not worthwhile to jump on that train.
Amazon, Netflix and Disney+ typically account for the average streaming presence in a household.
“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take,” Murdoch said at a tech conference earlier this year. “And so the billions of dollars that’s being spent by multiple aspirants is all for that last position. And so we are extraordinarily — I want to say that — we’re happy to be sort of sitting on the sidelines.”
Murdoch told Benjamin Swinburne that when it comes to the NFL, FOX’s media rights are the same as CBS, NBC and ESPN. The main focus for the company remains on keeping games on TV.
“We don’t believe it helps us to put those rights under a streaming service or free on over-the-air. We think it’s very important that those rights remain exclusive to the broadcast environment,” Murdoch said.
FOX does stream games through its app, but it is only the games it is also carrying on its broadcast network or FS1.
NBA Draft To Get Simulcast From ESPN & ABC
“This follows the simulcast model ESPN and ABC have employed for several years with the NFL Draft.”
ESPN is set for the 2022 NBA Draft coming up on June 23 at 8 p.m. from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The network announced Wednesday the crews that will handle coverage on both ESPN and ABC.
ABC will broadcast the first round in primetime. Kevin Negandhi will host and will be joined by Stephen A. Smith, Chiney Ogwumike and Jalen Rose. Monica McNutt will be reporting and interviewing draftees.
This follows the simulcast model ESPN and ABC have employed for several years with the NFL Draft.
Malika Andrews will host both rounds for ESPN. Jay Bilas, Kendrick Perkins and Adrian Wojnarowski will share the set. Analysts Bobby Marks and Mike Schmitz will contribute.
“We’re thrilled that Malika Andrews will host this year’s ESPN presentation as she brings her well-documented, widespread skillset to our main set,” said David Roberts, head of NBA and Studio Production for ESPN. “The event will showcase the scope and depth of our NBA and college basketball talent roster with accomplished journalists and high-profile personalities across ESPN, ABC and ESPN Radio.”
ESPN will air a pre-draft red carpet show hosted by Cassidy Hubbarth from 5-6 p.m. Perkins and Richard Jefferson will also make appearances.