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Adam Silver Upsets NBA Media Over Remarks On Locker Room Access

“It’s a bit of an anachronism to have reporters in the actual room where players are dressing.”

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver confirmed the worst fears of credentialed media as COVID-19 restrictions and regulations begin to relax throughout the country.

Speaking to reporters during NBA All-Star Weekend (via Larry Brown Sports), Silver was asked if the league might begin to lift COVID restrictions on media access to locker rooms and in-person interviews during team practices and shootarounds. Reporters haven’t been allowed into locker rooms during the pandemic and Silver said that’s likely to continue.

“I think creating a bit of distance may make more sense for the foreseeable future,” said Silver. “… I also think it’s a bit of an anachronism to have reporters in the actual room where players are dressing.”

“I’m not sure if we were designing a system from scratch today,” he added, “we would say come stand next to the players at their lockers as they’re dressing, and that’s the appropriate forum to interview them.”

As you might expect, Silver’s answer didn’t go over well with veteran reporters who have covered the league for years and value the types of one-on-one conversations, the observations of team culture that locker room access allows.

Others pointed out the hypocrisy of citing health and safety concerns in restricting media access when the NBA has relaxed its testing requirements and COVID protocols.

Players have now become accustomed to reporters not being in the locker room, and it’s understandable that they don’t want that access restored. Many athletes feel they can get their message out and tell their stories through their own social media accounts or athlete-friendly platforms like The Players’ Tribune and UNINTERRUPTED. Silver is surely speaking on behalf of those who have expressed those exact sentiments.

Some fans might agree that reporters don’t need to interview players in locker rooms, that they can ask questions during Zoom or group press conferences. But the dynamic is different. And thorough reporting suffers because of it. Players may not be willing to answer questions the same way and there’s no opportunity for reporters to build trust, something that can be crucial for in-depth coverage and substantive stories.

When COVID restrictions were put in place, the fear among media was that teams, leagues, and conferences would continue barring reporters from locker rooms and practices even after reporters were vaccinated, outbreaks were minimized, and many businesses began opening up again. Silver’s statements show that reporters were correct in their skepticism.

Sports TV News

Al Michaels: Condensed Prep Time For Thursday Night Football ‘A Downside’

“It’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us.”

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There were bound to be unexpected hiccups and unintended consequences as Al Michaels moved to Thursday Night Football with Amazon Prime Video.

He told The Boston Globe Thursday that one of the downsides of the week’s schedule is less prep time with the teams playing in the game.

“When we go to see the teams, it’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us,” Michaels said. “And all the time I’ve been doing this, I’ve built some great relationships with coaches and players and GMs and owners and you name it, and I don’t get that much time to spend with them anymore. That’s a downside part of it for me. Some of the best stories you get come from those relationships.”

Michaels has raised eyebrows this season while not being shy about his disdain for some poor matchups early in the schedule. However, he now understands that there are quality games as the season approaches its close.

“The schedule was a little leaky with the Carolina-Atlanta game and a couple of other games that we’ve had, but now we’re positioned for a nice run down the stretch,” said Michaels.

The 78-year-old was also asked how he remains energetic and passionate for the job he’s held for so long.

The games are exciting. I love sports. You don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s no script. And unscripted television is the greatest.”

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Sports TV News

Jimmy Pitaro: Reaching Younger Audience A Priority for ESPN

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience. As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

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Many in the media industry have voice concern that millennials and Gen Z aren’t consuming traditional media outlets like previous generations. ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said it’s a priority for the network.

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience,” Pitaro said, quoted by Morning Consult sports business reporter Mark J. Burns. “As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

Pitaro made the comments at Sports Business Journal’s Media Innovators conference Wednesday. It is a continuation of comments he has made in recent years.

In 2018, Pitaro said at ESPN’s upfront “I think we are doing a fantastic job serving the sports fanatic,” said Pitaro. “What about the casual sports customer? Are we doing all we can to serve him or her?”.

In 2019, Pitaro said it was “all hands on deck” to reach a younger audience and women. “We have to be open and go to where our customers are,” he said in regards to reaching younger viewers on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Earlier this year, Pitaro added that ESPN won’t be leaving linear television anytime soon.

“What I will tell you is that as I sit here right now, that business is still incredible,” Pitaro said. “We serve the sports fan anyway and at any time. I know there are a lot of people that still want ESPN in that traditional ecosystem.”

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Sports TV News

Don Mattingly Joining Blue Jays Staff After YES Network Courtship

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

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The New York Yankees regional sports network can take Don Mattingly off its talent wish list. Mattingly was announced Wednesday as a bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays starting in 2023.

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

But Mattingly told Andrew Marchand of The New York Post this week that he had another opportunity in the works but wouldn’t elaborate.

YES also has been considering luring Yankees legend and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter into broadcasting. But no formal talks have taken place.

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