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Emily Kaplan is On the Clock During the NHL Season

“There’s only two things in the world that you can control: How hard you work; and how you treat other people.”

Derek Futterman

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Courtesy: ESPN Images

Drifting through the gelid, frosted roads of Regina, Saskatchewan on a luminous winter day in the comfort of his Ford pickup truck, Connor Bedard is en route to the rink. He is the consensus No. 1 prospect in professional hockey drawing comparisons to Wayne Gretzky and is preparing to lace up his skates in the National Hockey League next season. ESPN reporter Emily Kaplan was in the backseat. The effort it took to get into that car started last summer. 

Kaplan connected with the young phenom’s agent and gradually engendered a professional relationship. She was told that Bedard, who is 17, would not agree to many media requests during the season, but Kaplan knew her end goal: to land a sit-down interview.

For one thing, Kaplan is indefatigable in her quest to augment her extensive skill set and enhance The Walt Disney Company’s fourth stint in producing national broadcasts of NHL games. As the rinkside reporter for the NHL on ESPN, she logs several miles traveling around the arena for each contest in order to conduct interviews and divulge critical information. 

She garners a wide array of responsibilities on a typical game day. She appears across ESPN programming, writes extended columns and feature stories and communicates with sources to break news, genuinely rendering her among the network’s most versatile talents.

When Kaplan ultimately landed Bedard for an interview in March, she and her colleagues made sure to produce a variety of different content. In addition to a sit-down interview, Kaplan spent time with Bedard in his truck and at the rink, all of which was captured on video. She then worked with one of the network’s video editors to write and ultimately voice a script for a 10-minute visual feature and also penned a 2500-word article detailing the experience.

“I’m always thinking of different opportunities because we are a multimedia company,” Kaplan said. “How can we take one piece of access or the opportunities that I get and share that across all of our audience and all of our platforms?”

When she is reporting in prime time, Kaplan often finds herself up against the clock, trying to convey the necessary information to viewers interspersed throughout the game action. When she is on the road, she returns to the hotel or sometimes catches a flight, relaxing and reflecting on her performance with purpose. Usually, there is little time for rest before the process begins all over again, especially during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“I do understand that this is a grind of a time,” Kaplan said. “I’m probably not going to get the doctor’s recommended sleep every night. Planes are never conducive for sleep or hydration, and I just kind of have to live with it and accept it.”

Emily Kaplan in studio for ESPN's hockey coverage.
Courtesy ESPN Images

As the sun rose in Montclair, NJ. each morning, Emily Kaplan awoke and grabbed the morning newspaper to diligently read the sports section. Pouring over columns, statistics, standings and a litany of other information. She paired what she retained with observations gathered from watching games with her family. Her ultimate goal was to become a sportswriter. It was why she chose to attend Penn State University specifically because it was the only institution with a dedicated sports journalism major.

“My first week on campus, I was already asking people how I could try out for the school paper,” Kaplan said. “I wrote for the sports section of The Daily Collegian, which was our daily newspaper. I did that for two years, [and I] also dabbled as a columnist for a bit.”

Her journalism career, however, began long before her first week on campus, as she wrote columns for The Montclair Times. One of the local newspaper readers happened to be Sports Illustrated writer Peter King – who was also a friend of Kaplan’s father. He quickly took notice of her and reached out to offer words of encouragement. When she was in high school, King arranged for Kaplan to meet with a player and manager following an independent league baseball game. She ended up writing an error-free story on a deadline, a feat that impressed King and kept her on his radar.

Kaplan was at Penn State University during the time when allegations of child sex abuse by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky began to come to light. Being a young journalist, she covered the team for The Philadelphia Inquirer as its on-campus correspondent and also provided other professional outlets an invaluable voice. From there, she joined the Associated Press where she worked as a stringer and continued to gain real-world experience and build her network. Throughout her years in college, she kept in touch with King and sometimes performed a variety of “odd jobs,” including transcribing interviews and researching for stories.

“He was just such a great sounding board for me as I navigated how to break into this field,” Kaplan said of King. “When he graduated, he had started his website on Sports Illustrated – the MMQB – and gave me some really good opportunities to write there.”

She wrote a variety of stories for the Sports Illustrated NFL coverage. Starting fresh off an internship at The Boston Globe, Kaplan had a deft knowledge of sports reporting at the local level and knew how to perform investigative journalism. From spending 24 hours with Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes to speaking with FOX reporter Erin Andrews about her civil trial and cervical cancer diagnosis; to chronicling the journey of Danny Watkins from football player to firefighter, Kaplan compiled a vast portfolio of penetrating, shrewd storytelling.

One story in particular she considers herself proud of involved former Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel. After a slew of events transpired involving the first-round draft pick that ultimately led him to be cut by the Browns, King tasked Kaplan to travel to Kernville, Texas to speak with people in his life. He wanted her to find a different, untold angle and she spent a week in the area to do so. 

Stationed in Austin, Texas, Kaplan fastidiously accumulated substantive details about Manziel, who was a perplexing and captivating public figure. In the end, she published a comprehensive article on the Heisman winner’s situation and what others had to say about him, drawing national intrigue and uncovering new knowledge.

“There’s only two things in the world that you can control: How hard you work; and how you treat other people,” Kaplan said. “I made sure that my work ethic was my number one defining characteristic. I’d always make the extra calls. I’d always try to find different angles or different people to talk to and make sure I got as much information as possible.”

Both of those factors assisted her in landing a job with ESPN in 2017 as one of two NHL beat reporters, but she joined the “Worldwide Leader” knowing it did not hold the league’s media rights. The possibility intrigued her because of a nascent ardor for hockey and the chance it provided to establish herself as a beat reporter. As she became more comfortable and settled into the role, ESPN and the NHL agreed to a seven-year media rights contract – and everything changed.

From the beginning, her goal was to get close to the action. When ESPN was trying to determine its broadcasters, reporters and contributors who would appear on the games, Kaplan’s hand shot up to ask for a chance at sideline reporting. Although she had reservations about people not getting to know her nor being able to tell a nuanced story, she bet on herself.

Twenty seconds on the clock. That is often all the time Kaplan has to present information or divulge a story to broadcast viewers, and being succinct in storytelling after writing protracted stories with extensive research and meticulous edits was an initial challenge. 

If she’s at a game, Kaplan is usually on the run. She does standup reports, interviews players in the tunnel and coaches on the bench and attends press conferences. The interviews with the coaches are particularly distinctive since they take place during a media timeout in the midst of the game.

“I have such a limited amount of time because we really are showing that clip as an entry point out of a TV break back into game action,” Kaplan said. “I think most times we get between 30 and 60 seconds, and I just want to make sure I’m as concise as possible in my questions and as direct as possible to get the most information out of them to support the broadcast.”

After the three stars of the game are announced, Kaplan is oftentimes interviewing a player from the winning team, usually doing so on the bench. It is at this time when her questions are designed to extrapolate facets of the player’s personality. Once the interview concludes, she makes it a point to thank players in their native language – a practice whose origin she cannot identify, but something she feels is essential in fostering professional relationships.

“I’m cognizant when I talk to guys where English is their second language of just how big of an ask that is [to put] themselves out there in something they’re not necessarily fully comfortable with in a lot of situations and trying their hardest,” Kaplan said. “My goal [has] always just been to humanize the game… It’s not very hard for me just to look up how to say, ‘Thank you,’ in the six or seven languages that NHL players typically speak.”

Emily Kaplan interviews Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson after a game.
Courtesy ESPN Images

There are times, however, when Kaplan feels she is not always treated like a peer by the men around her. Men have the opportunity to interact in different ways, such as going to have drinks with sources at a bar. Rumors would flow abound if a woman followed suit. It causes her to feel “othered” and can make her job as a reporter more difficult than it genuinely has to be.

“The athletes I feel like sometimes are a little too cautious around me or don’t really know what to make of me,” Kaplan said. “Those are the areas where being a woman, I do find to be a little challenging because I’m just trying to say, ‘Hey look, I’m just a human being. I’m normal. This is a job I’m trying to do and we can completely coexist and help each other out,’ but sometimes it’s not as natural as it would be just for two guys to have that social agreement.”

Through it all, she has received immense support and assistance from her broadcast colleagues, Sean McDonough and Ray Ferraro. Having them by her side is something she considers a lucky break.

“Sean is just such a consummate professional,” Kaplan said. “He does such a fantastic job just documenting the game in a way that feels really significant and gives it a big-game feel. He’s constantly empowering me as well. I know he’s had so much experience across so many sports covering so many big events.”

With Ferraro in particular, Kaplan has the ability to interact with him during intermissions since he is situated between the benches for most games. It is an atypical setup for a hockey broadcast, but one that works in Kaplan’s favor since it gives her a chance to discuss the game, ideas for questions and evaluate the broadcast piecemeal.

“I can vent to him. He can vent to me,” Kaplan said. “It’s a really great relationship in that way.”

Transitioning into the limelight and becoming a public figure was a stark change from writing, and with it brought heightened tangible criticism regarding her performance. There were moments during the first year where it truly bothered her. As a journalist, Kaplan asked herself “Why?” Through self-reflection and experience, she found the answer and has consequently diminished the people from whom she takes feedback. 

“While I’m there to serve the fans, I’m not there to please everyone,” Kaplan said. “I understand that people have different opinions of how I should do my job, but I’m only going to do the job the way I see fit.”

Even so, being able to define what encompasses a successful day of reporting is nearly impossible to definitively quantify, and one of the reasons she frequently seeks feedback. There are points throughout the year where Kaplan meets with executives about her performance and how she can improve, but through it all makes sure she remains objective and committed to reporting the facts.

“ESPN is a news-gathering organization, and we have a news desk that, to me, [is] sacred,” Kaplan said. “What they say is true because what we present to the fans is really important. Because I have a journalistic background, I’m constantly double-checking [and] making sure I feel super sound about my information.”

Kaplan is interested in shedding the stopwatch in the future, potentially considering chances to be an analyst or proffer her opinions on hockey. For now though, her next challenge will be more effectively demonstrating her personality as the clock ticks onward. She fears that some of her reports come off as “robotic,” and recognizes her sarcasm, sense of humor and inclination to engage in lighthearted banter.

“In the same way that I’m trying to bring out the characters of the game and really humanize them and create connectivity for the viewers to the players, I think that’s also important on the broadcast side as well,” Kaplan said. “As I get more comfortable in this, I think I’m starting to learn where to pick my spots [and] where to show some more personality, but it’s something I’m absolutely working on.”

The Stanley Cup Playoffs last for almost two months, and Kaplan is nearing the end of her bustling broadcast season. Over the course of a year, she travels to a majority of the NHL arenas, taking her across the United States and Canada, and also attends morning skates, practices and other pertinent team events. She considers herself fortunate to be in a position that keeps her close to the ice, but understands that working in sports media can, at times, be utterly exhausting.

Because of this, it is imperative Kaplan takes time away from the rink each day to recharge and ensure she is in the right headspace and has the bandwidth to properly do her job. When she arrives though, Kaplan is alert and ready for the chance to create moments that penetrate the bounds of time. Here, the stopwatch is shattered.

Emily Kaplan interviews Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon after the team's 2022 Stanley Cup victory.
Courtesy ESPN Images

“Being on the ice when the Avalanche are passing around the Stanley Cup and being the first person to interview the captain and the star players and the GM [and] the coach of that team – that’s an opportunity that I’ll never take lightly.”

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Meet The Bettors: Jeremy Stein, SportsGrid

“You know, when we first started SportsGrid, a lot of the opportunity that we’ve seen in the past year, are opportunities that we never would have dreamed about.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Meet the Bettors - Jeremy Stein

Remember when America was debating whether or not daily fantasy sports was a form of gambling? There was never much of a question for Jeremy Stein. He knew it was gambling, because he was playing all the time.

It’s hard to say whether or not he knew that his employer, Metamorphic Ventures, investing in one of these companies would lead him down a new career path. All he knew is that there was something to this business.

Stein was more than just kind of successful in the daily fantasy world. He became the first person to ever win a million-dollar prize twice in the same calendar year back in 2016. But that was in the early days. Soon, the DFS sites would become more popular, and the games would get a lot harder. 

Like many sharp players during that time, Stein leaned into data to set his lineups. It was something that he and his partner Lee Maione quickly recognized as an opportunity. If you had strong data and took it to a host that was entertaining, it would create a product every sports fan in the country might value.

And that is how SportsGrid was born.

Today, Stein is the company’s CEO. In our conversation, presented by Point to Point Marketing, we touch on the opportunities embracing FAST TV has created for the brand, what opportunities will arise from the growth of women’s sports, and so much more.

Demetri Ravanos: What is the hole that would exist in the market if SportsGrid went away tomorrow? What segment of bettors do you look at and say, “no one can serve them like we do”?

Jeremy Stein: That’s a really interesting question because, we had a few tailwinds at SportsGrid. The first was sports gambling, where the government flipped the switch and said, “go grow in ways that you never thought were imaginable,” right?           

The second tailwind that we have is connected TV. SportsGrid is on 95% of all connected TVs. We have over thirty different distribution partners throughout the United States. So, we have very considerable scale within our category, and what we kind of discovered very early on on TV is the bulk of content on connected TVs is playback. If you look at FAST channels, there’s probably 2000 or more of them at this point, a lot of them are single IP channels, meaning there’s been a very successful sitcom and that IP owner just has a 24/7 channel of that IP going.          

The real niche that we got early on is that we are the only live sports network on a lot of these platforms. So, while we do cater to gambling enthusiasts, if you will, we really have a viewership body that encompasses all sports fans. That’s part of how we have evolved over time, because we were able to pick up on that observation that our opportunity is just a little bit bigger than focusing on, you know, I’m not going to call it a narrow vertical, but sports betting in many respects is a little bit narrow. 

DR: It’s a niche vertical. I think all sports talk kind of is in that way. I was going to ask you about the appeal of FAST TV, but it seems like you laid it out perfectly there. So instead, let’s talk about the technology and future opportunities. I wonder if you look at what Roku has just done with Major League Baseball and think that opens up possibilities for SportsGrid that maybe you hadn’t considered before. 

JS: The simple answer to that is yes. You know, when we first started SportsGrid, a lot of the opportunity that we’ve seen in the past year, are opportunities that we never would have dreamed about. We have looked at live rights. We have looked at tier one live rights in the past year.           

It just goes back to the trend. Last year was the first year where homes that do not subscribe to cable outnumbered those that do. You know, now we don’t just have a term called cord cutters. We also have a term that’s called cord-nevers. I think that it is just the natural evolution of where the leagues are going to go.           

I mean, we just saw Netflix do a deal with the NFL. While I understand that that is not FAST. I do think that over time and, you know, this could be a decade in the future, but I do think that you will see, a lot more sports pop up on these platforms. 

DR: Yeah, I could totally see that, myself. What did Scott Ferrall bring to SportsGrid when he came in? Certainly name recognition, but what else, in a business sense, did he bring? 

JS: Scott is great and his show right now is sponsored by Bet MGM, and Bet MGM is a very important commercial partner for SportsGrid. Both sides are very happy with the way that that relationship is blossoming. So he’s very important in that respect.           

You know, SportsGrid is not just 18 hours of live video content on a daily basis. We’re 21 hours of live original audio. We have channel 159 on Sirius XM. And of course, Scott is by far and away our biggest talent in the audio category. He does have the Sirius XM audience. You know, he came from Howard Stern way back in the day. So, he’s a pretty dynamic talent, if you will, for SportsGrid. We’ve been very happy to leverage him in various ways. 

DR: Yeah. I sort of have a two-part question here, because doing what I do, when I go to SportsGrid.com, one of the first landing spots for me is industry news. How much do you think the average user of SportsGrid is interested in things like when states go legal, something like the pushback going on in Florida right now, and will that get to the Supreme Court from a media standpoint?           

I tell sports radio hosts all the time that people care far less about us than we think they do. What about in the gambling world? 

JS: News is a very big category, and obviously it’s broad, right? It’s not just general sports news. It is what is happening in the gambling industry. We are fortunate enough to have a lot of data on every show that we produce, and we have seen a lot of positive momentum uncovering specific industry news. So, a lot of what you actually see, on the web, for example, we believe that is largely a gap in the market based on our viewership.           

One thing you’re going to start to see on SportsGrid, you know, more and more is we launched a college transfer portal show. There is no major media outlet on broadcast television that is doing a dedicated show, relating specifically to the college transfer portal. It makes college football and college basketball year-round sports. We believe that that’s a big gap in the market. So, you’ll also see a lot of that content flowing through our website too, and not just on our website, but also a lot of our syndication partners like MSN.           

Everything we do here has a data driven focus. So if you’re seeing a lot of a specific vertical, there’s a reason for it. It’s largely because that’s what our viewers demand. 

DR: Interesting. So, from the standpoint of what is going on in the gambling industry, the idea of the Supreme Court taking up a case related to Florida is interesting because it is such a complicated issue there, as it involves the Indian Gaming Act. Do you think we’re going to see that go in front of the Supreme Court? 

JS: Look, I’m certainly not in a position to comment on a legal matter that, you know, I’m not really close to it, to be perfectly honest with you. But Florida is a very populous state, and that is, you know, another reason, to your point, why there is so much interest in it, right?           

I think it does speak to the fact that there is a real demand for sports wagering within the state of Florida. But look, the complexities and nuances behind all of the lobbying and a lot of the legal cases that are happening there are certainly beyond our scope. 

DR: Yeah. I was reading an article in the Miami Herald earlier this week that was talking about the effect Lionel Messi has had in betting markets around the world, because even if MLS isn’t on a country’s soccer radar, he certainly is. Can you think of any other athlete that has had that sort of effect on bettors or on his league, where he can get bettors to pay attention to something they usually would not? 

JS: I think the examples of that are probably few and far between. You know, soccer is one of the true international sports, and with that comes a very large betting market. I think it is certainly kind of unique in that sense, right? You’re not going to see that with an NBA player moving into the Chinese basketball league. You might see the media attention that kind of happens there. It’s certainly not going to drive the amount of betting handle that we have seen in soccer. 

DR: What about betting as the popularity of women’s sports and female athletes have increased? What has been the demand for content from you guys, whether it’s Caitlin Clark’s WNBA debut, the women’s NCAA tournament, or whatever it might be? 

JS: There’s a ton of demand. We’ve always had an interest in women’s sports. We’ve produced, in the past, shows for the WNBA. And I think that that demand is only going to continue to grow. Women’s sports, from an economic standpoint, is a huge area of growth. Alongside of that comes all of the viewership. So, we’re very excited, about women’s sports. You’ll absolutely see a lot more coverage from SportsGrid going forward. 

DR: So I want to wrap here just sort of with a follow up to that, because the way you guys think about creating content with providing that data to talented people that can command attention, as women’s sports grow in popularity, and it then becomes more and more of a part of what you do, do you foresee the people you have now, because they have the talent, being able to intelligently cover it or would you  have to go out and hire people more versed in and live in that world? 

JS: It’s a little bit of both. You know, you always want to find a talent that resonates with the audience. We’re pretty confident that we have a few of those in our stable. But of course, we will always look to bring in fresh faces. Yeah, it’s a really dynamic market, and it’s something that we are incredibly excited about. 

To learn more about Point-To-Point Marketing’s Podcast and Broadcast Audience Development Marketing strategies, contact Tim Bronsil at [email protected] or 513-702-5072.

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An Easy Way for Sports Radio Stations to Get Publicity for Their Talent and Brands

The truth is, we can do a much better job at our jobs with a little help from you.

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Stock photo of a person talking into a megaphone
Credit: Pexels.com

Having been in this role with Barrett Sports Media for almost six months, there is one thing that has really surprised me. I am shocked at how little we hear from some sports radio stations. There are some PDs and other executives out there who do a great job keeping us informed of any changes and one or two who send us information when they have something special going on, but the silence from the heavy majority of leaders in sports radio is shocking and confusing to me.

When I was running stations or sales teams, I would often say, “If we aren’t going to tell our story, who the heck else is going to do it for us?”

Well, in this case, we will do it for you if you let us know about it and it’s worthy of coverage. It’s like that other famous line in Jerry Maguire – “Help me, help you.”

Perhaps we just need to let you know what we are looking for. So, let me take this time and space to let you know and maybe we can work together more often moving forward.

Obviously, we will cover your major personnel changes. If you are adding someone to your team or giving someone a promotion for the hard work they have done, let us know about it. There are no stories we would like to tell more than ones about people in our industry advancing. We want to highlight those people and the stations and companies that are taking notice of what someone is doing and rewarding them for it.

Where are the rising stars? We profile many people in the industry and enjoy doing that so others can read about successful people and learn what it is that makes them stand out. This can be a weekday host, someone standing out during off-peak times or producers, digital or promotions staff. Let us know who is performing at a high level and perhaps we can feature them and tell their story so others can see who they are and the work they’ve done.

On the business side, I’d like to feature your top salespeople or sales leaders in one of my ‘Seller to Seller’ features. Let me know someone who is killing it out on the streets and let’s highlight their success. Personally, I’d love to write about some sellers who are fairly new to the industry but are really having success, whether that be a younger person hired or someone who had never been in the space before but has really caught on. Or who is your veteran seller who has done the best job of adapting to the new, digital world?

What is your station doing that is unique? There are a couple of stations, which you can probably figure out if you are paying attention, that are very good about sending us a quick note when they are doing something different or special. We may not always write a story about it, but several times we have, and we would not have known about it had the station management not given us a heads up.

I like to hear about the creative process, and I know other station managers appreciate learning what others are doing to creatively drive audience or revenue. Have someone in your building who is the creative brain behind many of your ideas? Let us know about them, let’s let everyone know about them.

We are here to cover the industry. It would be great if we could listen to all of your stations each and every day, but that would be impossible. Plus, you know what is about to happen so getting the information out to us beforehand can help us plan our coverage. The truth is, we can do a much better job at our jobs with a little help from you. I know everyone is busy but think about what it would mean to a staff member for someone to reach out and say, ‘Your boss told us about the great work you’ve been doing,’ or ‘We heard about the great idea you came up with, we want to tell the story about what you created.’

I’d also like to do more stories that relate to things you have to deal with on a day-to-day basis, stories that can be written that others may look at and learn something from, maybe get a tip on how to handle a particular situation or just get your thoughts on a particular media story. I plan to reach out to more of you to get your thoughts on things happening in our industry. You are the leaders who are there to take this format into the future, I want to know what you think, and I believe that is what our readers want as well.

When you take a step back and think about what we get to do for a living, that we all get to be in and around sports coverage in our communities, that’s pretty cool. Let’s work together to help advance the format by keeping people up to date on the great things going on in sports radio.

I am not hard to reach. My email is [email protected] and while I know several of you, the majority I do not know, but I’d like to. Reach out, let me know what’s happening at your station, send over a topic you want to hear what others might think about or let’s just connect and next time I’m looking for someone to give their thoughts and opinions, perhaps I can reach out to you as a thought leader in the space.

The invitation is there to get your station, your people and your successes highlighted. I don’t think I can make it more clear or easier. I hope you take advantage of it.

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The Best Thing I Heard Recently

I was flipping through SiriusXM last week and caught Mike Florio talking on Pro Football Talk Live about the NFL schedule release and the topic was whether or not it is fair for certain teams to have so many stand-alone games.

Florio’s point was that these games have “an extra layer of stress and strain.” Despite the Chiefs winning the Super Bowl last year with a prime-time heavy schedule, Florio used the Jets early season schedule as the best example of the league making it very tough on a team with quick turnarounds, international travel and several stand-alone games.

The segment really made you think. You can listen to the show by clicking here. Look for Episode 1956.

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In Case You Missed It

Last week, Andy Masur weighed in on what might happen to Inside the NBA now that it appears TNT will lose the NBA media rights. Andy says he is convinced the show only works on TNT and others have agreed saying networks like NBC probably wouldn’t allow the show to have as much freedom as TNT has.

About the current show, Masur wrote, “This show is the envy of all other studio shows. Other networks have tried to copy the formula but have failed. It’s really hard to duplicate what this show brings to the viewer.”

You can read Andy’s article by clicking here.

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One Mistake by a Sports Broadcaster Should Not Define Their Career

Look, it doesn’t mean that these broadcasters are horrible human beings.

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Photos of Glen Kuiper, Charissa Thompson and Thom Brennaman

We’ve seen numerous broadcasters lose, his/her job over the years because of slip ups, hot mics and misspeaks. Situations that could have been avoided but happened. Some of these cases are more prominent than others, due to the profile of the job lost and the nature of the words said by the sports broadcaster.

I bring this up because of the dubious anniversary that just passed. It was a year ago, that Glen Kuiper was fired by the Oakland A’s for the use of the “N-word” during the opening of a telecast. The A’s were in Kansas City and Kuiper spoke about his trip to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum with broadcast partner Dallas Braden during a pregame segment on NBC Sports California. Kuiper attempted to say, “We had a phenomenal day today, Negro League Museum and Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque,” but he mispronounced “negro,” in a way that sounded like a racial slur.

“A little bit earlier in the show, I said something that didn’t come out quite the way I wanted it to. I just wanted to apologize if it sounded different than I meant it to be said… I just wanted to apologize for that.” Kuiper said during the game.

After initially being suspended, Kuiper was let go May 22, 2023. This even after Negro League Museum President Bob Kendrick forgave him in a Tweet the night of the incident.

“I’m aware of the unfortunate slur made by Glen Kuiper. I welcomed Glen to the NLBM yesterday and know he was genuinely excited to be here,” Kendrick tweeted Saturday. “The word is painful and has no place in our society. And while I don’t pretend to know Glen’s heart, I do know that my heart is one of forgiveness. I hope all of you will find it in yourselves to do the same.”

Still teams don’t have a lot of choice but to suspend and/or fire the broadcaster in those cases. Slurs aren’t acceptable. Teams serve their entire fanbase, not just one specific race or gender. Offensive language about one is handled as offensive language about all. It’s a tough thing for teams to deal with for sure.

About 4 years ago, the Cincinnati Reds and their television flagship were put in a similar situation after an unfortunate on-air slip by broadcaster Thom Brennaman. The veteran announcer issued an on-air apology after he was caught uttering a gay slur on a mic he didn’t realize was on. Like with Kuiper, Brennaman was at first suspended and then fired. It also cost him his national job with Fox Sports.

Brennaman tried to grow from the experience and soon after he was pulled from the air, he heard from some folks in the LGBTQ+ community. From all over the country. Brennaman met with leaders of the community in Cincinnati. In one of those meetings, he encountered some who thought he was a fraud, just trying to get his job back. Brennaman was not. He has spent the last four years continuing to move forward.

He told me in 2022, “I don’t want the rest of my life or career to be defined by a lot of people as being a homophobe. That’s what I’ve tried to explain to my kids”. “There are going to be people and I’ve had a hard time coming to grips with this, because I know I am not a homophobe. I know I’m not. But I used a word that can put me in that category and some people are never going to let me out of that category. I wish they didn’t feel that way, and I know I’m not a homophobe, but you got to move on and keep doing the best you can, that’s all you can do.”

This is not a recent phenomenon either. Broadcasters in the 80’s, 90’s and into the 2000’s have also been let go for unsavory comments.

Many remember Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder, who appeared as the ‘gambling expert’ on the early days of The NFL Today on CBS. He was let go in 1988 after making a racially insensitive comment to a reporter.

Steve Lyons, then of MLB on Fox was fired for a making a racially insensitive comment during Game 3 of the 2006 ALCS.

Danyelle Sargent dropped an F-bomb on national television after ESPNEWS experienced technical difficulties during her segment in 2006.

Emily Austen was a Fox Sports Reporter that was fired in 2016 for making insensitive remarks about Mexican, Jewish and Chinese people. She appeared on a Barstool sports podcast where she made the comments.

The list goes on and on.

Interestingly enough, Charissa Thompson wasn’t fired for admitting that she made up stories as part of her halftime reporting duties. She also appeared on a Barstool podcast and flippantly remarked how she did this early in her career. I know she didn’t insult a racial, religious or gender related group, but she certainly upset many in the industry. Especially those that cover the sidelines for various networks right now. Should ethics count the same as the other slip ups?

Some can get carried away when appearing on shows other than their own, like the example above with Austen and Thompson. There’s a callousness that pops up in the brain, saying, “this isn’t a network show, I can swear and be myself”. Dangerous thoughts to say the least. You are still representing your organization/network and yourself when appearing on these other shows and podcasts.  

Look, it doesn’t mean that these broadcasters are horrible human beings. Everybody makes a slip up. Broadcasters though are looked at in a different manner. They are the voices of our favorite sports and are supposed to be like a member of the family, right? We spend a lot of time with them during the season and feel like we get to know them.  So, it becomes that much more shocking when that person says something inappropriate.

The initial shock and awe of the situation causes many to rush to a certain judgement. There’s no getting around what was said, everybody heard it. Should a ‘slip up’ be a career death sentence though? I think that each should be taken into consideration separately. It also depends, to me, on the apology and what that broadcaster does to go beyond words to understand why the comments were hurtful.

I’m not sure what the correct answer is to all of this.

There are some that feel, instead of firing the broadcaster, suspend them and make them work to regain the trust of the team and network. They feel like there is a missed opportunity to maybe use these situations as an educational platform.

Broadcasters need to watch themselves much more closely these days. The second you say something incorrect, ridiculous or hurtful, it’s on social media. There is no escape. You are presumed guilty in the court of public opinion before you can even blink an eye.

In these moments, context and apology is everything. One slip up, mistake, misspeak or whatever you want to call them, is one too many. But, at the same time, long illustrious careers should not be defined by one incident.

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