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Stephen A. Smith: Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson ‘Were Truly an A-Team’

“They were an illustrious tag team that the basketball world enjoyed for more than a decade.”

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Stephen A. Smith
Courtesy: Evan Angelastro, GQ

Jeff Van Gundy, former NBA head coach and television analyst for ESPN, has agreed to a deal to become the lead assistant coach for the LA Clippers, according to a report by ESPN senior NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski. Van Gundy worked as a consultant for the Boston Celtics this past season, which recently culminated in the 18th title in the history of the organization.

Prior to that time, he worked alongside play-by-play announcer Mike Breen and analyst Mark Jackson as part of the lead broadcasting team for the NBA on ESPN, forming a trio that called 15 NBA Finals together. Stephen A. Smith, the featured commentator and executive producer of First Take and analyst on NBA Countdown, recently discussed the reports of Van Gundy joining the Clippers’ coaching staff on his podcast, The Stephen A. Smith Show.

Smith conveyed that he thought Van Gundy may receive an interview for the head coaching role with the Los Angeles Lakers, but that changed upon the report of him joining the Clippers. Van Gundy was laid off by ESPN as a part of cost-cutting measures at the network, and Jackson was let go by the network one month later. In a statement last year, ESPN expressed that these decisions were difficult and “based more on overall efficiency than merit,” but would help the company meet its “financial targets and ensure future growth.”

Smith spoke on his relationship with his former colleagues and prefaced his remarks by saying he was not throwing any shade on Mike Breen, Doris Burke and JJ Redick, the new lead broadcasting team for the network that recently called the 2024 NBA Finals.

“This is not about anything like that,” Smith said. “This is about the fact that Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson were truly an A-team. They were exceptional at their jobs, they were riveting in a lot of ways. They were an illustrious tag team that the basketball world enjoyed for more than a decade.”

During his remarks, Smith expressed that Van Gundy and his brother Stan were good people and also sent his heartfelt condolences to the family upon learning that Stan Van Gundy’s wife passed away as a result of suicide. Stan Van Gundy recently spoke about the loss on an episode of South Beach Sessions with Meadowlark Media co-founder and host Dan Le Batard. Smith then continued to speak on Jeff Van Gundy by expressing that he deserves to do what he wants in the game of basketball.

“I respect the hell out of Jeff and I’m very fond of him, but there’s one thing that we all have to understand, and nobody speaks about this because everybody talks about stuff as unfair and, ‘He got let go,’” Smith explained. “In the world of business, when cuts take place, cuts take place. There’s hundreds of people who lost their jobs, and it wasn’t just at ESPN or at Disney. Have you seen what happened at Meta? Have you seen what has happened in places like Apple and Amazon and other places?”

Although Smith expressed that he is not saying job cuts are right and instead called them “downright cruel,” he questioned when the world of business has been known to be anything otherwise. Smith was sad to see Van Gundy and Jackson leave the network, but he shared that he is not concerned about them recovering because of their reputations and the opportunities that will come in their direction. Moreover, he expressed that it would not be as easy for other people, articulating that it would be more daunting for them to find their footing if they were to lose their roles.

“I work with special people with my day job at ESPN, but nothing’s guaranteed,” Smith said. “Nobody is safe. That includes me, and I’m speaking from experience. Remember, I got fired in 2009. Take nothing for granted in the world of business ladies and gentlemen. No one’s ever safe in this day and age. Numbers make calls, not just people. Numbers dictate a lot.”

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Austin Karp: Combining the Expertise of ‘New Paramount’ Bodes Well for the Future of CBS Sports

“CBS has long relied on sports…and with Jeff Shell coming in as President, we are talking about former NBCUniversal Jeff Shell, sports aren’t going anywhere.

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Austin Karp and Mollie Cahillane of the Sports Business Journal talked about the merger of David Ellison’s Skydance Media and Paramount on the latest edition of The Sports Media Podcast. While there are many hurdles to clear, the terms of the deal were agreed to and the structure set with Ellison set to become CEO of the new company some are calling ‘New Paramount’ and former NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell coming on as president.

Karp asked Cahillane, “What is the biggest impact on sports for this deal?”

“I do not think the merger of Skydance and Paramount, more of a takeover rather than a merger, is going to have a massive impact on their sports properties,” Cahillane said. “CBS has long relied on sports…and with Jeff Shell coming in as President, we are talking about former NBCUniversal Jeff Shell, sports aren’t going anywhere. I don’t see them as part of any of the offloading that is planned for the Paramount properties.”

“I don’t think that sports is going anywhere, it’s actually going to be helped, if anything,” Karp agreed. “Like you said, Jeff Shell, seasoned sports executive…the guy knows sports in and out and so does David Ellison, the owner of Skydance.

“Skydance Sports, for a couple of years now, has been a marquee partner of the NFL in terms of creating content. They’ve done some of the documentaries, like the Jerry Jones one that was just sold for $50 million to Netflix. They’re the ones that were kind of behind the Kansas City Chiefs doing this movie with Hallmark that’s going to be coming out…If you combine the expertise that RedBird Capital, which is some of the money behind Skydance, has in sports, it really portends well for the future of CBS Sports and Paramount as a player out there in the space.”

According to Variety, Skydance said the deal has an enterprise value of $28 billion, with Skydance itself valued at $4.75 billion. Skydance and its partners will reportedly invest more than $8 billion into the company.

The projected closing date for the sale is by Sept. 30, 2025.

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Chase Daniel and Dianna Russini to Host ‘Scoop City’ Podcast for The Athletic

“We have scoop on football and some scoop on life.”

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Logo for the Athletic and a picture of Scoop City hosts Chase Daniel and Dianna Russini
Graphic Courtesy: The Athletic

Chase Daniel hinted at big things coming up when he talked with BSM a few weeks ago. Now, one of those big things has been revealed. Daniel and The Athletic’s senior NFL Insider Dianna Russini are pairing up for a twice a week podcast, ‘Scoop City.’ The show is described as one where the hosts will “share what they’re hearing about the things that are actually at work in the NFL – and to share a few scoops about life too.”

A trailer for the podcast is up and the first episode is scheduled to drop on July 16 at all major podcast outlets.

“We want to share with you what people inside the NFL are talking about, pass along intel, and talk to big guests,” Russini wrote on her X account. “We have scoop on football and some scoop on life.”

Daniel posted, “Scoop City is here! So pumped to announce I’ll be part of The Athletic’s brand new essential NFL podcast with Dianna Russini [two times] per week.”

Russini had been with ESPN from 2015 until joining The Athletic late in 2023. Daniel, a former star quarterback at Missouri, played 13 years in the NFL and has been providing content for The Athletic and NFL Network in addition to a podcast he co-hosted with Trey Wingo and The Chase Daniel Show which he airs on his YouTube page.

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John Ourand: NFL Sunday Ticket Trial is a ‘Colossal Failure’ By the League

“Once it got in front of a jury, yeah, they just took a big risk, and the big risk blew up in their face.”

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John Ourand

A jury in Los Angeles federal court sided with plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against the National Football League last month, leading to an order for the league to pay approximately $4.7 billion in damages. The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of over 2.4 million residential subscribers and more than 48,000 commercial establishments, alleged that the league violated antitrust law through its out-of-market NFL Sunday Ticket product. The jury vote claims that the league colluded with DirecTV, the former primary home of the service, along with broadcast networks CBS and FOX to raise the price of subscriptions in order to watch out-of-market contests.

There could be extensive repercussions and reverberations with this lawsuit depending on what happens within the appeals process. In a statement released shortly after the jury vote was announced, the league stated that it will appeal the decision. Since the class action suit pertains to federal antitrust law, the damages would be tripled and equate to more than $14 billion. The jury ordered the league to pay $96.9 million in damages to the commercial class and $4.61 billion in damages to the residential class within the lawsuit. John Ourand, sports correspondent for Puck News, recently appeared on The Tony Kornheiser Show where he articulated the scenario surrounding the seminal decision.

“This is a colossal failure by the NFL in that they took a basically $14 billion risk and put it in front of a jury,” Ourand said, “and when you get a jury, specifically in southern California, to decide, ‘Would you rather rule for a small bar or a small business owner or would you rather rule for the big NFL where Roger Goodell came in and was a witness?,’ almost always they’ll side with the NFL.”

The NFL filed a motion last week where the league levied criticism against U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez in permitting a juror to remain within the case who admitted that they had paid for a “household member’s Sunday Ticket subscription.” Moreover, the league conveyed that the jury, including the aforementioned juror who was a foreperson in the deliberations, chose to issue damages representative of “the sum total of discounts that class members received.”

The plaintiffs in the case delineated that the lack of competition between the league’s 32 teams as it pertains to media rights resulted in higher prices for consumers, whereas the league outlined that it guarantees access to games anywhere in the United States and makes them free for local fans.

“It was explained to me by one lawyer,” Ourand said, “[that] it would be akin to like if all the soda companies got together and [went], ‘You know what? We’re going to sell soda at this price,’ and there are antitrust laws that are against pooling those resources like that if they’re competing against each other.”

Once Kornheiser found out that the trial had been going on for nearly a decade, he gave an incredulous reaction and wondered why the league had been “so stupid” that it did not attempt to settle the case before reaching trial. Ourand listened to some of the testimony within the case and gathered that Guttierez was siding with the NFL because it was the way the league had enacted its media business for a long time.

“They’ve pooled their media rights and they’ve sold them to networks exclusively,” Ourand said of the league. “Once it got in front of a jury, yeah, they just took a big risk, and the big risk blew up in their face.”

The appeal for the case, Ourand explained, would likely take a long time because the league would have to go to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and potentially to the United States Supreme Court from there. Gutierrez will hold a hearing on July 31 reviewing the motion filed by the league that could result in deeming the jury’s decision irrational or ordering a new trial altogether. The outcome of this hearing could also result in retaining the verdict but reducing the damages or denying the NFL’s motion altogether. A ruling could either be released that day or issue it through a written filing in the weeks thereafter.

Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League negotiated settlements for class action lawsuits regarding blackouts of games and having to subscribe to a service that included the breadth of regional sports networks within those leagues. Consumers were essentially not given a choice to subscribe to one regional sports network; rather, they were coerced to purchase a package containing games on networks they were not interested in watching.

Both leagues agreed to settlements of their respective cases in providing options to purchase single-team packages at a discount while also retaining blackout policies. Ourand believes the decision in this case could result in a maelstrom of derivative lawsuits pertaining to deals that leagues have agreed on in this regard and is looking into who pushed the NFL to continue its defense in the case rather than settling. Kornheiser presumed that one of the league’s lawyers must have been behind the decision, a sentiment with which Ourand concurred.

“Certainly their lawyers, and ultimately it comes down to Roger Goodell who makes the decision whether to go or not,” Ourand explained, “but who was the real force between saying like, ‘Let’s just draw a hard line here. We’re tired of these class action suits,’ and what this has caused is they’re going to be a billion class action suits filed against every single league and every single deal that they’ve done.”

Kornheiser replied that Ourand was correct in his prognostication about what would happen next. Earlier in the segment, he suggested that all the league had to do was lower the price for bars from $349 to $275 and that they would collectively be content with the outcome. Kornheiser stated that he still subscribes to cable and watches NFL RedZone rather than subscribing to NFL Sunday Ticket during the football season as well.

“If I was the commissioner of hockey, if I was the commissioner of basketball [or] if I was the commissioner of baseball, I’d have my lawyers in there today and I’d say, ‘Let’s get out of these things that we’ve been doing because we don’t want this to happen to us,’ right?,” Kornheiser said.

“And I’d be furious at the NFL for taking such a risk in this case – absolutely, yeah,” Ourand replied.

NFL Sunday Ticket is currently available through YouTube and YouTube TV as part of a media rights deal reportedly valued at $2 billion annually over seven years. The broadcast package was previously distributed by DirecTV since its inception 1994, which is said to have paid $1.5 billion per year. DirecTV is not involved in the NFL Sunday Ticket trial after a judge permitted the company to send customer claims against it into closed-door arbitration.

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