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#pounditTuesday, November 30, 2021


Report: Former ESPN boss wants to hire Michelle Beadle, Katie Nolan

Michelle Beadle

Michelle Beadle and Katie Nolan are both currently free agents after once holding prominent roles with ESPN, and it sounds like they each could have an opportunity to reunite with their former boss.

John Skipper was the president at ESPN when Beadle and Nolan enjoyed lucrative careers there. Skipper, who co-founded Meadowlark Media with Dan Le Batard after leaving ESPN, told Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports on Thursday that he is open to discussing roles for Beadle and Nolan at his new company.

“Yes, I enjoyed working with them. Yes, I think they’re talented. Of course, Meadowlark would be interested,” Skipper said.

The model for Meadowlark is to give its content creators editorial freedom, and Skipper says the same would be offered to Beadle and Nolan. Jemele Hill, another former ESPN employee, now works for Meadowlark.

“At Meadowlark, we do want to recruit talented people,” Skipper added. “We’re prepared to recruit people — and give them editorial freedom — in what they say. We’re interested in people we think can range across a variety of genres. They both qualify for all that.”

Nolan confirmed this week that she has left ESPN after four years with the network. She hosted “Always Late” at ESPN and has a relationship with Le Batard from when she made appearances on his show, “Highly Questionable.” That show was canceled after Le Batard left ESPN.

Beadle left ESPN’s “Get Up!” roughly a year ago after she spoke out against the sport of football and expressed anger over former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer not being fired amid the Zach Smith scandal. She then became the host of “NBA Countdown” before reaching a buyout agreement with ESPN in 2019. There was talk that ESPN was upset with Beadle for not fulfilling her responsibilities off the air.

It sounds like Beadle is looking into a number of career opportunities. Nolan will likely do the same.

Stephen A. Smith shares new perspective on Max Kellerman split

Stephen A. Smith

Stephen A. Smith has openly admitted that he wanted Max Kellerman removed from “First Take,” but he continues to insist it was nothing personal.

Smith once again discussed Kellerman’s departure from “First Take” during an appearance on Jimmy Traina’s “Sports Illustrated Media Podcast” this week. While there have been reports that Smith didn’t feel Kellerman was opinionated enough for the show, Smith says the issue was more about him and Kellerman as a pair.

“I thought it ran its course. Even though we were number one. Numbers were dipping. Chemistry was an issue and you know, we needed to be better,” Smith explained, as transcribed by Mike Rosenstein of NJ Advance Media. “I wasn’t pointing the finger at him. I was saying WE did not work as a pair. … You know, I think that people get construed thinking, you know what Stephen A. doesn’t like Max. It couldn’t be further from the truth. I like him and respect him.”

Smith emphasized that Kellerman was not at fault for the way the show “flatlined,” as Smith described it. He said he communicated the issue to his bosses, which led to Kellerman’s removal.

The reasons Smith gave are slightly different from the ones that have been reported by outlets like Outkick. Ultimately, Smith was going to get what he wanted one way or the other. He’s the highest-paid employee at ESPN, so the higher-ups are always going to do what they can to keep him happy.

Rachel Nichols could return to TNT?

Rachel Nichols

Amid her highly-publicized potential departure from ESPN, Rachel Nichols could end up joining one of their biggest competitors.

The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch said in a mailbag piece this week that Nichols could possibly return to Turner Sports, where she worked from 2013 to 2016. Deitsch adds that Nichols was considered a valuable on-air asset by Turner’s top bosses while she worked there.

TNT, one of Turner Sports’ TV stations, is perhaps the biggest challenger to ESPN when it comes to NBA coverage. Their program “Inside in the NBA” is also particularly popular among basketball fans. Nichols was a sideline reporter for the “NBA on TNT” broadcast during her time at Turner.

ESPN recently removed Nichols from all its NBA programs and cancelled her show “The Jump.” Nichols had previously gotten into a controversy over leaked comments she made about former colleague Maria Taylor.

Though she still has roughly one year left on her ESPN contract, Nichols is unlikely to appear on the air for them over that time. Once her contract does expire though, Turner Sports may be among those vying to hire her.

Katie Nolan confirms departure from ESPN

Katie Nolan

Katie Nolan is out at ESPN after four years at the network.

Nolan confirmed Wednesday that she was no longer with ESPN, and suggested she would take her time in assessing what her next step in sports media would be.

Nolan had previously hosted “Always Late” for the network, and also made appearances on Dan Le Batard’s show “Highly Questionable.” That show was also canceled after Le Batard left the network. Nolan had most recently hosted the “Sports?” podcast after confirming the cancellation of “Always Late.”

Prior to her time at ESPN, Nolan had been a regular fixture at FOX Sports. It remains to be seen what she will do next.

Report: Michelle Beadle in talks with several sports media outlets

Michelle Beadle

Michelle Beadle has kept a low profile since she departed ESPN, but the former “NBA Countdown” host is reportedly exploring ways to begin the next chapter of her career.

Beadle is in talks about several media outlets about a possible role ahead of the 2021-22 NBA season, Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports reports. There are a number of possibilities on the table from a potential return to ESPN to Beadle launching a company of her own.

McCarthy mentioned that Keith Olbermann had three different stints with ESPN, but there’s no reason to think Beadle would go that route. She has been outspoken in the past and would likely be more comfortable working for a different company. Beadle may discuss possibilities with other former ESPN talents who went off on their own, like Bill Simmons with his The Ringer. She could also look into joining another network like NFL insider Josina Anderson recently did when she inked a deal with USA TODAY.

Meadowlark Media is another spot to watch. The company was co-founded by Dan Le Batard and John Skipper, who was Beadle’s boss at ESPN.

Beadle left ESPN’s “Get Up!” roughly a year ago after she spoke out against the sport of football and expressed anger over former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer not being fired amid the Zach Smith scandal. She then became the host of “NBA Countdown” before reaching a buyout agreement with ESPN in 2019. There was talk that ESPN is upset with Beadle for not fulfilling her responsibilities off the air.

Beadle was once very popular in sports media, so she should have no shortage of offers.

Stephen A. Smith seems really happy Max Kellerman is no longer on ‘First Take’

Stephen A. Smith

Stephen A. Smith has openly admitted that he wanted Max Kellerman removed from “First Take,” and he has no problem showing how pleased he is with the way things have turned out.

ESPN published a behind-the-scenes look at the new “First Take” format this week. Kellerman wasn’t mentioned once in the feature, but Smith did make some remarks that could be interpreted as a veiled swipe at his former co-host. He said he is “incredibly excited” about the future of the show — more excited than he has been in years.

“I haven’t been this excited to do First Take in years,” Smith said. “The future is limitless.”

Smith could say his comments had nothing to do with Kellerman. It is notable, however, that he worked with Kellerman on “First Take” for five years. As Outkick’s Bobby Burack noted, Smith could have easily promoted the new version of the show without vaguely comparing it to the last several years.

Kellerman is still with ESPN. He now hosts a morning radio show with Keyshawn Johnson and Jay Williams, among other responsibilities.

Smith has admitted that the reports about him no longer wanting to co-host “First Take with Kellerman are true. He tried to explain why in a recent radio interview.

Kellerman understands the dynamic at ESPN and that Smith is the company’s highest-paid employee, but he probably isn’t thrilled with the way Smith has handled everything.

Report: Al Michaels expected to be Amazon’s lead NFL announcer

Al Michaels

Al Michaels is facing an uncertain future at NBC beyond the 2021 season, and all signs continue to point to him departing as the network’s lead play-by-play man for “Sunday Night Football.”

Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reported on Monday that he is almost certain Michaels will be hired as Amazon’s lead NFL announcer following the season. While the two sides have not finalized an agreement, Marchand said he would “put money on it” and that one of his sources put the chances of it happening at 95 percent.

Amazon will begin streaming “Thursday Night Football” exclusively next season. Even if Michaels takes the job, Marchand notes that the 76-year-old could still have some sort of role with NBC. Mike Tirico is expected to replace him as the play-by-play announcer for “Sunday Night Football,” but Michaels could call playoff games for the network.

Michaels has been calling “Sunday Night Football” since 2006. He was with ESPN/ABC for “Monday Night Football” from 1986-2005 prior to that. He and longtime partner Cris Collinsworth will call the Super Bowl this year, and there has been speculation that Michaels could retire after that. He said before the season that he is not thinking about what comes next.

NBC hired Tirico several years ago as an eventual replacement for Michaels. Drew Brees began working as an analyst for the network this season, and there has been talk of him replacing Collinsworth as the color commentator for “Sunday Night Football.”

Amazon likely has a dream partner in mind for Michaels, but that may be too good to be true.

Report: ESPN considering these two leading candidates to host ‘NBA Countdown’

Elle Duncan

ESPN needs a new host for their “NBA Countdown” show, and they have two leading candidates in mind, according to a report.

OutKick’s Bobby Burack reported on Tuesday that ESPN is considering Elle Duncan or Michael Eaves to host the program. Both Eaves and Duncan are “SportsCenter” hosts for ESPN but do not have a specific NBA focus.

“Countdown” is the program the precedes ESPN’s coverage of NBA games. Jay Williams and Jalen Rose are the two current analysts on the program.

Burack reports that Cassidy Hubbarth, who covers the NBA and serves as both a host and reporter, is also being considered for the job. Burack suggests two others the network should consider as hosts for the show.

“NBA Countdown” has long been considered a vastly inferior product to “Inside the NBA,” which is the immensely popular NBA pregame/postgame show by TNT. Countdown has lost public respect thanks to the embarrassing actions of some of its personalities, who have made race more of a focus than basketball.

The network is searching for a new host after Maria Taylor left following a high-profile contract dispute that also cost Rachel Nichols her job. Burack cautions ESPN about hiring Eaves or Duncan given what another ESPN host alleged about them last year.

Stephen A. Smith explains why he wanted Max Kellerman off ‘First Take’

Stephen A. Smith

Max Kellerman recently made his final appearance on ESPN’s “First Take” after five years as Stephen A. Smith’s co-host. There have been reports that Kellerman was removed from the show because Smith wanted him gone, and we now know those reports were accurate.

During an appearance on Hot 97’s “Ebro in the Morning” podcast this week, Smith admitted that he asked ESPN to remove Kellerman from “First Take.” He praised Kellerman for the work he did on the show and said the two do not have a bad relationship. As Smith describes it, the partnership simply went stale.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that it’s not just the work that goes into (doing a show), but also the fact that it’s a chemistry that you have,” Smith said. “Sometimes it just stalls, and the audience lets you know that it is what it is and you feel the need for something fresh and feel the need to retool.

“The reason I’m unapologetic about my stance is, number one, it’s no knock against him personally — his professionalism, his work ethic, his talent and all that other stuff. It’s not like I wanted the guy to be fired or anything like that. I knew that there were landing spots available for him at this network that would generate just as much, if not more, revenue for him. It wasn’t really about asking him off the show. It was about the fact that I knew that we, together, was not a great partnership anymore.”

You can hear more of Smith’s remarks below:

We’ve heard some other reasons for why Smith wanted “First Take” to move on from Kellerman. At the end of the day, Smith is the highest-paid employee at ESPN. He’s almost always going to call the shots.

Cris Collinsworth criticized for generous description of Antonio Brown

Antonio brown

Antonio Brown had a monster game in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ win over the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night, and NBC announcer Cris Collinsworth gushed over the star receiver at one point. Some viewers were not pleased about that.

Collinsworth spoke about Brown’s career accomplishments during the fourth quarter of the game. He said the numbers Brown has put up are “remarkable” and complimented his “million-dollar smile.” The way Collinsworth mentioned Brown’s legal issues led some to believe he was downplaying them.

“When you look at some of the numbers that he’s put up in his career — and of course he’s got that million-dollar smile of his — they’re just remarkable,” Collinsworth said. “I mean it’s just almost unbelievable what he’s been able to do. And yet, because of some off-the-field stuff, he’s sort of faded to the background until last year when he really had a lot to do with that Super Bowl championship.”

What Collinsworth said was accurate. Brown was once arguably the best receiver in the NFL, but he derailed his own career right in the heart of his prime. After he caught five passes for 121 yards and a touchdown on Thursday night, it appears he could be on the verge of breaking out again.

The issue for many people is that Collinsworth seemed to blow over what he called “off-the-field stuff.” Brown has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women. He reached a settlement with one of the alleged victims earlier this year. He was also arrested last year and pleaded no contest to a felony charge in an incident in which he assaulted a moving truck driver.

And that’s only part of it. In 2018, Brown threw furniture off the balcony at his luxury apartment in Miami (video here) in a fit of rage. One of the objects was said to have landed close to a 22-month-old boy. The father of that child sued Brown over the incident, and the two sides reached an undisclosed settlement that included Brown writing a check to the boy’s college fund.

Let’s also not forget about the incident where Brown berated police officers in front of his children and streamed it live on social media.

Collinsworth’s point was that Brown’s career path has been wild, especially for a player who was once considered a lock for the Hall of Fame. But because of Brown’s rap sheet, a lot of people simply don’t want to hear anyone praising him.