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#pounditSaturday, January 22, 2022

Articles tagged: ESPN

ESPN announces it will not replace Jason Witten on ‘Monday Night Football’

Jason Witten

Jason Witten decided earlier this offseason to leave the “Monday Night Football” broadcast booth and return to playing for the Dallas Cowboys, but ESPN is not planning to replace him with another on-air personality — at least in the short-term.

On Wednesday, ESPN announced that Booger McFarland will join Joe Tessitore inside the broadcast booth next season. McFarland spent the 2018 season as a third analyst for the network and worked from a booth on the sidelines.

ESPN pursued Peyton Manning to replace Witten, and they probably would have let the former quarterback name his price. However, Manning is not interested in pursuing a career in broadcasting at this time. If and when he does, ESPN will have to compete with every major network to sign him.

The “Monday Night Football” crew was heavily criticized last year, but most of that had to do with Witten’s embarrassing gaffes. It’s no surprise ESPN is going to ride things out with what they have for the time being, though will change in 2020 if it doesn’t work out.

Charles Woodson out as ESPN shakes up Sunday NFL Countdown

Charles Woodson

After three years, ESPN has decided to part ways with analyst Charles Woodson as they aim to shakeup “Sunday NFL Countdown.”

Following Chris Berman’s forced departure, the show has struggled with its format and viewership. Sam Ponder took over as the primary host, with ex-New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, retired quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, and Hall of Famer Randy Moss serving as the main analysts.

After news of Woodson’s firing hit, he took to Instagram to thank ESPN and his co-hosts for the opportunity.

View this post on Instagram

Many thanks to @espn @espnnfl it was a good run!!

A post shared by Charles Woodson (@charleswoodson) on

“I wanted to send a quick thank you today to the Worldwide Leader in Sports, ESPN,” Woodson said via Instagram. “It’s been a wonderful three years, been a blast, I’ve learned a lot, had a lot of fun, gained some great friends.”

The New York Post reports that while Woodson was dismissed, no other cast members have been fired to date.

Report: Adnan Virk leaked ‘Baseball Tonight’ information to Awful Announcing

Adnan Virk ESPN

Adnan Virk is no longer an employee of ESPN after reportedly being fired and escorted off the Bristol campus on Friday because he was suspected of leaking information to the media. News of Virk’s firing was reported by the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand on Sunday, though it was missing one key piece: what Virk supposedly leaked. A day later, Marchand shared that information.

According to Marchand, ESPN believes Virk leaked confidential information about the future of “Baseball Tonight” to the website Awful Announcing.

Awful Announcing’s Ben Koo wrote a story published on Monday, Jan. 28 that said “Baseball Tonight” would not be returning as a daily studio show on ESPN. ESPN had been giving consideration to bringing the once-popular daily baseball show back on air nightly but decided against it.

Koo reported there were two reasons for the decision. One is that MLB is letting ESPN slide on the contractual need for a certain amount of studio shows in exchange for “Sunday Night Baseball” being moved up an hour earlier to 7:00 pm ET start times to ease the burden of teams traveling after those games. The other reason is ESPN decided that they wouldn’t have enough of an audience for it and if they put the programming on ESPN2, it wouldn’t add new viewers but rather potentially just take away from “SportsCenter” viewership.

Marchand’s report explains what led ESPN to believe Virk was leaking information to Awful Announcing. They say ESPN held a conference call to discuss “Baseball Tonight” and that Virk was not on for the entire call. Later he called a senior producer to discuss the future of baseball on ESPN, and the information/questions in the Awful Announcing story matched up with what he asked the producer.

ESPN then investigated Virk, feeling he had regularly been talking with other media outlets about company information. They gave him chances to tell the truth and felt he wasn’t forthcoming, and they ultimately decided to fire him.

Virk’s side feels like the punishment did not fit the crime, while ESPN believes all company employees go through training where they are taught it’s against policy to leak confidential information.

Virk had just signed a new four-year deal with ESPN worth seven figures, according to the report.

Why would he leak confidential information to Awful Announcing? Virk has not commented, but some on-air personalities might believe they would receive favorable (or at least avoid negative) coverage from the website by sharing privileged information. Avoiding negative coverage/receiving positive coverage from a media critic site would help with an on-air personality’s public perception, and ultimately their job security.

Cardinals crack funny joke over ESPN affiliate’s blunder on Twitter

The Arizona Cardinals have looked like one of the NFL’s worst teams in the early part of the season, so the last thing they need is to be blamed for losses that have absolutely nothing to do with them.

On Tuesday, ESPN’s affiliate from the Philippines tweeted about the Brewers beating the Cardinals the night before. Of course, they were talking about the MLB’s St. Louis Cardinals. They accidentally tagged the Arizona Cardinals on Twitter, and the football Cardinals were quick to correct the mistake.

The Cardinals are one of three 0-3 teams left in the NFL, so they don’t need any extra losses. In fact, they’re hoping a major change to their starting lineup will help turn their misfortunes around in Week 4. If that does happen, hopefully ESPN5 will give them the credit they deserve. The network owes them that at least.

ESPN addresses Jason Witten’s ‘left wing’ comment

Jason Witten

Jason Witten has only served as the lead analyst for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” for three regular season games, but the network has already had to respond to its first controversy with the former Dallas Cowboys tight end.

Like many others, Witten is not a fan of the NFL’s new roughing the passer rules. He made that known during Monday night’s game between the Steelers and Buccaneers when several personal fouls were called, and at one point he described the new rules as “a little bit too left wing.”

Some wondered if that was a political remark, as the most common use of “left wing” is when describing Democrats or liberals. ESPN insisted Witten’s commentary was in no way related to politics.

As expected, Witten has drawn mixed reviews in his first season in the broadcast booth. He already showed he isn’t afraid to criticize his former team, but he is still establishing an identity as an announcer. It seems doubtful that he would want that identity to have to do with political affiliations.

ESPN will not air national anthem before NFL games this season

ESPN

National anthem protests are once again expected to be a big topic of discussion across the NFL this season, but ESPN is making an effort to keep the focus on football during its broadcasts.

On Friday, ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro confirmed that the network will not be including the national anthem as part of its coverage before “Monday Night Football” games in 2018.

Pitaro added that ESPN will cover instances where sports and politics intersect but emphasized that the World Wide Leader is not a political organization.

ESPN has tried to distance itself from the national anthem debate and the issues the NFL has had with Donald Trump, and we saw the most glaring example of that when a popular on-air personality was suspended for going after Trump on Twitter. The network has actually avoided broadcasting the anthem for years, though there were a few instances last season where they deemed it newsworthy and broke from standard procedure.

Chris Berman could reportedly have expanded role with ESPN this season

Chris Berman

Chris Berman took on a very limited role with ESPN at the end of the 2016 NFL season, and the network’s ratings have dipped since he left his familiar post. Could we see more of the legendary TV personality this upcoming season?

Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reports that Berman and ESPN have been in discussions about expanded duties for the 63-year-old this NFL season. While Berman would not return to working for the network full time, some possibilities include contributing more to Sunday night’s edition of “SportsCenter” and doing more features and interviews with “Sunday NFL Countdown.” One tentative plan, accoridng to Marchand, is for Berman to work a quarter of the NFL season.

Berman has semi-retired, and he is said to already have plans in place for many weekends. That would prevent him from being a regular contributor with ESPN on Sundays this fall, but the network seems open to customizing a schedule for him after ratings dropped by double-digits for “Sunday NFL Countdown” last season.

As Marchand notes, the idea to reduce Berman’s role was initially spearheaded by former ESPN president John Skipper, who resigned back in December. Berman has remained on the network’s payroll.

Berman recently found himself involved in a lawsuit that was filed by a former ESPN employee, but the disturbing claims against him are apparently not a major concern for the higher-ups in Bristol.

Nets take funny shot at ESPN over broadcast blunder

It’s safe to say that ESPN’s broadcast mishap on Wednesday night failed to escape the watchful eye of the Brooklyn Nets social media team.

During a game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs, the network inexplicably cut to commercial at the worst possible time, just as Lakers guard Josh Hart was going up for a potential buzzer-beating layup with the game tied at 108. The cutaway only lasted for less than two seconds, but it was still an extremely embarrassing blunder nevertheless. Take a look:

On Thursday, the Nets dropped a funny reference to the on-air disaster during a game against the Milwaukee Bucks. They edited a clip of D’Angelo Russell driving to the rim and interrupted it with the exact same commercial cutaway.

At 25-53 on the year and without possession of their 2018 first-round draft pick, it’s hard to blame the Nets for having a bit of fun at ESPN’s expense as the season winds down. After all, taking shots at the Worldwide Leader appears to be quite fashionable in the basketball world these days.

Former NFL player sues ESPN for defamation

ESPN

A former NFL player is not happy with how ESPN reported on his arrest and courtroom conduct in 2017.

According to TMZ Sports, Dimitri Patterson, a former Miami Dolphins cornerback, is claiming that ESPN defamed him by reporting that he injured two police officers while trying to escape from a courtroom last August in a bid to avoid arrest.

ESPN’s original article cited police and was one of many media outlets to report on the events. Patterson, acting as his own lawyer, claims he has court video footage to disprove ESPN’s reported version of events.

“The article is false and defamatory in its overall portrayal of DP as a violent, impulsive, unstable person,” Patterson said.

Patterson is seeking $50 million in damages from ESPN.

This is not the first time ESPN has been sued by an NFL player, though the reasons last time were very different — and probably more merited.

John Skipper says he was victim of extortion attempt from cocaine dealer

ESPN
It has been nearly three months since former ESPN president John Skipper resigned from his position, and the circumstances surrounding his decision have largely gone unreported. Skipper admitted to having a substance abuse problem, but he had not revealed what particular substance he was using or why it may have led to his professional demise.

Until now.

In a captivating interview with James Andrew Miller of The Hollywood Reporter, Skipper revealed that the substance he sought treatment for is cocaine. The former ESPN honcho described himself as an “infrequent” user of cocaine over the past 20 years and said it never interfered with his work.

“At ESPN I did not use at work, nor with anyone at work, or with anyone I did business with,” Skipper said. “I never allowed it to interfere with my work, other than a missed plane and a few canceled morning appointments. I’ve never been a daily user. My use over the past two decades has, in fact, been quite infrequent. I judge that I did a very good job and that it did not get in the way of my work. I worked hard, I worked smart. I worked all the time.”

Skipper also said he had no thoughts about resigning until just days before, when he met with Disney CEO Bob Iger and realized he had put him in an “untenable position.” Given the way Skipper described his cocaine habit, Miller asked him to clarify why he had to resign so suddenly if it never affected his work life. That’s when Skipper admitted he was the victim of an extortion attempt from a cocaine dealer.

“In December, someone from whom I bought cocaine attempted to extort me. … They threatened me, and I understood immediately that threat put me and my family at risk, and this exposure would put my professional life at risk as well,” he said. “I foreclosed that possibility by disclosing the details to my family, and then when I discussed it with Bob, he and I agreed that I had placed the company in an untenable position and as a result, I should resign.”

The entire interview is worth reading, as it helps shed light on why Skipper’s colleagues and employees felt the way they did when he suddenly stepped down.