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#pounditThursday, December 2, 2021

Articles tagged: ESPN

Michelle Beadle, ESPN reportedly negotiating buyout to end relationship

Michelle Beadle

Michelle Beadle has had her on-air role reduced at ESPN significantly over the past year, and her time with the company appears to be coming to an end.

Beadle and ESPN have been negotiating a potential buyout that would see her leave the company, according to Andrew Marchand of the New York Post. The 43-year-old still has multiple years remaining on her contract with ESPN and currently makes $5 million annually.

Marchand notes that Beadle’s buyout is expected to be based on a sliding scale, meaning taking more money will give her less of a chance of working for another network immediately, and vice-versa. There will also be a non-disparagement agreement that prevents her from speaking negatively about ESPN or her time with the network.

There has already been speculation that Beadle could wind up doing podcast work or working for a paid subscription service like DAZN, which happens to be run by former ESPN president John Skipper.

SportsbyBrooks.com reported back in July that Beadle could be out as the host of “NBA Countdown” and moved to an on-air role with ABC. 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 became the host of “NBA Countdown” after leaving “Get Up.” There has also been talk that ESPN is upset with Beadle for not fulfilling her responsibilities off the air.

Report: ESPN made clear to Dan Le Batard politics talk is not OK

Dan Le Batard

Dan Le Batard’s comments on his radio show Thursday admonishing Donald Trump for his “send her back” attacks and criticizing ESPN’s no-politics policy will not open the network up to more political commentary.

Le Batard was absent from the first hour of his show Friday. There was speculation that he missed the hour to talk with ESPN leadership before returning for the rest of the show.

In an article on Front Office Sports, Michael McCarthy wrote that if ESPN were to get rid of Le Batard, DAZN, which is headed by former ESPN president John Skipper, would be eager to hire the host. McCarthy also reported that ESPN made it clear to everyone internally, including Le Batard, that their no-politics policy has not changed.

From McCarthy’s article:

ESPN declined to comment on whether Le Batard would be suspended for calling his own network “cowardly” for banning political discussion. But one ESPN source said: “We are making it very clear to everyone internally, including Dan, that our policy hasn’t changed.”

Le Batard openly challenging the policy creates a problem for ESPN. New president Jimmy Pitaro made the new approach to politics a priority when he took over. He cited research that shows their audience does not want political talk. Not disciplining Le Batard could make it seem to some like ESPN is inconsistent given the suspension handed to Jemele Hill for Trump criticism in 2017, though that came under a previous leadership regime. No discipline could also be viewed by critics as ESPN taking a political stance and supporting Le Batard’s comments, further confirming their belief that the network has a liberal political lean.

Le Batard could — and seemingly is arguing — that he is commenting on racism, not politics, but that creates a question about where one draws the line between acceptable topics and not. What if another host wants to comment on feeling threatened by progressive politics? That is why ESPN is trying to emphasize its no-politics stance.

ESPN has ‘no plans’ to use LaVar Ball as guest going forward

LaVar Ball Lakers

ESPN is done with LaVar Ball, at least for now.

In light of the latest Ball-related controversy, an ESPN spokesperson told Richard Deitsch of The Athletic that the network had “no plans” to use the Ball family patriarch as an on-air guest going forward.

The word comes after Ball made an inappropriate remark to “First Take” host Molly Qerim during an appearance on Monday that appears, at least for now, to have been the last straw with the network. Many have argued that Ball and his over-the-top proclamations bring nothing to television and are played out at this point, and remarks like this push him further past the breaking point.

Of course, things can always change. Ball gets people talking, for better or worse, so it may not be a permanent end to Ball’s publicity stunts. At least in terms of ESPN, it’s a moratorium, though.

ESPN to change draft coverage approach after Adrian Wojnarowski mockery?

Adrian Wojnarowski

ESPN tried to prevent its reporters from leaking out picks before they were announced during the NBA Draft last year, but they may be nixing that policy now after the way Adrian Wojnarowski made a mockery out of it.

Prior to the draft last year, there was a report that ESPN, Yahoo and Turner all agreed to not have reporters tip draft picks on social media to make for a better TV viewing experience. But when Marc Stein of The New York Times started doing it, Woj refused to be scooped. He then came up with the idea of tweeting picks before they were announced by using creative terms to avoid saying X team “will select” X player.

Here are some of the hilarious examples:

That mockery is likely the main reason ESPN may be backing down from the policy for Thursday’s draft, as Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reports that are expected to allow Woj and others to tip picks before they’re announced on TV.

Wojnarowski is the best NBA reporter in the business, so ESPN is compelled to keep him happy. He poked fun at the situation earlier this month with a funny tweet during the MLB Draft, and having it happen again would be an even worse look for the Worldwide Leader.

ESPN responds to report about Michelle Beadle out as NBA Countdown host

Michelle Beadle

ESPN responded on Wednesday to a report that said Michelle Beadle would be out as the host of “NBA Countdown.”

On Wednesday morning, Sports by Brooks reported that Beadle would not be the show host next season. He also reported that Chauncey Billups and Paul Pierce would not return as full-time analysts.

In a statement to the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand, ESPN said they have made no decisions about next season.

Marchand reported in April that ESPN was considering Maria Taylor and Rachel Nichols to replace Beadle on the show. He also says Billups may move to work more on games.

Jalen Rose will continue in his current capacity, according to Brooks.

Beadle began hosting “Countdown” in 2016 and focused on NBA coverage after leaving “Get Up” last year.

ESPN shows picture of Aaron Hicks during CC Sabathia montage

ESPN

ESPN made a pretty glaring graphical error when reviewing the career of CC Sabathia on Sunday Night Baseball.

During the Sunday night telecast, the broadcast ran a montage of some of Sabathia’s most notable career numbers, combined with various pictures of the Yankee left-hander. The one problem: one of the pictures used was not of Sabathia, but rather of outfielder Aaron Hicks.

It’s not tough to tell immediately that something is wrong here, and Yankee fans watching the game pointed it out right away. These things do happen sometimes, but you’d really think someone would have caught this one before it made it to air.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver cracks joke about ESPN’s coverage of Lakers

Adam Silver

The Los Angeles Lakers have received more media coverage over the past several weeks than any other non-playoff team in NBA history, and even commissioner Adam Silver seems to think it has gotten out of hand.

In an appearance on the “Posted Up w/ Chris Haynes” podcast this week, Silver was asked about the possibility of implementing new start times for west coast games next season so more people across the country can watch LeBron James play. He joked about the idea and said it seems like the Lakers already have their own television channel, and “it’s called ESPN.”

“I’ve been watching for the last few days,” Silver said while chuckling. “I have it on in my office and it’s, like, around the clock.”

Silver said recently that he would be open to some pretty significant changes for the NBA, but the Lakers having their own special start time is almost certainly not one of them. Although, ESPN would probably go for it.

The drama with the Lakers reached new heights earlier in the week when Baxter Holmes published a bombshell feature about Magic Johnson’s time with the team, and fellow ESPN employee Stephen A. Smith went ballistic defending Magic against the story. The World Wide Leader has every angle of the Lakers saga covered, so Silver’s observation isn’t that far off.

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.