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Bill Simmons Apologizes, Addresses Diversity Concerns

“Simmons understands why he is being judged and the need to improve, but asks his audience for “time” to correct the issue.”

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In the last month, Bill Simmons has been criticized for the lack of diversity at his digital media company The Ringer, which he launched in 2016 and sold to Spotify earlier this year. After receiving backlash for a New York Times story detailing staff concern over the lack of diversity, Simmons addressed the issue on a podcast episode. 

“I wish it had been a bigger priority for us to really make a bigger commitment to diversity than we did,” Simmons said Friday. “I think, in the moment, we’re looking at stuff, you pursue certain people, it doesn’t work out. You feel like you’re trying. And I think the moment that the country is having, in general, these last four weeks, is if you feel like you’re trying, that’s actually not good enough. We’re going to do better.”

The backlash came in the wake of Ryen Russillo praising Simmons for hiring a diverse group of talent, a compliment The Ringer Union quickly countered.

“In 2019, 86% of speakers on The Ringer Podcast Network were white. We have zero black editors,” the union released in a statement. “We have zero black writers assigned full time to the NBA or NFL beats. Our union is currently bargaining for practices to improve our diversity and inclusion.”

The New York Times continued the conversation, detailing the union’s concern about diversity at The Ringer, where Simmons was quoted as saying “this isn’t Open Mic Night.” Simmons’ quote made headlines and garnered much indignation, but he provided the quote’s full context during his Friday podcast. 

For their story, Simmons was asked the following question by The New York Times via email:

“Current and former staffers told us that it got harder for young writers — parenthesis — including but not limited to people of color — end parenthesis — to get more responsibility and visibility after podcasts became a higher priority at The Ringer in late 2017, early 2018. For example, they said that during the first few months of The Rewatchables, there were opportunities for younger, more obscure folks to participate. But by early 2018, it was mostly senior folks like you, Chris Ryan, Sean Fennessey and Mallory Rubin, can you comment on this?”

“That’s absurd,” Simmons replied in an email. “We were a startup those first two years, trying a whole bunch of different things. Eventually, we realized that podcasts were the biggest financial part of our business, so we needed to put our best people in them. Again, it’s a business, this isn’t Open Mic Night. As for The Rewatchables, I created that podcast, and it was built around me and Chris Ryan. I’ve hosted the vast majority of them. It’s one of our most popular and lucrative podcasts, and one of the biggest pop culture podcasts, period. I’m proud of the show and how we manage it.”

Simmons since offered the predictable ‘we need to do better’ sentiment, but he also noted it’s one of the reasons why he moved the company to Spotify. “I wanted to tap into their HR and their diversity teams and really try to reshape our company,” Simmons said Friday.  

Simmons understands why he is being judged and the need to improve, but asks his audience for “time” to correct the issue.

Sports Online

Online Sports Betting Not Happening In Maryland In 2022

“Some state regulators had expressed optimism at one point that online sports betting in Maryland would go live by the end of this year or in time for next year’s Super Bowl.”

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Online sports betting in Maryland appears to have no shot of happening this year due mainly to the fact that the state’s oversight committee on sports wagering is hung up on how to bring women and minority-owned businesses into the fold.

The Maryland Sports Wagering Application Review Committee (SWARC) is currently awaiting results of a disparity study by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency.

Some state regulators had expressed optimism at one point that online sports betting in Maryland would go live by the end of this year or in time for next year’s Super Bowl. But given where SWARC is, the whole process is being held up to the point that it’ll likely be later in 2023 before residents can use their phones to place bets.

It’s been just over a year since Governor Larry Hogan signed legislation that legalized sports betting in the state. Since then, five casinos in the state have opened retail sportsbooks.

The casinos have handled more than $132 million in bets since December. $26.9 million in wagers were placed in April alone.

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Media Reacts To Nick Saban’s Comments On Texas A&M, Jackson State

“Saban’s comments and the ensuing rebuttals will be used to fuel content on sports television and radio through the offseason and likely beyond.”

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Nick Saban had some choice words about recruiting in the NIL era on Wednesday night. The Alabama head coach didn’t just voice frustrations with the process. He called out three schools specifically for using Name, Image and Likeness payments to create an advantage for themselves in recruiting.

He said that Texas A&M, which signed the top-ranked recruiting class in 2022 according to a number of outlets “bought every player on their team.”

He said that Jackson State gave a player $1 million to come to the school. “It was in the paper,” he said. “They bragged about it! Nobody did anything about it.”

It is likely that he was talking about defensive back Travis Hunter, widely regarded as one of the five best players in the class of 2022. It should be noted that Jackson State Coach Deion Sanders has been adamant that Hunter did not receive a dime from the school or anyone else.

The comments created plenty of content on sports radio on Thursday.

Jimbo Fischer, the head coach of Texas A&M took the story to a new level with a press conference of his own in which he cryptically encouraged people to “dig into” Saban’s career history.

The commentary in the sports media came in all kinds of forms. Plenty took to Twitter to express an opinion.

Others used the feud to create comedy.

Finally, others did actual reporting. they made phone calls to get context and further the story.

The coaches may be relatively quiet in public for a while. That doesn’t mean the stories and reactions are going away. Saban’s comments and the ensuing rebuttals will be used to fuel content on sports television and radio through the offseason and likely beyond.

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Bleav Announces Partnership With SiriusXM

“The Bleav podcasts come with some serious star power. Each show features a former player paired with a host to discuss the latest news about their team. In adding Bleav, SiriusXM adds the likes of Eric Davis, Lorenzo Neal, Adam “Pac Man” Jones and others to its roster.”

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A new partnership will see content from the Bleav Podcast Network come under the SiriusXM umbrella. All 32 of the network’s NFL team-specific podcasts will now be available on the SXM app. The satellite radio company will also have the ability to air Bleav content on its sports channels.

“SiriusXM is a leader in content. We’re very happy to be a part of their programming and continue to amplify the voice of our talent,” Bleav CEO Bron Heussenstamm said in a press release. “SiriusXM listeners will be able to regularly hear from athletes that played for their team, bringing fans insight and access that only a player can.”

The Bleav podcasts come with some serious star power. Each show features a former player paired with a host to discuss the latest news about their team. In adding Bleav, SiriusXM adds the likes of Eric Davis, Lorenzo Neal, Adam “Pac Man” Jones and others to its roster.

The deal will also lead to more content in the future. The companies expect to add to the Bleav content available on the SXM App, including shows focused on other professional and college sports. 

“Bleav’s team-focused programming, hosted by many former stars from the league, give fans a unique and experienced perspective into their favorite players and franchises,” said Steve Cohen, SiriusXM’s SVP of Sports Programming and Podcasts.  “Bleav’s network of shows deliver valuable insight for fans of every NFL team.  They are a great addition to the selection of sports podcasts available on the SXM App and we look forward to adding other shows, focused on other sports, from the Bleav network to SiriusXM in the future.” 

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