The 2020-21 NFL season will go down as one of the craziest seasons in recent memory, but in some eyes, it will go down as a meaningful season in terms of what the league stood for over the last year in the fight for social justice and trying to play the game amidst a pandemic.
On Tuesday night’s episode of Inside The NFL that looked ahead to Super Bowl LV this Sunday, ESPN’s Bomani Jones was a guest with James Brown, Phil Simms, and Ray Lewis to talk about how the NFL has addressed social injustice, the Rooney Rule, and the impact COVID-19 has had on the NFL.
After a montage of clips looking back at the season that was from NFL Films, Brown first asked Jones, who he called one of the “most knowledgeable and distinguishable voices in sports broadcasting” about how significant it was the NFL has expressed their concern about social injustice. Jones said it is a message still going in the NFL compared to other sports.
“When you think about it, the NBA got out of the bubble and you don’t have Black Lives Matter on the floor anymore, you don’t have the things on the back of the jerseys. Right now, in sports, the NFL is carrying that messaging in a way that nobody really has been in professional sports. It hasn’t been out front as some people would like, but I think the number one goal in this is the product. Whatever you do can’t interfere with the football that is being watched.”
Jones also brought up the example of DeAndre Hopkins wearing Denmark Vesey’s name on the back of his helmet to help educate people on a slave revolt that happened in the United States. He mentions that having that name being introduced to people by Lisa Salters on ESPN can make people think about history during a game.
“After a while, you can tune out the things that you see week after week, but I find the little things that pop up that make me say I think they are really doing something here to put things in places where people wouldn’t ordinarily probably wouldn’t think of discussing some of them.”
While the messaging by the players has continued to grow, Jones said it is up to the NFL to “make people believe that they believe it.”
“When they do the stuff for the military, we know that they believe it. Can you make people feel like you believe it in that same way when they are doing those things? That’s where the owners are going to be important in this. The NFL owners command a different level of respect. The ones who have put themselves forward, those are the ones when you look up and see they are invested in it and it doesn’t take much to convey that, I don’t think.”
The topic shifted to the Rooney Rule and whether or not it is working with just 2 black head coaches in the NFL. Brown told Jones, Simms, and Lewis that it is “pitiful code words” when he hears a coach does not interview well. Jones used an example of 2 coaches to say if the interviews were really poor, we would know about it.
“When you talk about the interviews, the Eagles interviewed a candidate who was on vacation, so he did not have his suit, so everyone put on their Tommy Bahama shirts or whatever it was to make him feel more comfortable. They made the interview well for this guy. I believe this on Eric Bieniemy (Chiefs offensive coordinator). If Bieniemy really interviewed that poorly, we wouldn’t have heard whispers, we would know about it. If someone believes typically that a black person can’t do something, they are going to tell you loud and proud why they believe they can’t do it.”
NBC Testing Nielsen Competitor for Super Bowl, Olympics
“NBCU is hoping a successful test leads to switching to iSpot.tv’s data going forward.”
Networks have been unhappy with Nielsen for a while now, a recent issue involving Nielsen admitting to erroneously underreporting viewership numbers has not helped matters.
Most networks, however, have stuck with them due to Nielsen’s hold on the ad sales industry for decades. NBCUniversal has decided to explore other options, going so far as to plan an upcoming test with an upstart Nielsen competitor during two of the biggest events in television: the Super Bowl and the Olympics.
According to a Los Angeles Times report from Stephen Battaglio, NBCUniversal will use data from iSpot.tv to provide viewing information on the two major events next month. Publicis Media, which owns several major ad-buying companies, has agreed to participate in the test with several of its clients.
NBCUniversal remains a client of Nielsen and will continue to use its ratings for the events. But the test with iSpot.tv — which has a multi-year deal to provide its services to NBCU — will be the most high-profile effort to promote a viable competitor to Nielsen.
The Times report states that this is more than just a bluff, as NBCU is hoping a successful test leads to switching to iSpot.tv’s data going forward. That would certainly mark a major shift, and it’s all tied back to NBC and other networks being dissatisfied with how Nielsen calculates non-traditional viewing. Considering that’s a growing portion of viewership, especially in key demographics, and that it’s only going to be more important going forward.
Obviously, the Super Bowl will pull numbers regardless, on traditional and non-traditional platforms. But NBC pays billions for the Olympics, and this move seems intended at finding more satisfactory tracking data it can present to advertisers.
But NBCU executives are of the mind that consumers have been watching more due to the variety of streaming options. The network is hoping the data from iSpot.tv will confirm their assumption.
Nabil Karim To Cover NHL and NBA For Turner
“Karim makes his debut Friday night on NBA TV.”
Turner Sports and Nabil Karim have agreed on a multi-year deal. Karim will serve as a studio host and reporter for basketball and hockey programming. An official announcement is expected later today.
Karim makes his debut Friday night on NBA TV. Most recently with ESPN, the British Columbia native was at TSN from 2011-2019, hosting a well-rounded suite of premier events.
He joined The Kyle Koster Show to talk about his new role, what he’s most excited about, and his career journey to this point.
“I think about broadcasters, and I wonder how many of them, their favorite two sports are hockey and basketball,” Nabil Karim said. “Being a Canadian, growing up with hockey, that was 1a and 1b for me. When Turner acquired NHL and this opportunity came up to work in hockey and basketball, it was a no-brainer.”
Pete Thamel Joins ESPN as College Football Insider
“Richard Deitsch of The Athletic notes that Thamel will become a “major” part of College GameDay.”
Just like the NFL, the news rarely stops in college football these days. That is why ESPN is hiring someone to cover the sport the way Adam Schefter covers the NFL. That someone will be Yahoo’s Pete Thamel.
Andrew Marchand reported Wednesday night that Thamel is expected to join ESPN in a insider role covering college football.
ESPN already has three reporters that it classifies as “college football insiders.” Those are Heather Dinich, Adam Rittenberg and Mark Schlabach. Thamel appears set to become the face of that operation though.
Richard Deitsch of The Athletic notes that Thamel will become a “major” part of College GameDay.
Thamel’s hire continues something of a trend for ESPN. Marchand points out that whenever the network is in the market for an insider to cover a sport, it tends to go shopping at Yahoo!. Pete Thamel joins Adrian Wojnarowski and Jeff Passan as insiders that left the site for Bristol.
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