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.”
Skip Bayless Says He And Stephen A. Smith ‘Sorted Out’ Their Disagreement
“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”
Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless were locked in a war of words last week following the First Take host’s appearance on JJ Redick’s Old Man and the Three podcast.
The origins of their partnership were discussed and Bayless admitted he did not like the way Smith characterized the state of First Take before he arrived on set. Smith insisted that Bayless simply misunderstood what he meant by saying that he was told the show needed him.
Over the weekend, Skip Bayless says he and Stephen A. Smith got together at the Bayless home in California to talk things out in private.
“He was in LA, he came over, we sat by the pool,” he said on the latest episode of The Skip Bayless Show. “It wasn’t the easiest conversation for a while, but we slowly but surely sorted it out. We got through it, and we have been through so much together.”
Bayless reiterated that he considers Smith a brother. They love each other. That doesn’t mean they are always going to remember events the same way or see eye-to-eye all the time.
“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”
Fighting doesn’t mean the relationship is fractured. In fact, Skip Bayless was adamant that he remains closer to Smith than he is to most people in his life.
“I don’t trust easily because of the way I was raised, but I do trust Stephen Anthony Smith. Trust him with my life. Always have and always will. I trust he will always be there for me, and you better believe I will always be there for him.”
FOX Sports VP: ‘USFL Proves Spring Football As Valuable As Rising Properties’
“We want to show we belong in that category, and I think that happened.”
Michael Mulvihill says the USFL accomplished exactly what FOX needed it to. It proved there is a large enough audience for spring football that it has a value on par with some of the hottest properties in sports media right now.
“All we wanted to do is demonstrate that spring football can do viewership at the levels of Premier League, NHL regular season, Formula One or MLS,” the FOX Sports Executive VP said according to Sports Business Journal. “We want to show we belong in that category, and I think that happened.”
While none of those properties are pulling in the kind of media rights money the NFL or major college football is, Mulvihill pointed out that all of them have been in the news for the right reasons.
“You’re talking about properties that have all recently negotiated deals at substantial increases, or with F1, people know it’s about to.”
The USFL had a solid broadcasting footprint with games airing on FOX, NBC, FS1 and USA. Regular season games for the first year of the revived league averaged just under 700,000 viewers.
Mulvihill said fans behaved exactly how he expected them to in the first season of the USFL. Without any team loyalties, he isn’t surprised that people watched less of an average USFL game than they did the NFL or college football.
The USFL Playoffs begin this weekend. Canton, OH will host the league’s first championship game on July 3.
Pelicans Extend Deal With Bally Sports New Orleans
“The deal will also put the team on the new Bally Sports+ streaming service, which had a soft launch earlier this week.”
Sinclair has reached an agreement on a new rights deal with the New Orleans Pelicans. Bally Sports New Orleans will remain the team’s local TV partner.
The deal will also put the team on the new Bally Sports+ streaming service, which had a soft launch earlier this week. The service rolls out in full this fall.
“When we constructed this new agreement with Bally Sports New Orleans the main priority was distribution and the ability to deliver our games directly to our fans,” Dennis Lauscha, President of the New Orleans Pelicans, said in a press release. With the upcoming launch of Bally Sports+, Bally Sports’ direct-to-consumer platform, any Pelicans fan will be able to have access to Bally Sports New Orleans in the team’s local territory. This partnership allows us to continue to deliver unique, compelling Pelicans content across multiple platforms with the highest production quality. We are still working every option with Bally Sports New Orleans to improve the accessibility, ancillary content and distribution of Pelicans programming to all of our fans across Louisiana and the Gulf Coast region.”
Bally Sports New Orleans will carry around 75 regular season games per year. The network will also produce first round playoff and preseason games.
“The New Orleans Pelicans have been a great partner over the years and we look forward to building this relationship into the future,” added Steve Simpson, SVP and GM of Bally Sports New Orleans. “Our ability to deliver Pelicans content to as many local fans as possible, on both linear distribution channels and the all-new Bally Sports+ streaming product this fall, is incredibly exciting as we continue to grow the next generation of Pelicans fans.”
The Pelicans did look at new media partners before re-signing with Bally Sports New Orleans. Karen Brodkin, Executive Vice President of Endeavor, who the team hired to consult the process, noted that the existing relationship and the addition of a proprietary streaming platform for Sinclair made the difference.