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Stephen A. Smith Apologizes For Implying Jehovah’s Witnesses Are Anti-Vaccine

“Andrew Wiggins also was hesitant about taking the vaccine. He’s a Jehovah’s Witness, from what I’m told.”

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On Thursday’s First Take, Stephen A. Smith apologized to Jehovah’s Witnesses for implying that the denomination is opposed to taking the COVID-19 vaccine while discussing Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins being voted to the NBA All-Star team as a Western Conference starter.

“I made a mistake last week and I want to make sure that I clarify myself,” Smith said (via Mediaite’s Brandon Contes). “Last week, when discussing the incredible accomplishments of Andrew Wiggins this season… I introduced his religion in the discussion about vaccination.

“I could have and should have been more clear in that discussion. Because I fully understand that Jehovah’s Witnesses have no specific opposition to the vaccine. I did not make that clear, so I want to make sure I make that now and my apologies for the mishap.”

The video clip is available to watch at Mediaite.

Smith made his remarks in reaction to the NBA All-Star starters being announced. Wiggins being named to this season’s NBA All-Star team. The eight-year veteran is averaging 18.3 points and shooting 42 percent from three-point range.

“Andrew Wiggins also was hesitant about taking the vaccine. He’s a Jehovah’s Witness, from what I’m told,” Smith said on First Take. “And took [the vaccine] because ‘my team needs me.’”

Being characterized as anti-vaccine on a national sports program caused some unhappiness and misconception to which Jehovah’s Witnesses felt compelled to reply.

Smith was critical of Wiggins earlier in the season when the Warriors star sought a religious exemption from taking the vaccine, which the NBA denied. Faced with not being able to play home games in San Francisco, where attendees to large indoor events were required to show they were vaccinated, Wiggins eventually ceded and got vaccinated.

Last July, Smith apologized for remarks he made about Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani, saying he couldn’t be the face of Major League Baseball because he doesn’t speak English. For a good part of that First Take episode, he listened to several ESPN staffers including Jeff Passan and Joon Lee tell him why he was wrong.

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Chris Fallica Leaving ESPN for FOX

Neither FOX or ESPN would comment on the situation, but in the Awful Announcing report it’s believed that there will be a send-off of some sort for Fallica on Saturday.

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A prominent sports betting voice featured on ESPN’s College GameDay will be heading to rival FOX and their Big Noon Kickoff show starting in 2023. According to Awful Announcing, Chris Fallica, affectionately known as “The Bear”, will make his last appearance on GameDay will be this weekend.

Fallica has been with ESPN since 1995. Since 2013, Fallica had been featured on GameDay making betting picks with his patented “Bear’s Board”.

Neither FOX or ESPN would comment on the situation, but in the Awful Announcing report it’s believed that there will be a send-off of some sort for Fallica on Saturday.

Fallica joins Tom Rinaldi as the second former GameDay voice to jump over to FOX and be featured on Big Noon Kickoff.

Both shows have experienced incredible viewership growth this season. For GameDay, there have been several weeks this season that have seen some of the largest audiences in the show’s history.

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Tim Brando Believes Executives Look For Familiarity, Not Great Voices For Announcers

“Executives are going more for people they think they audience knows from having been in the studio. As opposed to man that’s a great voice, that guy really gets it, and his judgement is fantastic.”

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Tim Brando has seen the broadcasting industry has evolved in a lot of ways through the years, but one thing that’s remained constant is how infrequently some of the announcing gigs with major networks open up to younger voices.

That’s mainly because you have veteran talent already occupying those positions with no plans for the immediate future to step aside.

On a recent edition of The Sports Talkers Podcast, FOX Sports broadcaster and host Tim Brando spoke to Stephen Strom about the reality that many broadcasters face.

“Yeah there are a lot more jobs, but there are fewer great jobs,” Brando said. “A lot of guys are getting jobs, but it’s like a dead end.”

But in terms of hiring younger talent for network jobs, he thinks it’s become more about adding faces to broadcast booths rather than voices.

“There’s a tendency I think now in our business to hire more visible and perhaps more popular talent because they’ve been in the studio,” he said. “But they’re not ready to be in the booth. Not everybody can do both well.”

Tim added that there’s a nuance to calling play-by-play versus working studio coverage. Brando said that perhaps it has a lot more to do with young broadcasters bypassing getting their start in radio and going right into TV.

“It seems to me that in some circles anyway in our business, executives are going more for people they think they audience knows from having been in the studio,” he said. “As opposed to man that’s a great voice, that guy really gets it, and his judgement is fantastic.”

Brando did mention some of the younger voices at FOX who have risen to the bigger opportunities in the booth, and how they ultimately worked their way up. He said he’s had the chance to offer advice to a few of them and act as a mentor in a way, because that’s how it was for him breaking into the industry.

“I believe in pouring into the young broadcasters out there, I really do,” he said. “Because Curt Gowdy poured into me. I think there’s a responsibility and a level of accountability for the generation before to help those that are coming up that you really respect.”

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MLB Network Airing 38 Hours of Winter Meetings Coverage

Coverage will begin on Sunday at 7 p.m. with MLB Tonight leading into the announcement of the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee’s election results for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

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The annual winter meetings for MLB are set to take place in-person for the first time since 2019 next week, and MLB Network is ready to bring viewers all the coverage possible from San Diego.

The network is devoting 38 hours of live programming on-site, with shows like MLB Tonight, Hot Stove, High Heat, MLB Now and Intentional Talk emanating from the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel.

Coverage will begin on Sunday at 7 p.m. with MLB Tonight leading into the announcement of the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee’s election results for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Fans tuning in to MLB Network can expect to see Greg Amsinger, Fran Charles, Brian Kenny, Stephen Nelson, Alanna Rizzo, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, Lauren Shehadi and Matt Vasgersian hosting their respective shows throughout the week. Sean Casey, Mark DeRosa, Al Leiter, Cameron Maybin, Kevin Millar, Dan O’Dowd, Steve Phillips and Harold Reynolds will contribute coverage as analysts.

MLB Network will also carry coverage of the inaugural draft lottery from the winter meetings on Tuesday, December 6 at 8:30 p.m.

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