NBA commissioner Adam Silver confirmed the worst fears of credentialed media as COVID-19 restrictions and regulations begin to relax throughout the country.
Speaking to reporters during NBA All-Star Weekend (via Larry Brown Sports), Silver was asked if the league might begin to lift COVID restrictions on media access to locker rooms and in-person interviews during team practices and shootarounds. Reporters haven’t been allowed into locker rooms during the pandemic and Silver said that’s likely to continue.
“I think creating a bit of distance may make more sense for the foreseeable future,” said Silver. “… I also think it’s a bit of an anachronism to have reporters in the actual room where players are dressing.”
“I’m not sure if we were designing a system from scratch today,” he added, “we would say come stand next to the players at their lockers as they’re dressing, and that’s the appropriate forum to interview them.”
As you might expect, Silver’s answer didn’t go over well with veteran reporters who have covered the league for years and value the types of one-on-one conversations, the observations of team culture that locker room access allows.
Others pointed out the hypocrisy of citing health and safety concerns in restricting media access when the NBA has relaxed its testing requirements and COVID protocols.
Players have now become accustomed to reporters not being in the locker room, and it’s understandable that they don’t want that access restored. Many athletes feel they can get their message out and tell their stories through their own social media accounts or athlete-friendly platforms like The Players’ Tribune and UNINTERRUPTED. Silver is surely speaking on behalf of those who have expressed those exact sentiments.
Some fans might agree that reporters don’t need to interview players in locker rooms, that they can ask questions during Zoom or group press conferences. But the dynamic is different. And thorough reporting suffers because of it. Players may not be willing to answer questions the same way and there’s no opportunity for reporters to build trust, something that can be crucial for in-depth coverage and substantive stories.
When COVID restrictions were put in place, the fear among media was that teams, leagues, and conferences would continue barring reporters from locker rooms and practices even after reporters were vaccinated, outbreaks were minimized, and many businesses began opening up again. Silver’s statements show that reporters were correct in their skepticism.
Poll Data Shows Tepid Response To Tom Brady Joining FOX
“A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.”
FOX Sports reportedly signed Tom Brady to a 10-year deal worth $375 million to make the seven-time Super Bowl champion the new lead analyst for its top NFL broadcast once his playing career is over.
A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.
The poll said 2 in 5 NFL fans have a better opinion of FOX Sports following the deal, with 41% of NFL fans being at least somewhat more likely to watch a game with Brady as an analyst.
Data shows one-third of NFL fans think the deal Brady reportedly agreed to is worth about the same as its reported value.
That reaction could probably be described as “tepid”. That may be exactly what FOX expects and maybe all it wants.
Last week, Domonique Foxworth of ESPN suggested that the paycheck is less about what the network thinks Tom Brady means to viewers and more about showing the NFL that the network values its product.
FOX Not Interested In Joining Streaming Sports Wars
“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take?”
The CEO of FOX doesn’t plan on forking over billions of dollars to be people’s last choice for paid streaming services.
Lachlan Murdoch said at a time when more than 80% of American homes already have some kind of paid streaming service, it’s not worthwhile to jump on that train.
Amazon, Netflix and Disney+ typically account for the average streaming presence in a household.
“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take,” Murdoch said at a tech conference earlier this year. “And so the billions of dollars that’s being spent by multiple aspirants is all for that last position. And so we are extraordinarily — I want to say that — we’re happy to be sort of sitting on the sidelines.”
Murdoch told Benjamin Swinburne that when it comes to the NFL, FOX’s media rights are the same as CBS, NBC and ESPN. The main focus for the company remains on keeping games on TV.
“We don’t believe it helps us to put those rights under a streaming service or free on over-the-air. We think it’s very important that those rights remain exclusive to the broadcast environment,” Murdoch said.
FOX does stream games through its app, but it is only the games it is also carrying on its broadcast network or FS1.
NBA Draft To Get Simulcast From ESPN & ABC
“This follows the simulcast model ESPN and ABC have employed for several years with the NFL Draft.”
ESPN is set for the 2022 NBA Draft coming up on June 23 at 8 p.m. from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The network announced Wednesday the crews that will handle coverage on both ESPN and ABC.
ABC will broadcast the first round in primetime. Kevin Negandhi will host and will be joined by Stephen A. Smith, Chiney Ogwumike and Jalen Rose. Monica McNutt will be reporting and interviewing draftees.
This follows the simulcast model ESPN and ABC have employed for several years with the NFL Draft.
Malika Andrews will host both rounds for ESPN. Jay Bilas, Kendrick Perkins and Adrian Wojnarowski will share the set. Analysts Bobby Marks and Mike Schmitz will contribute.
“We’re thrilled that Malika Andrews will host this year’s ESPN presentation as she brings her well-documented, widespread skillset to our main set,” said David Roberts, head of NBA and Studio Production for ESPN. “The event will showcase the scope and depth of our NBA and college basketball talent roster with accomplished journalists and high-profile personalities across ESPN, ABC and ESPN Radio.”
ESPN will air a pre-draft red carpet show hosted by Cassidy Hubbarth from 5-6 p.m. Perkins and Richard Jefferson will also make appearances.