LeBron James made some news last week when, at the end of a press conference, he asked why he hadn’t received a question about a Washington Post story that contained a 1957 photo of a 14-year-old Jerry Jones watching white students trying to block black students from desegregating an Arkansas high school.
“I got one question for you guys before you guys leave,” said James, while adding he didn’t want reporters to respond. “I was thinking when I was on my way over here, I was wondering why I haven’t gotten a question from you guys about the Jerry Jones photo. But when the Kyrie [Irving] thing was going on, you guys were quick to ask us questions about that.
“When I watched Kyrie talk, and he says, ‘I know who I am, but I want to keep the same energy when we’re talking about my people and the things they’ve been through,’ and that Jerry Jones photo is one of those moments that our people, black people, have been through in America. And I feel like as a black man, as a black athlete, someone with power and with a platform, when we do something wrong or something that people don’t agree with, it’s on every single tabloid, every single news coverage. It’s on the bottom ticker. It’s asked about every single day.
“But it seems like to me that the whole Jerry Jones situation, the photo, and I know it was years and years ago, and we all make mistakes, I get it. It seems like it’s just been buried under, like, ‘Oh, it happened. OK. We just move on.’ And I was just kind of disappointed that I haven’t received that question from you guys.”
Let’s go through it.
1. James’ implication is that the media put more energy into the Irving situation than Jones because of race. Irving shared a link to an anti-Semitic film that Amazon Prime Video sells, while Jones was in a photo from when he was a teenager. The Irving situation resulted in a team-issued suspension and more of a firestorm. Irving initially did not apologize, which extended the length of the outrage. Jones also did not apologize, but responded by saying, “I don’t know that I or anybody anticipated or had a background of knowing … what was involved. It was more a curious thing,” he said.
There are a lot of reasons why one story gets covered more than another in any situation, which comes down to reporters and editors making decisions: Journalism is subjective. The idea of being objective has always been wrong. The goal is to be fair.
So James is right that the media has put more energy into the Irving situation than Jones. Is that justified? Everyone comes at it from their own perspective.
2. The problem in how James framed the situation as a media critic is that he made it about him instead of the issue. Does he really want his interviews to be state of the unions? Does he want to be asked to talk about the NBA and China? Nike’s labor practices? The World Cup in Qatar?
3. Here is a question the media could ask James, while we are on the topic: He will be doing his second alternate “Thursday Night Football” broadcast with Amazon Prime Video this week. Even now, Amazon has failed to remove the film, “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” that Iriving tweeted out.
James could be asked: Should the media be focusing more on Amazon than Irving?
4. James’ criticism is of the media and how it is handling a 30-year-old black man compared to an 80-year-old white man. It is quaint for a reporter like me to see that James thinks so much of those who cover him in person that he thought it was important that they ask him about it.
5. However, James doesn’t need the media. He has nearly 200 million followers on social media between Twitter and Instagram. If he has a message he wants to deliver, he can say what he wants unfiltered and it will be picked up throughout the media.
6. In the power dynamic between James and the people who cover him, James owns nearly all the power.
Reporters from print, radio and TV nearly all need him for content — he doesn’t need them.
This relationship could disincentivize some to ask James about touchy subjects. James can cut off any beat reporter he wants and it will have no impact on him. For reporters who regularly cover James and need to be able to talk to him one-on-one, though, there is a balance that has to be struck. That is how it works in clubhouses and locker rooms with the biggest stars.
More to the media interest point, Irving is James’ former teammate, and there has been a feeling if Irving were to be traded or cut by the Nets, he would end up with the Lakers.
The issue James could have shone more of a light on is why there is less coverage for Jones than Irving, not simply why he wasn’t asked about the Cowboys owner. The only reason to ask James about the Jones situation is that James has said he is a Cowboys fan, but apparently that is not even the case anymore. It is not as direct a correlation for James as it is with his former teammate, Irving.
Fox Sports’ World Cup coverage continues to disappoint. With the final games of group stage play, the network failed to convey the tension in each match and what each score meant in real time. There are four teams in a group, and the final games for each team are played at the same time. Fox Sports’ announcers weren’t regularly updating what a next goal would mean for each country involved. That was the story at all times. The live standings graphic would appear at times, but viewers needed more. They needed to have the opposing group game’s score on the screen at all times. It could have been a smaller graphic, but in nearly all scenarios it was relevant. The broadcaster should not make viewers continually Google trying to figure it all out. … If this wasn’t bad enough, at one point late in Group E, Fox Sports play-by-player Jacqui Oatley said Spain was out when they were still in. How does that happen? Fox has the Euros and the next World Cup; it should do a better job of focusing on non-United States storylines. … I don’t know who Fox thinks is watching these World Cup pregames. Maybe half the people were fooled by the dishonest listed starting times, but common sense dictates the audience is really into soccer. Telling us incessantly that the U.S. is playing Saturday at 9 a.m. (it really was 10) is too much. And while it has improved a little discussing tactics, the studio show has been far too focused on repeating the obvious, such as the fact that “the United States really needs to win.” Or, “have we mentioned this is going to a big game?” One of the oldest sayings in journalism is: Show, don’t tell. Fox’s pregame did show us a daily paid segment about what a great vacation spot Qatar is. Now that the United States is out, wouldn’t it have been good to have developed more of the other World Cup storylines to maintain interest here? … For the US-Netherlands knockout game on Saturday morning, Fox averaged nearly 13 million viewers. … Telemundo/Peacock had big numbers in the group stage of the World Cup, averaging 2.07 million viewers per game. That is up five percent compared to 2018. The No. 1-rated game was Mexico’s loss to Argentina, which had nine million viewers in total audience delivery, between Telemundo and the Spanish language stream on Peacock. … ESPN’s Adam Schefter had a story Sunday morning, citing sources, saying that Deshaun Watson has shown “signs of progress,” during his mandatory treatment program after he had been suspended by the NFL for sexual misconduct in his treatment of dozens of masseuses. The story felt like a PR favor and it was weird it was even run. There were no examples of what progress even means. Has he not assaulted anyone? Does he understand what he did wrong? Watson has declined to answer questions about it. Given the unknowns, it seems like you’d need to go back to the “sources,” who were willing to say that they have seen “signs of progress,” and ask them in what way? To run it as a Sunday morning pregame splash felt off.
Is David Shaw the next battle in the ESPN-Fox war?
When ESPN lost the Big Ten in negotiations that were jointly led by the conference and, very prominently, Fox Sports, there was a feeling that it left some bad blood between the networks. There were behind the scenes denials.
Whatever, the competition is real, which is a compliment to what Fox has created in recent years; especially what it has done in the late morning window with “Big Noon Kickoff” and then the 12 p.m. games. And it continues…
1. The next battle could be for now ex-Stanford coach David Shaw, who is expected to have a lot of opportunities in TV, if he wants it, after deciding to step away from the sidelines. Shaw has already performed well on the NFL Network’s draft coverage for years, so could “College GameDay” and “Big Noon Kickoff” be interested in fighting for him?
2. Fox swiped another one from ESPN this week. Chris (The Bear) Fallica is leaving to join “Big Noon Kickoff” after moving through the ranks at ESPN from working behind the scenes to becoming a key figure on GameDay’s weekly remotes.
Fox looking to ESPN for college football is not new. Tom Rinaldi, who is on basically all of Fox’s major sports properties, went west from Bristol. Before Rinaldi, Emmanuel Acho, Adam Amin, Jonathan Vilma and Mark Sanchez. (Sanchez and Vilma were for the NFL) also made the move from ESPN to Fox. More recently, Fox also swiped Jason Benetti for its college football coverage, among other assignments.
3. “GameDay” is an iconic show. Probably second all-time for studio shows to TNT’s “Inside the NBA.” (This is very subjective, and my opinion could be partly swayed by being a little more into hoops than college football.) However you look at it, ESPN has felt Fox Sports’ presence. It brought in Pat McAfee during the season to counteract.
4. The ratings have become something to watch. ESPN makes sure to email what it feels is evidence of its dominance, while Fox Sports says look at the inroads. For example:
• GameDay’s 11 a.m.-noon window is currently averaging 75 percent more viewers (and 111 percent more age 18-49 viewers) than Big Noon Kickoff’s final hour. (Per ESPN PR).
• Big Noon Kickoff had its most-watched season ever, up 12 percent over 2021 (Per Fox Sports PR)
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