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ESPN's Stephen A. Smith this morning addressed comments he made on domestic violence during Friday's edition of "First Take" and called them the "most egregious error of my career." Speaking at the outset of today's show, Smith apologized for insinuating women could play a role in domestic violence against them. Smith said, "I ventured beyond the scope of our discussion by alluding to a woman's role in such heinous matters, going so far as to use the word 'provoke' in my diatribe. My words came across that it is somehow a woman's fault. This was not my intent. It was not what I was trying to say. Yet the failure to clearly articulate something different lies squarely on my shoulders. To say what I actually said was foolish is an understatement. To say I was wrong is obvious." Following Smith's statement, "First Take" co-host Cari Champion said, "I know where he was going and what he was trying to say. Obviously, he failed, and he said he failed to do so." She added, "For us here on 'First Take,' we all learned a very important lesson: To communicate better. As the lone woman on this show, to speak up, to say what we want to hear and make sure it's being done well. Again, communicate better. That was our lesson. We will try to do better" ("First Take," ESPN2, 7/28). Smith during Friday's show said, "Let’s make sure we don’t do anything to provoke wrong actions. ... Let’s try to do our part in making sure that doesn’t happen." ESPN's Michelle Beadle "lambasted the segment on Twitter." She wrote she would "never feel clean again." Smith Friday afternoon in a series of tweets said that his initial comments "were not clearly articulated and therefore were misunderstood by some viewers" (LATIMES.com, 7/26). USA TODAY's Chris Chase wrote, "Chalk up some of it to the perils of being on live television without a net." Smith "goes around and around before getting to his point." Viewers can "almost hear the regret while he’s delivering the kicker" (USATODAY.com, 7/25).
BREAKING THE UNWRITTEN RULE: SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote Beadle's Twitter response to Smith's comments "game-changed what likely would have been just another horrible day at First Take" and "set up a narrative (correct or not) of an ESPN employee publicly condemning another ESPN employee." News outlets around the country "posted stories on it." However, outside of ESPN’s Jemele Hill and espnW’s Jane McManus, women talking about the Ray Rice issue "on ESPN’s airwaves were non-existent" (SI.com, 7/27). SPORTS ON EARTH's Will Leitch writes Beadle's Twitter response was "the most important thing she'll ever do in journalism" and "legitimately one of the most courageous things I've ever seen someone in sports journalism do." Beadle "didn't just call out Smith; she started a conversation that we desperately needed to have." She "called attention to Smith, and the scores of others like him." We are all "still talking about Stephen A. Smith and domestic violence and Ray Rice because of Michelle Beadle." Leitch: "Do not think that Beadle ... did all this without considerable risk." Keeping criticism in-house is "a matter of public policy" at ESPN. That Beadle would "call out a colleague took guts, and legitimate outrage." But the wrath of ESPN execs is "nothing compared to what Beadle exposed herself to online" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 7/28).
ARE YOU SIRIUS? In N.Y., Bob Raissman reported Smith will "soon leave" ESPN Radio 98.7 N.Y. in favor of Sirius XM's "Mad Dog Radio." Smith currently co-hosts a 1:00pm-3:00pm ET program with Ryan Ruocco on ESPN Radio. His new show on MDR also will "probably air" from 1:00pm-3:00pm (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/27). However, in N.Y., Phil Mushnick asks, "Why has Smith become sports TV and radio executives’ ideal go-to guy in the pursuit of diversity?" He is "a circle-talking windsock." He "simultaneously knows everything and nothing, while he dances in place until the con becomes apparent, until you realize that you’re either listening but not hearing, or hearing but not listening" (N.Y. POST, 7/28).
The NBA Kings have "signed a 20-year media rights extension with NBC Sports Group worth" $690-700M, according to Lombardo & Ourand of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The new media rights deal "will keep the Kings on Comcast SportsNet California" through the '33-34 NBA season. Sources said that the deal is "worth an average" of $35M a year over the next two decades, an amount that represents a "significant windfall and long-term stability for a midmarket franchise that plays in the country’s 20th biggest designated market area." NBC Sports Group, which operates CSN California, will "pay the team " $25-26M next year, with close to a standard 4% increase "kicking in annually." Like most local NBA media deals, the agreement "includes a 'reset,' which would adjust the fee to match market rates." But it is "not clear when that reset kicks in." CSN California will now "sell all pregame, in-game and postgame advertising and sponsorships." The club "handled those sales in the prior deal." The deal also provides CSN California with "more Kings content," as the net will carry more games and produce "more shoulder programming around the team." The RSN has committed to "add 30-minute pregame and postgame shows for each game" and to "hire a reporter solely devoted" to the club. Furthermore, CSN California will "produce a monthly magazine show called 'Kings Central'" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 7/28 issue).
Boston-based WEEI-FM "Dennis & Callahan" co-host Kirk Minihane has been "suspended without pay for a week" for disparaging on-air comments he made about Fox Sports' Erin Andrews, according to Chad Finn of the BOSTON GLOBE. Entercom Communications President & CEO David Field made the announcement Friday night, "just hours after Fox Sports informed him it was pulling all advertising from the company's more than 100 stations nationwide, including WEEI." Fox Sports President & COO Eric Shanks in a letter informed Field that "all Fox advertising would be pulled and no Fox Sports personalities would be permitted to be guests on WEEI." Shanks wrote, "The comments made by Mr. Minihane were boorish and sexist. Further, the 'apology' made by Mr. Minihane was juvenile and insincere. To make matters worse, the 'apology' was posted under a banner (allegedly approved by your Boston VP and Market Manager, Phil Zachary) hailing 'The Triumphant Return of Kirk Minihane.' I had hoped by this time we might hear a sincere apology from WEEI, or perhaps someone from your office might have reached out to Fox (which through our film and television businesses is a significant advertiser on Entercom stations). However, none of that has been forthcoming, and needless to say we are disappointed" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/26). SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote Fox Sports is "going all-in" on WEEI. Fox Sports upper management -- many of whom "have wanted to go public with their animus over the comments -- met on Friday afternoon at the company's Los Angeles offices on how to respond to WEEI after Minihane's second set of comments" (SI.com, 7/25).
The Washington Times and the Redskins announced a partnership that will make the newspaper a "content and marketing partner" of the club, according to a front-page piece in the WASHINGTON TIMES. As part of the deal, a weekly “Redskins Weekend Game Guide” will "wrap the front page of the Times’ print edition each Friday during the NFL season," and a new free digital magazine called “The Redskins Report,” will "showcase exclusive content about the Redskins." Both features are "expected to launch in August." In addition, Times sports reporters, such as Thom Loverro and Zac Boyer, will "provide commentary and analysis on selected Redskins' radio and TV shows and also appear on the team’s online pregame show and the halftime shows." The halftime show also "appears on FedExField’s HD video boards." The club will provide the newspaper with "commentaries and access to players, coaches and front office personnel that will be incorporated into the Times’ weekly guides, digital magazine and special sections" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 7/28).
In L.A., Joe Flint reports a group of Southern California lawmakers wants the FCC to "broker a deal to end the bitter standoff between Time Warner Cable and other pay-TV providers over distribution of SportsNet LA" as 70% of the market has been "unable to see Dodger games on TV." Sources said that TWC "wants more than $4 a month per subscriber in the first year with the price rising steadily through the life of the deal." But seven members of Congress led by California 29th Congressional District Representative Tony Cardenas are "calling on the FCC to mediate an agreement" (L.A. TIMES, 7/8).
NEW DIGS: SI.com's Richard Deitsch reported Michelle Beisner is leaving NFL Network to "work as an NFL features reporter" at ESPN. Beisner worked at NFL Network since '06 as a studio host and field reporter. She will be "reporting and fronting player profiles and other features" for "Sunday NFL Countdown" (SI.com, 7/27).
A HOST OF PROBLEMS: In N.Y., Bob Raissman wrote to call Showtime’s “Inside the NFL” in a "state of major transition is an understatement." The show "still does not have a host." That is a "major issue -- embarrassing, too." Sources said that NFL Network's Rich Eisen, who is "in the middle of a rough contract negotiation with NFLN suits," is a candidate for the job (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/27).
ONE DIRECTION: New AFL Predators President Jared Saft said that a federal judge has "issued a temporary injunction" preventing the current owner of ORLANDOPREDATORS.com from "redirecting the site." In Orlando, Alicia Delgallo noted the domain for the past two weeks had been "redirecting to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's list" of sexual offenders and predators. The AFL has "filed a lawsuit to take possession of the website, but expects the process to take up to 60 days" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 7/27).