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ESPN and Jason Whitlock Part Ways

Jason Barrett

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ESPN and sports commentator Jason Whitlock have parted ways.

Again.

After hiring Whitlock in August 2013 to be the founding editor for a still-yet-to-launch website (The Undefeated) on the intersection of race and sports—a talent acquisition that was also part of a spending spree to counter the launch of Fox Sports 1—ESPN has bought out the remainder of Whitlock’s contract. This ends the second go-around for ESPN and Whitlock, who worked from ESPN from 2002 to 2006 as an ESPN.com writer and frequently opinionist on its studio shows. The buyout was quietly negotiated a couple of weeks ago.

When contacted by SI.com on Sunday afternoon, an ESPN spokesperson forwarded the following from the company, “We have mutually agreed to part ways, which was Jason’s preference following the shift from his role as Editor-in-Chief. Jason is a talented print and television commentator, and we wish him success in his next chapter. ESPN remains fully committed to The Undefeated and plans continue toward an official launch.”

The troubled editorship and eventual ouster of Whitlock as the lead editor of the still yet-to-launch site has been well chronicled, from the New York Times to multiple longform pieces by Deadspin writer Greg Howard.

Here was ESPN’s statement at the time of Whitlock’s removal. Whitlock continued to appear on ESPN’s airwaves throughout this summer on Pardon The Interruption, where he is a favorite of executive producer Erik Rydholm and on-air staffers Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon. It’s expected Whitlock will continue to appear on that show in the near-term.

What’s next? Well, given Fox Sports National Networks President Jamie Horowitz is a Professor Emeritus of the Morton Downey Jr. College of Television, given Horowitz shares mutual professional friends with Whitlock, and given the recent report from Sports Business Daily media reporter John Ourand that FS1 is looking for more opinionated hosts for its afternoon block, Whitlock appears to be a lock to re-join Fox Sports, where he worked from 2007 to 2013. FS1 is rebranding its afternoon format around Colin Cowherd and provocative sports talk in an effort toturn around low ratings. Whitlock could serve as a partner with Cowherd on a still-to-be built late afternoon show or co-host his own show. Will FS1 viewers watch a bloc of programming featuring ex-ESPN talkers? Time will tell.

A Fox spokesperson declined to comment.

Credit to Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated who originally published this article

Sports TV News

Ian Rapoport: I Have Never Thought It is Me vs Adam Schefter

“I don’t even think that, it’s just I report what I know, and he reports what he knows.”

Jordan Bondurant

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In terms of NFL insiders, Ian Rapoport and Adam Schefter are the two biggest names out there. And sometimes it can be a race between the two to get the biggest scoops first. Especially now with the NFL coaching carousel in full swing.

This week two teams hired new head coaches – the Broncos traded two first round picks to the Saints to acquire the rights to Sean Payton and the Texans signed DeMeco Ryans.

Rapoport tweeted that Denver had pursued Ryans up until the day they announced the trade for Payton.

Not even 15 minutes later, Schefter appeared to clarify the information out there with the two teams.

On The Pat McAfee Show on Thursday, Pat McAfee referred to the conflicting information as a “source off.”

Ian said he stood behind what he put out there.

“I know it’s fun to call it a source off or whatever, but for me I reported what I had based on the best information I can get – based on talking to many, many people throughout the course of the last month,” Rapoport said from the Senior Bowl. “And then whatever happens as a result of this I don’t really mind.”

In terms of any sort of rivalry between him and Schefter, Rapoport doesn’t view it as a head-to-head matchup.

“I don’t even think that, it’s just I report what I know, and he reports what he knows,” he said. “And everyone can sort of judge for themselves whichever way to go.”

McAfee gave kudos to Rapoport for his reporting on the Ryans situation. He also said it’s a good thing Rapoport doesn’t worry himself too much about what other insiders are doing.

“I think you should feel good about it, but I do like a good source off,” McAfee said. “And I appreciate the fact that you don’t view it as you versus Schefter. But you two are at the top of the game. So that’s a compliment more so than anything.”

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Sports TV News

AEW Considers Launching Streaming Service

“It’s possible an AEW streaming service could be independent, but many are hopeful AEW’s offerings would be available on HBO Max or Discovery+ akin to how WWE Network is now available on Peacock.”

Jordan Bondurant

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All Elite Wrestling is looking into launching its own streaming service.

According to reporting from Bloomberg, a source “familiar with management’s thinking” said AEW is looking to strike a deal with broadcast partner Warner Bros. Discovery.

Since launching in 2019, AEW now puts on two weekly shows on Warner channels TBS and TNT and airs two shows on YouTube.

Last year AEW acquired Ring of Honor from Sinclair Broadcast Group. As part of that deal, AEW took ownership of RoH’s extensive content library Honor Club. So much like WWE did with WWE Network when it launched in 2014, AEW could launch its streaming service and have all of Ring of Honor’s content in a one-stop shop.

It’s possible an AEW streaming service could be independent, but many are hopeful AEW’s offerings would be available on HBO Max or Discovery+ akin to how WWE Network is now available on Peacock.

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Sports TV News

NBC Officially Unveils Noah Eagle, Todd Blackledge as New Big Ten Booth

“With their collective college football experience and great enthusiasm for the game, Todd, Noah and Kathryn join a production team that can’t wait to kick off the Big Ten season.”

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It’s officially official: Noah Eagle, Todd Blackledge, and Kathryn Tappen will join the Big Ten on NBC booth when the network begins airing the conference’s football package in 2023.

NBC made the announcement Thursday, after weeks of speculation about the moves.

“We are excited to showcase Big Ten Saturday Night on the NBC Sports’ primetime marquee,” said NBC Sports Executive Producer Sam Flood. “When you hear Todd’s voice, you know it’s a big college football game. It has been that way for decades.

“Noah is one of the industry’s rising young play-by-play commentators, who has excelled calling numerous sports across multiple platforms for a wide range of audiences. We are thrilled to pair him in the booth with Todd.

“Kathryn has told the stories of so many memorable Notre Dame Football moments over the last decade in her on-field reporting and interviews,” Flood continued. “With their collective college football experience and great enthusiasm for the game, Todd, Noah and Kathryn join a production team that can’t wait to kick off the Big Ten season.”

Blackledge joins NBC after working as a college football analyst for the network for the past 17 seasons. Previously, he was the an analyst for CBS and ABC, making 2023 his 30th consecutive season covering college football as an analyst.

Eagle is the son of broadcasting legend Ian Eagle, and currently serves as the radio voice of the Los Angeles Clippers. He comes to NBC after calling college football games for FOX Sports in 2022.

Tappen has spent the past nine seasons working NBC’s college football coverage with Notre Dame. Eight of those nine seasons were spent as the network’s sideline reporter before anchoring the studio coverage from South Bend in 2022.

2023 will mark the beginning of a seven-year contract for NBC to air Big Ten football games in primetime. The move is one of the biggest notable expansions in the college football arena for the network since its partnership with Notre Dame began in 1991.

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