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Faulk, Evans Will Not Return to NFL Network

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Marshall Faulk, Heath Evans, are not expected to return to the NFL Network after their suspensions that stemmed from allegations against them and others in a lawsuit filed by former NFL Network employee Jami Cantor. Others named in the lawsuit include Ike Taylor, who has already parted ways with the network, Donovan McNabb and Eric Davis, who had already left NFL Network for ESPN and subsequently been let go in Bristol.

Andrew Marchand reported the accusations against each of the men in The New York Post.

The suit claims Faulk groped the woman’s breasts and behind, while Taylor allegedly sent a video of himself masturbating in the shower. Evans is said to have asked for sex and sent nude pictures of himself.

Nothing has been made official yet, but the news of Faulk’s and Evans’ termination is expected in the coming days. There is some language in both men’s contracts that prevents either from suing the NFL Network for early termination according to one of Marchand’s sources.

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Stephen A. Smith, Jay Williams Get Worked Up Arguing Over Kyrie Irving

Smith called Williams “an apologist” for defending Irving.

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Stephen A. Smith may be trying to turn himself down a bit since being hospitalized for COVID during the New Year’s holiday. But as pointed out by the New York Post‘s Ryan Glasspiegel, it sure didn’t look that way on Wednesday’s First Take while arguing about Kyrie Irving with guest co-host Jay Williams.

First Take viewers and sports media observers already know how Smith feels about Irving, who’s refused to take the COVID-19 vaccine and only played in four games for the Brooklyn Nets this season due to health and safety protocols throughout the league.

When Smith announced on-air in December that he tested positive for COVID and was experiencing symptoms, he ended the segment by criticizing the Nets for the “disgraceful move” of allowing Irving to rejoin the team despite only being able to play in road games. (He’s prohibited from playing in Brooklyn due to New York state vaccine mandates.)

On Wednesday, Smith repeated that assertion, adding that it would be bad for basketball if the Nets won the NBA championship with Irving only playing away from Brooklyn’s Barclay Center. And if it wasn’t certain how Smith feels, check out the look on his face at the 1:14 mark of the video below when Williams begins to defend the Nets.

With Kevin Durant out four to six weeks with a sprained knee, the Nets will likely slide down the Eastern Conference standings and possibly lose home-court advantage in the opening rounds of the NBA Playoffs. But with Irving allowed to play on the road, Williams argued that the Nets might enjoy an advantage in opposing arenas. Smith, to put it mildly, disagreed.

“Kyrie Irving being available for just road games and him playing for the Brooklyn Nets under those conditions,” said Smith, “you’re all in or you’re all out, I believe that if the Brooklyn Nets win the championship, it would be bad for basketball.”

Williams, who removed his jacket as he got more worked up, said Smith is attacking Irving’s character and created a narrative against the guard, who has every right not to take the vaccine if he so chooses.

The two probably could’ve gone on longer, but moderator Molly Qerim closed the segment because Williams had a radio appearance scheduled. Williams then amusingly accused Smith of planning a debate that he knew would be cut off. Smith responded by calling Williams “an apologist” for Irving.

This got heated! And they’ll shout it out over this topic again with fewer than 40 games remaining in the Nets’ season.

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Ron Franklin, Longtime ESPN Broadcaster, Passes Away at 79

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Ron Franklin was a prominent voice for a generation of fans growing up watching college football and basketball on ESPN. The veteran broadcaster passed away on Tuesday at the age of 79.

The sad news was first revealed by Mike Barnes, communication consultant and former sports director at Austin’s KVUE.

Franklin is best known for his work with ESPN, where he called games and anchored studio shows from 1987 to 2011. In addition to college football and basketball, he also called tennis, college baseball, and Olympic sports during his tenure at the network.

Before joining ESPN, Franklin was a sports director for news stations in New Mexico, Tulsa, and Houston in the 1960s and 1970s. From 1971 to 1982, he was the play-by-play broadcaster for the Houston Oilers. Franklin then moved on to call University of Texas football and men’s basketball from 1983 to 1988.

Fran Fraschilla, Franklin’s longtime broadcast partner on college basketball, shared the news on Twitter upon learning of it.

Unfortunately, Franklin didn’t avoid controversy during his time at ESPN. In 2005, he was reprimanded by producers after a condescending remark to sideline reporter Holly Rowe in which he called her “sweetheart.” Five years later, he called reporter Jeannine Edwards “sweet baby” during a production meeting. When she objected, Franklin followed up with a profane insult.

Franklin was pulled from the radio broadcast of the Fiesta Bowl after the incident and fired by ESPN soon thereafter a colleague reported him to management. He sued the network for wrongful termination, a case that was eventually settled out of court.

Plenty of other colleagues, friends, and fan expressed their condolences for Franklin on social media after hearing of his passing, including Dick Vitale and former NFL coach Wade Phillips.

“He’s going to be missed. I just think of all the great times we had working together,” former broadcast partner Mike Gottfried told AL.com. “I just knew the guy came prepared, he worked hard, he studied and his voice was so dominant, and so good that everybody knew he was. He loved the game, he loved the coaches, he loved the players.”

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Sinclair’s Estimated Streaming Service Fee Much More Expensive Than Competitors

The estimated fee of $20.25 would be a good deal more than other direct-to-consumer services such as the Disney bundle, priced at $13.99.

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Sinclair’s Diamond Sports Group recently gained streaming rights for live NHL and NBA games. The company is working hard to become the premier direct-to-consumer service in sports. However, as Sportico’s Anthony Crupi reports, that will likely come at a premium price for consumers.

Outlined in Sinclair’s 8-K quarterly report filed to the SEC, all scenarios point to a monthly subscription fee of around $20.25. But will that be the most profitable scenario in which Diamond Sports achieves 975,000 subscribers for $237 million worth of revenue? Or will it result in the lesser scenario of 309,000 subscribers, predicting $75 million in revenue?

The rates are based on Diamond’s ability to stream NHL and NBA games in its affiliated franchises’ local markets. The fees are expected to increase as Diamond renews its legacy distribution deals with its member MLB teams. The Bally Sports nets have distribution deals in place with 14 MLB clubs, but only the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Miami Marlins, and Milwaukee Brewers have signed off on a streaming agreement.

In 2021, Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley in 2021 took issue with refuted reports of the company seeking a $23 monthly fee for consumers. Yet he also provided no details on what price the company had in mind.

The estimated fee of $20.25 would be a good deal more than other direct-to-consumer services such as the Disney bundle, which includes ESPN+, Disney+, and Hulu, priced at $13.99.

Sinclair still has a few loose ends to tie up. Its recent $600 million financing deal and associated NBA renewal will be vital for the DTC launch. Last spring, the company’s broadcast division renewed its carriage agreement with Charter. But Sinclair’s standalone RSN deal with providers is scheduled to finish before March 31.

Charter’s Spectrum is the nation’s second-largest cable-TV provider. At the end of 2021’s third quarter, the company serviced 15.3 million residential video subscribers. Renewing the RSN contract is currently being negotiated, but agreeing to such deals is touchier now than ever.

The Diamond RSNs have been non-existent for 8.42 million DISH Network subscribers, even before Sinclair acquired the 21 former Fox Sports channels for $9.6 billion in August 2019.

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