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Bomani Jones Praises Social Justice Efforts, Dismisses Hiring Practices On Inside the NFL

“It hasn’t been out front as some people would like, but I think the number one goal in this is the product. Whatever you do can’t interfere with the football that is being watched.”

Ricky Keeler

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The 2020-21 NFL season will go down as one of the craziest seasons in recent memory, but in some eyes, it will go down as a meaningful season in terms of what the league stood for over the last year in the fight for social justice and trying to play the game amidst a pandemic. 

On Tuesday night’s episode of Inside The NFL that looked ahead to Super Bowl LV this Sunday, ESPN’s Bomani Jones was a guest with James Brown, Phil Simms, and Ray Lewis to talk about how the NFL has addressed social injustice, the Rooney Rule, and the impact COVID-19 has had on the NFL. 

After a montage of clips looking back at the season that was from NFL Films, Brown first asked Jones, who he called one of the “most knowledgeable and distinguishable voices in sports broadcasting” about how significant it was the NFL has expressed their concern about social injustice. Jones said it is a message still going in the NFL compared to other sports.

“When you think about it, the NBA got out of the bubble and you don’t have Black Lives Matter on the floor anymore, you don’t have the things on the back of the jerseys. Right now, in sports, the NFL is carrying that messaging in a way that nobody really has been in professional sports. It hasn’t been out front as some people would like, but I think the number one goal in this is the product. Whatever you do can’t interfere with the football that is being watched.”

Jones also brought up the example of DeAndre Hopkins wearing Denmark Vesey’s name on the back of his helmet to help educate people on a slave revolt that happened in the United States. He mentions that having that name being introduced to people by Lisa Salters on ESPN can make people think about history during a game.

“After a while, you can tune out the things that you see week after week, but I find the little things that pop up that make me say I think they are really doing something here to put things in places where people wouldn’t ordinarily probably wouldn’t think of discussing some of them.” 

While the messaging by the players has continued to grow, Jones said it is up to the NFL to “make people believe that they believe it.” 

“When they do the stuff for the military, we know that they believe it. Can you make people feel like you believe it in that same way when they are doing those things? That’s where the owners are going to be important in this. The NFL owners command a different level of respect. The ones who have put themselves forward, those are the ones when you look up and see they are invested in it and it doesn’t take much to convey that, I don’t think.” 

The topic shifted to the Rooney Rule and whether or not it is working with just 2 black head coaches in the NFL. Brown told Jones, Simms, and Lewis that it is “pitiful code words” when he hears a coach does not interview well. Jones used an example of 2 coaches to say if the interviews were really poor, we would know about it.

“When you talk about the interviews, the Eagles interviewed a candidate who was on vacation, so he did not have his suit, so everyone put on their Tommy Bahama shirts or whatever it was to make him feel more comfortable. They made the interview well for this guy. I believe this on Eric Bieniemy (Chiefs offensive coordinator). If Bieniemy really interviewed that poorly, we wouldn’t have heard whispers, we would know about it. If someone believes typically that a black person can’t do something, they are going to tell you loud and proud why they believe they can’t do it.”

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FOX Sports Sees Record-Setting Ratings Weekend

The World Cup matchup between the U.S. and England on Black Friday and Michigan/Ohio State on Saturday saw tens of millions of viewers tuning in.

Jordan Bondurant

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FOX Sports has been home to a number of record-setting games in terms of viewership over the last several days.

In addition to FOX Sports setting a new mark for a Thanksgiving and regular season NFL audience, the World Cup matchup between the U.S. and England on Black Friday and Michigan/Ohio State on Saturday saw tens of millions of viewers tuning in.

The network reported the U.S./England match in the group stage of the 2022 World Cup averaged 15.377 million. It was the most-watched English-language soccer game in the U.S. ever, topping the 1994 World Cup final between Italy and Brazil.

Viewership of the match was up 11% compared to the second group stage contest for the U.S. team in 2014 against Portugal. The audience peaked at 19.646 million from 3:30-3:45 p.m.

FOX Sports also reported the Michigan/Ohio State game on Saturday drew in 17 million, which made it the most-watched regular season college game on the network ever. That figure was also the highest of any regular season contest since 2011. That game also saw the audience peak at 19.6 million.

Viewership for the game was up 3% compared to last year.

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ESPN Bowl Plans Could Be Altered By NFL Flex Scheduling

“While this situation poses a challenge, we are accustomed to flexibility and having to maneuver our event schedules.”

Jordan Bondurant

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ESPN could be forced to adjust its upcoming bowl season schedule if the NFL decides to flex a Las Vegas Raiders game a week before Christmas.

ESPN announced its contingency plans for two bowl contests, the Las Vegas Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl. The Las Vegas Bowl is currently planned to kick off from Allegiant Stadium at 7:30 p.m. on December 17. The Raiders right now are still planning to play in the Sunday night game the next night against the Patriots.

Should the NFL decide to flex the Raiders out of the SNF window, ESPN will swap kickoff times between the Las Vegas Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl. That would mean the game in sin city will kick off at 11:30 a.m. local time, with the contest in Albuquerque starting at 5:20 p.m. local time that evening.

“The SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl and New Mexico Bowl are both owned and operated by ESPN Events, so this change is a solution that will work for all parties,” ESPN Events vice president Clint Overby said. “While this situation poses a challenge, we are accustomed to flexibility and having to maneuver our event schedules. We are more than prepared to move forward with this revised schedule if necessary.”

Kickoff times will be determined well enough ahead that the schools taking part in both games shouldn’t be adversely affected.

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NFL Thanksgiving Games Set Ratings Records

FOX Sports added that viewership was up 49% compared to 2021.

Jordan Bondurant

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The Thanksgiving slate of NFL games last week brought in the largest audiences ever. Viewership across all three games averaged 33.5 million.

The game with the largest viewership was Giants/Cowboys in the 4:30 p.m. window. FOX Sports reported that 42 million watched Dallas beat New York 28-20. It is the largest regular season audience ever, surpassing the previous leader set 32 years ago.

The network added that viewership was up 49% compared to 2021. FOX carried the Detroit Lions traditional noon Thanksgiving game last year. Compared to the Cowboys turkey day contest on CBS in 2021, viewership was up 3%.

The Bills/Lions game in the early window on CBS averaged 31.627 million, with the audience peaking at 41.981 million. It was the most-watched early Thanksgiving game on record.

Patriots/Vikings on NBC in the nightcap averaged 25.9 million. That figure was up 24% compared to Bills/Saints a year ago, with NBC Sports claiming it’s the second most-watched primetime Thanksgiving game on record. The game was simulcast in Spanish on Telemundo, which averaged 565,000 viewers and made it the most-watched NFL game ever on the network.

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