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Bernard Goldberg’s Frustrations with Narratives Led to HBO Exit

Bernie Goldberg said a recent conversation with Bryan Gumbel about race convinced him it was time to leave HBO’s Real Sports.

MIchael Quirk

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HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel has exhibited a few constants over the years: a warm welcome from Gumbel, a familiar jingle, interesting looks at obscure stories in sports, and the reporting from Bernard Goldberg. The latter part came to an end earlier this year when Goldberg announced he was leaving the show. In a Monday column on his eponymous website, Goldberg delved further into why he left.

“I told the show’s host, Bryant Gumbel, that I recently tuned in to watch a National Hockey League playoff game and heard a player, at a pre-game ceremony, say that, “racism is everywhere.”

I told Gumbel that since I didn’t tune in to get a lecture on what a racist country America is, I changed the channel. To which Bryant replied:  ‘Racism is everywhere.'”

Goldberg also spoke of recent comments made by comedian Kevin Hart regarding white power and privilege. He said he took umbrage with Gumbel’s phrasing that he believed made a lot of individuals culpable than Goldberg hoped he intended.

“In fact, as bad as things were, racism was never everywhere, not in this country anyway. It was never in the hearts of the abolitionists. Never in the hearts of those brave Americans who challenged Jim Crow and fought, often at great peril, for civil rights. I know it’s not everywhere because it’s not in my house. It’s not in the homes of my closest friends. Does racism still exist in America, a country of more than 300 million people? Unfortunately, yes, in some dark places. But, despite Bryant Gumbel’s contention … it’s not everywhere.”

The 14-time Emmy winner whose political affiliations have always been a point of viewer contention, believes the politics of some of his coworkers at HBO led to seemingly uncomfortable silence. The confrontation and dispute eventually was enough to make Goldberg believe a parting of ways was the best course of action.

“That year-end “Real Sports” show was my last. A few weeks later I walked away after 22 years as a correspondent. I didn’t want to be part of a team whose most prominent voice thinks that, “racism is everywhere,” and where the other 5 correspondents  — whose politics range from liberal to hard-left progressive – just sat there and said nothing.

Maybe Bryant didn’t mean it the way it came out. Maybe he meant that there are remnants of racism that still infect American culture – not that out-and-out racism is everywhere. But if that’s what he meant, he should have said it.”

Sports TV News

Kay Adams: Pat McAfee Has Built ‘The Dream’

“it’s interesting because he’s built himself to such a place that he does not need anyone and that is the dream.”

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Many in sports media have respect for former NFL punter Pat McAfee for what he has accomplished in his media endeavors, and you can add FanDuel TV host Kay Adams to that list.

“I’m just blown away by the success and by the leverage he has,” Adams said on the My Other Passion podcast. “It is uncanny, it is aspirational, and it is self-made, so it is a beautiful thing. I — of course — watch what he does. I don’t want to be just like him but I do think he is so disruptive.

“He has such a chip on his shoulder. It drives him but I almost wish I could see it relieved a little bit. He’s thriving, he’s happy, and I think the thing that sticks out to me about him is that he’s truly grateful. Truly is grateful for everything he has, his opportunities. He’s worked his ass off for it.”

Adams pointed to McAfee’s recent spat with the NFL over use of the league’s logos as an indicator of not only his success but his influence in the sports landscape.

“He is true to himself but he mostly leads with gratitude, which I think is the epitome of success. But he’s out there show you what can be done. He’s the first, but will he be the last to have that sort of platform? That sort of swing? What he does with the NFL the other week, I’m paying attention to that.

“Because I wanna see: is the NFL gonna bend the knee to Pat McAfee? Does the NFL care what he says? But it’s interesting because he’s built himself to such a place that he does not need anyone and that is the dream.”

The NFL did eventually “bend the knee” and reversed course on limiting McAfee’s use of league trademarks.

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Sports TV News

John Skipper: Bob Iger’s Return Won’t Effect ESPN

“If you’re going to win the streaming wars, you’re going to have to have sports.”

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There have been many questions about what Bob Iger’s return to Disney will mean for ESPN, but former ESPN President John Skipper believes it won’t change much.

Skipper pointed to Iger’s relationships with powerbrokers in the sports world as a positive, and also believes that the “streaming wars” will be won by those who hold the rights to live sports.

“As a moat, to get the pay-TV fees and to get people to pay more money to subscribe,” Skipper pointed to Sportico as the reason for ESPN to still have an agreement with the NBA for linear TV. He later added “If you’re going to win the streaming wars, you’re going to have to have sports.”

Skipper also said the network used to invest in constant studio programming but said that’s no longer a necessity.

“We did that type of programming because the economics were different at the time,” Skipper said.

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Sports TV News

Warner Bros. Discovery Sports President Departs

“His enthusiasm and light-hearted demeanor are among his most endearing qualities, and they will be missed.”

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Lenny Daniels is leaving Warner Bros. Discovery after 27 years with the company.

Daniels is the President of the company’s sports division in the United States, overseeing the contracts and strategic vision for the organization.

In a memo sent to staff obtained by Sports Business Journal, CEO Luis Silberwasser said “While this change will take place right away, Lenny has agreed to work with me to ensure a smooth transition.” He also added “I have enjoyed working with Lenny during these past few months and I respect his decision. Lenny has never been one to place a spotlight on himself; he’s always been quick to shine it on those around him. His enthusiasm and light-hearted demeanor are among his most endearing qualities, and they will be missed.”

The departure by Daniels coincides with a round of layoffs by the company and also the beginning of long-term agreements with the NHL and MLB. The network is also about to embark on negotiations with the NBA for its next media rights deal, with Warner Bros. Discovery CEO and President David Zaslav recently saying “we don’t have to have the NBA“.

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