On Thursday’s First Take, Stephen A. Smith apologized to Jehovah’s Witnesses for implying that the denomination is opposed to taking the COVID-19 vaccine while discussing Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins being voted to the NBA All-Star team as a Western Conference starter.
“I made a mistake last week and I want to make sure that I clarify myself,” Smith said (via Mediaite’s Brandon Contes). “Last week, when discussing the incredible accomplishments of Andrew Wiggins this season… I introduced his religion in the discussion about vaccination.
“I could have and should have been more clear in that discussion. Because I fully understand that Jehovah’s Witnesses have no specific opposition to the vaccine. I did not make that clear, so I want to make sure I make that now and my apologies for the mishap.”
Smith made his remarks in reaction to the NBA All-Star starters being announced. Wiggins being named to this season’s NBA All-Star team. The eight-year veteran is averaging 18.3 points and shooting 42 percent from three-point range.
“Andrew Wiggins also was hesitant about taking the vaccine. He’s a Jehovah’s Witness, from what I’m told,” Smith said on First Take. “And took [the vaccine] because ‘my team needs me.’”
Being characterized as anti-vaccine on a national sports program caused some unhappiness and misconception to which Jehovah’s Witnesses felt compelled to reply.
Smith was critical of Wiggins earlier in the season when the Warriors star sought a religious exemption from taking the vaccine, which the NBA denied. Faced with not being able to play home games in San Francisco, where attendees to large indoor events were required to show they were vaccinated, Wiggins eventually ceded and got vaccinated.
Last July, Smith apologized for remarks he made about Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani, saying he couldn’t be the face of Major League Baseball because he doesn’t speak English. For a good part of that First Take episode, he listened to several ESPN staffers including Jeff Passan and Joon Lee tell him why he was wrong.
Ian Casselberry is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously written and edited for Awful Announcing, The Comeback, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. You can find him on Twitter @iancass or reach him by email at email@example.com.
David Kaplan Leaving NBC Sports Chicago
“I was presented an opportunity that will allow me to spend a lot more time my wife, Mindy, our four sons, and their expanding families. This is far from a retirement.”
David Kaplan has announced he is departing NBC Sports Chicago. In a video posted to his YouTube channel, Kaplan said a new path opened that he couldn’t turn down.
“I was presented an opportunity that will allow me to spend a lot more time my wife, Mindy, our four sons, and their expanding families. This is far from a retirement. You’ll still be able to catch me weekday mornings with Jonathan Hood on the Kap and JHood morning show on ESPN 1000. It will also allow me to provide you with more engaging and outstanding content right here on YouTube.”
Kaplan, who will turn 62 this weekend, accepted a buyout offered by NBCUniversal. He has hosted several different shows for the network during his tenure.
“He’s made enormous contributions to our network, and his passion, opinions and love of Chicago’s teams have made him a beloved and respected figure, not just with fans but also his colleagues,” NBC Sports Chicago Vice President of Content John Schippman told The Chicago Sun-Times. “We wish him the best and look forward to seeing what’s next.”
December 30th will be his final day at NBC Sports Chicago. He called his time with the network “an amazing run”.
NASCAR Chasing Nearly $1 Billion Annual Rights Fee In Next TV Deal
“We work really closely together, both from a scheduling perspective, but also just in terms of how they monetize the sport.”
The current media rights deal for NASCAR with FOX Sports and NBC Sports doesn’t end until after the 2024 season, but the organization is currently plotting what it wants its next deal to look like, according to a report from Front Office Sports.
Currently, NASCAR makes $820 million per year from the two networks. In its new rights deal, it is expected to seek a deal in the neighborhood of $900-950 million range.
NASCAR plans to begin negotiating with its current media partners in the early months of 2023, but is currently happy with FOX and NBC.
“We work really closely together, both from a scheduling perspective, but also just in terms of how they monetize the sport. Whether that’s pushing more brands and advertisers to spend on Fox and NBC,” NASCAR Senior Vice President of Media and Productions Brian Herbst told FOS. “Fox had their third consecutive year of ad revenue increases in 2022. NBC had their second consecutive year of ad revenue increases in 2022. So it’s working for them — both from a viewership and an ad revenue perspective.”
In February of this year, NASCAR President Steve Phelps told the Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast that broadcast television “has to be a part” of the organization’s next television rights deal.
As its current media partners, FOX and NBC have exclusive negotiating windows with NASCAR.
NFL Sunday Ticket Negotiations With Apple ‘Have Gotten Silly’
“Apple’s like, ‘OK, we can’t sell internationally. OK, that was important to us. And we can’t sell it exclusively against Fox and CBS. Well, OK. Well, that changes its value.’”
A report from The Athletic details why the NFL has not announced a new partner for the NFL Sunday Ticket package. David Kaplan claims there have been continued hiccups in the negotiations, mentioning the bargaining has gotten sideways between the league and Apple.
“This negotiation has gotten silly. … Clearly, there’s a problem. I think it’s really clear Apple is learning things they didn’t know,” the anonymous NFL source told Kaplan. “What the conversation is, is Apple’s like, ‘OK, we can’t sell internationally. OK, that was important to us. And we can’t sell it exclusively against Fox and CBS. Well, OK. Well, that changes its value.’”
The report also details Amazon Prime and YouTube remain in the mix as potential suitors for the service, should talks with Apple and the league fall apart.
The NFL is looking for as much as $3.5 billion annually for rights to the service.