Every-Thing Sports

Jermaine Every: Is the NFL controlling the narrative, or catering to media partners?

Is Roger Goodell overreaching with his media policies? Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Monday was another average day at Gow Media. Some of the personalities have taken vacation, so some of your favorite shows had fill-ins. The Bench had Lance Zierlein and Raheel Ramzanali instead of John Granato with Del Olaleye producing. Charlie Pallilo was replaced by Raheel and Del, with Tyler Scott producing. The Usual Suspects are the Cal Ripken of ESPN 97.5 because they’re always there. Joel Blank, Barry Laminack, and producer Nick Sharara held down the 1-4 p.m. slot as usual. Barry wasn’t even on his typical world tour doing comedy. Even when he is, he’s on-air from a remote studio. The Blitz, the No. 1 one show in the market so far every month in 2018, was intact with Fred Faour, AJ Hoffman, and producer Jong Lee. These shows have more than held their own in this market, often times they occupy most of the top slots.

Seeing as this station has occupied most of the top slots in the ratings, you would think the Texans would be more than happy to grant them media credentials for the season, right? WRONG! Word came down today that for the third year in a row (possibly fourth, I’ve lost track of the count), ESPN 97.5 will have to apply on a game by game basis for FOUR credentials! They most likely won’t even offer up parking passes. I know. I know. Parking passes are first world problems. But if you’ve ever had to pay for parking at a Texans’ game, you’d know how much of a hassle it is to park further away at a cheaper rate, or to pony up the money to park closer. So who exactly are they saving all this space for?

Their radio partner, A.K.A. “Houston’s Sports Leader,” gets everyone credentialed, including Tammy from accounting. And we all know how Tammy from accounting acts in public after a few drinks. Their television partner gets the same treatment. I’ve also been in the press box when The Beaumont Telegraph, KPPH-TV of Nacogdoches, and KBHY of Jefferson have had at least one or two seats. Not to say the smaller newspaper, television, or radio outlets don’t deserve access to cover the team, but what about one of the most successful, locally-owned media companies?

At one point in time, I thought this was strictly a Texans issue. My thought was: Kevin Cooper is gone, now they’ve put someone in his place that wants to control things and let that power get to their head. However, after looking into the situation by consulting with industry professionals around the country, other media outlets are having similar issues with other NFL teams granting them access via credentials. Yes. I know the NFL has its own network to put over. I know they want people to put eyes and ears on their version of the product, but what about the honest opinions and analysis of others?

Some may be thinking “here’s another fluff piece in-house,” and you’d be wrong. I can write my Texans column without having to be at the game. Anyone who knows me, knows I don’t like crowds or dealing with an overwhelming amount of people unless absolutely necessary. I can also write my NFL column more effectively from home since the NFL bars you from watching Sunday Ticket inside an NFL stadium. Yet another attempt of them to control how you consume their product, I might add.

This was about the NFL setting a dangerous precedent. If an entity can control what media is allowed to cover said entity, it shapes the public perception of that entity. If they’re allowed to control who covers them, how they are covered will be dictated as well because media outlets given access will feel pressure to cover them favorably to maintain access. Look no further than what President Trump did to a CNN reporter recently. CNN’s rival news network Fox News even issued a statement of solidarity. This is akin to a teacher giving the class a survey on his/her teaching methods/style, but hinting at the results of the survey affecting their grade. It’s blackmail in a suggestive form. Commissioner Roger Goodell has enough to worry about. From CTE, to the national anthem, to disciplinary problems, his plate is beyond full. Unnecessarily adding total control of media access won’t help his cause. It’ll only make him more vilified than he already is and the media will happy to cover his downfall.

 

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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