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Prosecutors say vacating Aaron Hernandez’s murder conviction would be a reward

05.01.17 at 2:39 pm ET
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Aaron Hernandez could have his murder conviction vacated. (Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe)

Aaron Hernandez could have his murder conviction vacated. (Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe)

Aaron Hernandez’s lawyers are trying to vacate his murder conviction. But prosecutors aren’t budging.

In a court filing Monday, Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn III argued against granting Hernandez abatement, saying it would reward his “conscious, deliberate and voluntary act” of committing suicide. Under Massachusetts law, a defendant’s criminal convictions can be voided upon his death if he hasn’t exhausted all of his appeals. Hernandez, who was acquitted of double-murder charges five days before he hanged himself in his cell, was appealing his first-degree murder sentence from the 2013 Odin Lloyd shooting.

“In this circumstance a balance must be struck between the policy interests advanced by abatement, the effect of the defendant’s actions in frustrating the interests of justice and the interests in maintaining the validity of the conviction,” the document reads.

Prosecutors also say Hernandez’s appeal had a “negligible probability of success.” Last week, his attorneys moved towards expunging the murder conviction from the disgraced ex-NFL star’s record.

A hearing on the matter is schedule for May 9.

Read More: Aaron Hernandez,

Report: ESPN hires Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo’s NBA scoop machine

05.01.17 at 2:01 pm ET
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ESPN is hiring Adrian Wojnarowski away from Yahoo Sports.  (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

ESPN is hiring Adrian Wojnarowski away from Yahoo Sports. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

Last week, ESPN cut several dozen reporters from its staff. On Monday, it reportedly hired perhaps the most prominent sports journalist who wasn’t already on its payroll.

According to Recode.net, ESPN has finalized a deal with Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports’ standout NBA reporter. The move, which Deadspin first covered in February, represents a massive shakeup in the basketball reporting landscape.  Just last year, Yahoo signed Wojnarowski to a four-year contract worth more than $6 million and gave him his own channel, The Vertical. The NBA-focused website poached reporters from the Washington Post, Sports Illustrated and other outlets shortly after it had launched.

ESPN’s move to acquire Wojnarowski, who constantly upstages the WorldWide Leader during the NBA Draft, is a reminder the Disney-backed company remains the dominant force in sports media. For all of its troubles, ESPN is still available in more than 88 million households and owns rights agreements to every major professional sports league.

While numerous NBA writers, including Marc Stein and Chad Forde, were laid off last week, the addition of Wojnarowski shows ESPN is still committed to breaking big basketball news. As Wojnarowski demonstrated at Yahoo, his output can exceed any entire army of reporters.

Read More: Adrian Wojnarowski, ESPN,

ESPN undeserving of criticism for showing Joe Mixon domestic assault video during NFL Draft

05.01.17 at 12:30 pm ET
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The Bengals' decision to select Joe Mixon was the most controversial of the NFL Draft. (Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports)

The Bengals’ decision to select Joe Mixon was the most controversial of the NFL Draft. (Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports)

Heading into the NFL Draft, only four teams were reportedly interested in selecting running back Joe Mixon out of Oklahoma. That’s because three years ago, Mixon pled guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge after punching a woman in the head at a restaurant. Video of the incident surfaced last season, which reignited the debate surrounding his playing status.

So when the Bengals drafted Mixon in the second round Friday, it was a big story. WCPO, a news affiliate in Cincinnati, published an editorial urging fans to boycott the team. The two stations that aired the draft, ESPN and the NFL Network, were charged with putting each selection in context. It’s impossible to tell the complete story of Mixon, and the controversy surrounding him, without showing the videotape of his domestic violence incident. ESPN fulfilled its obligation, airing the footage after host Trey Wingo had warned viewers of its graphic nature.

The league-owned NFL Network didn’t show the video, perhaps in an attempt to help insulate the Bengals from criticism. But on social media this weekend, they weren’t facing significant pushback over their efforts to whitewash history. Instead, it was ESPN, for showing people the same video that Mixon’s lawyers released to the public themselves.

The notion that ESPN should be concerned with letting Mixon “have his moment” is asinine and goes against every tenor of journalism. It’s also a mindset that threatens the existence of a free press. A majority of U.S. adults now get their news from social media, which means they’re reading personally curated feeds. As a result, many Americans now live in information echo chambers, where they don’t hear any news they don’t want to.

In the sports media world, league- or team-owned networks are becoming increasingly prevalent. All four major sports leagues have their own cable channels and produce a bevy of digital content. That means some of the most well-known sports journalists in the country now report on outlets that sign their paychecks. The conflicts of interest are endless, and look a lot like not showing the videotape that caused Mixon’s draft stock to plummet.

Much like in the political world, where Democrats and Republicans largely tune into partisan news sources that affirm their world views, some sports fans are no longer seeking out objective content. That explains the rise in fan blogs that are unapologetic about their biased slant.

Journalists can’t be concerned about their subjects’ feelings when they’re reporting a story. ESPN was able to put the Mixon pick in complete context Friday, because it decided the show the video –– no matter how unsavory it may be.

Read More: ESPN, Joe Mixon, NFL Draft,

Dennis Eckersley shares tweet that’s critical of ESPN broadcaster Jessica Mendoza

05.01.17 at 10:17 am ET
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Jessica Mendoza was on the call for Red Sox-Cubs Sunday night. (Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports)

Jessica Mendoza was on the call for Red Sox-Cubs Sunday night. (Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports)

Those who were watching the Red Sox-Cubs matchup on ESPN Sunday night were forced to endure an interminable segment in which Jessica Mendoza quizzed Chicago shortstop Addison Russell about his Pokémon collection. The mind-numbingly tedious interview lasted for several minutes, propelling some disgruntled viewers to take their complaints to social media.

NESN broadcaster Dennis Eckersley tacitly joined the chorus.

The Hall of Fame hurler shared a tweet from a user named, “EWints,” who panned the bit.

Mendoza, a former member of the United States women’s national softball team, has been the recipient of some unjust criticism ever since she stepped into the “Sunday Night Baseball” booth in 2015. Last year, an Astros minor leaguer tweeted, “No lady needs to be on espn talking during a baseball game specially Mendoza sorry.” The team condemned his sexist language.

But the segment involving Russell’s Pokémon cards was brutal –– like most of the breezy interviews Mendoza shoots with players. They feel out of place and run for much too long.

While there’s plenty of blame to go around, the onus here ultimately falls on the producers who think airing an extended conversation with Russell about Pokémon is a good idea. No announcer would’ve been able able to salvage the segment.

Read More: Dennis Eckersley, Jessica Mendoza,

Monday’s Morning Mashup: Athletes react on social media to Paul Pierce’s last game

05.01.17 at 9:18 am ET
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Good morning! Here is your Monday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories and scores from our news wire.

MONDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
MLB:
Baltimore at Boston, 7:10 p.m. (ESPN, NESN)
MLB:
San Francisco at LA Dodgers, 10 p.m. (MLB Network)
NBA:
Toronto at Cleveland, 7 p.m. (TNT)
NBA:
Houston at San Antonio, 9:30 p.m. (TNT)
NHL:
Washington at Pittsburgh, 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN)

AROUND THE WEB:

— After 19 seasons in the NBA, Paul Pierce played his final game on Sunday and retired after his Clippers lost 104-91 to the Jazz in the Game 7 of the first playoff round.

Fans and players bid farewell to Pierce in the arena, while athletes and some celebrities did the same on social media.

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Thinking out loud: Providence likes hockey more than Boston

04.28.17 at 3:50 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering where to go for my May breakfast.

— When does Providence outpoll or outpace Boston in anything, perhaps except for quahogs or college basketball? Would you believe – they win in hockey?

— At least, if NBC’s numbers are accurate for the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs – Providence had a higher rating than Boston when it came to TV audience. Of the Top 10 rated markets around the country, Providence was 5th in audience share, Boston finished 8th. Buffalo was #1, and when is Buffalo #1 in ANYTHING?

— Maybe for Buffalo wings, perhaps. Give ‘em that.

— I would allow Bruins’ fans in Rhode Island were every bit as interested in the fate of the B’s, primarily due to several younger, familiar players getting ice time – led by former Providence coach Bruce Cassidy.

— Who became the full-time Boston coach this week, officially. It’s the right move to make, if the organization has decided to build from within. Which apparently, Don Sweeney and Cam Neely have decided to do.

— Meanwhile, down on the farm where the building began, the P-Bruins stare elimination in the face Friday night in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Like father, like son – it could be a first-round setback.

— Anyone else feel like if the Celtics have dodged a first-round bullet here, it’s largely because of two things – one, no one can guard Isaiah Thomas; two, Rajon Rondo has missed four straight games?

— Thomas palms the ball? Not by the current NBA rule book he doesn’t. If he did, the refs would call it, wouldn’t they? It doesn’t matter whether you, or I, or Fred Hoiberg of the Bulls thinks he does. What matters is being consistent with the interpretation of the rule, and the refs aren’t calling it. Move on, nothing to see here.

— Rondo’s renaissance in this round, at least in the first two games, frustrates me even more over his departure from the Celtics in the first place.

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Tom Brady takes another turn towards the bizarre with speaking gig at self-help guru Tony Robbins’ ‘wealth summit’

04.28.17 at 2:53 pm ET
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Tom Brady is appearing at a pricey "wealth seminar" with Tony Robbins. (Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports)

Tom Brady is appearing at a pricey “wealth seminar” with Tony Robbins. (Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports)

It might be time to start worrying about Tom Brady.

The five-time Super Bowl champion is slated to speak at Tony Robbins’ “Wealth Summit” in Boston June 8. For those unfamiliar with Robbins’ work, he’s a self-help expert who’s perhaps best known for encouraging his followers to walk on burning coal. Tickets to attend the extravaganza cost between $149 and $2,495.

In defense of Brady, he’s not the only person who will be appearing on stage with Robbins at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. His teammate and devotee Julian Edelman will be right by his side, along with celebrity chef Bethenny Frankel and CNBC host Marcus Lemonis.

Now, there are two possible reasons why Brady is aligning himself with Robbins. Neither is particularly comforting:

TB12 is a true believer

Brady’s history suggests he might be inclined to buy Robbins’ apparent quackery. The Patriots quarterback is business partners with his fitness guru, Alex Guerrero, who was once a pitchman for a fraudulent cancer cure. Boston Magazine published an expose on Guerrero in 2015, revealing his history of nefarious business practices.  In 2012, the FTC ordered Guerrero to shut down the production of Neurosafe, a phony panacea for concussions and head trauma. Brady endorsed the product.

Brady’s weirdo plant-based diet has also been eviscerated by health professionals. Mike Roussell, who has a Ph.D. in nutrition, went as far as to call Brady’s diet “absurd” in an op-ed for Men’s Health, saying it’s “full of buzzwords, not science.”

Robbins, who earns an estimated $30 million annually, is a fixture in socially elite circles. Known as the “CEO Whisperer,” some of the country’s most successful business executives and politicians follow aspects of his self-improvement program. He was asked to advise Bill Clinton during his impeachment proceedings and hangs with billionaires like Virgin’s Richard Branson and casino tycoon Steve Wynn.

But all of this elbow rubbing with heads of state and business moguls doesn’t legitimize Robbins’ practices. Remember, the Church of Scientology attracts a wide collection of celebrities and movie stars. Rich people who are isolated from society sometimes adopt cockamamie belief systems. Brady is a prime example of that.

Brady is there to peddle his products

In case you haven’t heard, Brady is marketing an array of luxury items: $200 nutritional manuals, $100 recovery sleepwear and $78 “revolting vegan kibble,” to quote Deadspin. Folks who can spend thousands of dollars to hear Robbins speak would appear to be his perfect customer base.

These are Brady’s people now, and it shouldn’t be surprising. That can happen when you have a career net worth of $180 million and marry a supermodel who has even more money than that.

When Brady retires, it’s apparent he’ll exist on a level far removed from the everyday world. If he’s not a believer in Robbins now, he may soon become one.

 

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Friday’s Morning Mashup: NFL executive calls out fans booing Roger Goodell; Linda Cohn says politics hurting ESPN viewership

04.28.17 at 9:29 am ET
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Good morning! Here is your Friday Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories and scores from our news wire.

FRIDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
MLB:
NY Mets at Washington, 7 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Chicago Cubs at Boston, 7:10 p.m. (NESN)
NBA: Washington at Atlanta, 7:30 p.m. (NBATV)
NBA: Boston at Chicago, 8 p.m. (CSN, ESPN)
NBA: LA Clippers at Utah, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN)
NFL: NFL Draft, 7 p.m. (ESPN, NFL Network)
NFL: NFL Draft, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
NHL: Nashville at St. Louis, 8 p.m. (NBCSN)
NHL: Edmonton at Anaheim, 10:30 p.m. (NBCSN)

AROUND THE WEB:

— Per tradition, fans at the NFL draft in Philadelphia Thursday rained boos down on Roger Goodell every time he took the podium to announce a pick.

Goodell responded to the boos with a smile but Greg Aiello, the league’s senior vice president of public relations, fired off a tweet bashing the fans for their behavior.

“If those 70,000+ great fans in Philly like the Draft being there, they should cheer Roger Goodell. He’s the reason the Draft is on the road,” Aiello tweeted.

And fans swiftly responded:

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ESPN’s new rumored left-leaning lineup likely won’t bring lost viewers back

04.27.17 at 5:14 pm ET
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ESPN is in the midst of  massive layoffs. (Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports)

ESPN is in the midst of massive layoffs. (Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports)

ESPN’s broken business model is the driving force behind this week’s massive layoffs. The WorldWide Leader has lost 10 million subscribers over the last five years and is paying exorbitant rights fees to broadcast the NFL and NBA. Rising costs combined with declining revenue isn’t a sustainable business plan.

That harsh reality makes it appear as if ESPN’s plight was inevitable. Cable subscriptions are way down in the era of cord-cutting, meaning all networks are drawing from a smaller audience pool. There’s fewer eyeballs to go around.

Despite those troubling trends, ESPN is still available in more than 88 million households (as of December 2016). Even though its parent company, Disney, ordered executives to trim payroll, ESPN possesses more resources than most other media conglomerates. They have the tools to turn it around.

But their lackluster programming is preventing them from doing so.

Given the vast number of reporters who have been canned, it’s apparent ESPN is moving further away from news and veering more towards opinion. While that may cause haughty media critics to bemoan the direction of the industry on Twitter, it’s the right call. In today’s world, where information and highlights can be accessed instantaneously on social media feeds, there’s less of a thirst for news-based programming. Comcast SportsNet New England went through a similar overhaul earlier this year, in which it downsized its news department and expanded its nightly debate shows.

The problem with ESPN is, their studio shows don’t offer much in terms of disagreement or provocation. Outside of “First Take,” which now features Max Kellerman doing a poor man’s Skip Bayless impersonation alongside Stephen A. Smith, few of its programs showcase hosts with varying viewpoints. The exception is “Pardon the Interruption,” but ratings for the iconic program are down by more than 10 percent in comparison to last year.

On a recent edition of Sports Illustrated’s media podcast with Richard Deitsch, James Andrew Miller, who authored “Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN,” predicted the network’s new weekday lineup. It is as follows:

6:00-7:00 a.m.: Re-airing of west coast “SportsCenter” with Neil Everett and Stan Verett

7:00-10:00 a.m.: Mike Greenberg’s new morning variety show

10:00-12:00 p.m.: “First Take”

12:00-1:00 p.m.: New show with Bomani Jones and Pablo Torre

1:00-6:00 p.m.: Afternoon programming, including Dan Le Batard’s “Highly Questionable,” “Around the Horn” and “Pardon the Interruption”

6:00-7:00 p.m.: “SC6″ with Jemele Hill and Michael Smith

Evenings: Live sporting events

11:00 p.m.: “SportsCenter”

Midnight: “SportsCenter” with Scott Van Pelt

The rumored Greenberg morning show seems especially problematic. Given all of the options for morning TV, including partisan cable news programs drawing record numbers in the Trump era, it’s difficult to find a constituency for Greenberg’s inoffensive style. The networks –– CBS, ABC and NBC –– already have the market cornered on breezy morning talk. It seems unlikely the milquetoast anchor would be able to offer anything different.

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Read More: ESPN,

Steve Buckley: Bill Simmons tried to out me

04.27.17 at 12:57 pm ET
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Steve Buckley announced he was gay in 2011. (Photo provided)

Steve Buckley announced he was gay in 2011. (Photo provided)

The Boston Herald’s Steve Buckley announced he was gay in a column seven years ago. But he says Bill Simmons tried to out him a decade earlier.

During the debut episode of WEEI’s latest podcast, “Two Outs with Steve Buckley and Alex Reimer,” the longtime sports scribe describes his coming out process. While Buckley wasn’t publicly out until 2011, he says he didn’t make much of an effort to hide his sexuality when around friends and some co-workers.

Simmons, who was writing for the defunct AOL Digital Cities in the late 1990s and early 2000s, often wrote acerbic commentary about Boston sports media members. During that time period, Buckley says Simmons made several thinly veiled references to his sexuality on his blog. Most of Simmons’ work for Digital Cities, including the articles in question, have been expunged.

“I’ve never really talked about this before, but Bill, during that period, made several references to my sexual orientation,” Buckley said. “‘Oh, he’s the most popular sports writer in Provincetown’ –– ‘wink’ ‘wink.'”

Buckley says the barbs “devastated” him and caused some angst. He was planning on coming out in 2003, but then his mother passed away, causing him to push the announcement back. When he penned his column eight years later, Buckley says he decided to not hold any grudges.

“I made a decision when I came out –– ‘Blood is a big expense,’ to use a line from the Godfather,” he said. “I wasn’t going to go carrying baggage for the rest of my life. If I saw Bill right now, I would talk to him about it. … I wanted to prevent the next Bill Simmons from trying to out me. So I dealt with it, and I moved on.”

When Buckley did come out, Simmons recorded a podcast with LZ Granderson, an openly gay sportswriter for ESPN. In it, Simmons seemed unimpressed with the nature of Buckley’s announcement.

“In 2011, is it too little to come out and write a column that says, ‘I’m gay?,'” he asked.

After the column was published, Buckley says he read some criticism from members of the LGBTQ community who felt he was exploiting the work of activists who participated in the Stonewall Riots and other seminal moments in LGBTQ history. He explains the standard-bearers of the gay rights movement laid the groundwork for him to come out.

“Someone wrote a letter to the editor in a paper that someone sent me,” Buckley said. “The basic message was, there were people back in the 60’s and 70’s and the Stonewall Riots, fighting the good fight, the AIDS quote and all of that, and they did all of the heavy lifting and then I just kind of swooped in and took advantage of all of that. Those were the real heroes. To which I say, ‘absolutely.’ But here’s why they miss the point: All of those noble people, beginning with the people who fought the police at Stonewall back in ’69, why did they do it? They did it so I could come out. They did it for me.”

Read More: Alex Reimer, Bill Simmons, Steve Buckley,