College Blog
WEEI.com Blog Network
Colin Cowherd: ESPN layoffs will ‘happen annually’ over next decade 04.26.17 at 5:06 pm ET
By   |  Comments Off on Colin Cowherd: ESPN layoffs will ‘happen annually’ over next decade
Colin Cowherd says he expects ESPN to continue to cut costs.  (Jerry Lai/USA TODAY Sports)

Colin Cowherd says he expects ESPN to continue to cut costs. (Jerry Lai/USA TODAY Sports)

Colin Cowherd says he isn’t surprised about the massive layoffs at ESPN. In fact, he predicts they will continue for the next several years.

In an interview Wednesday on CBS Radio in Cleveland, the former ESPN yapper said the WorldWide Leader is forking over too much money for rights agreements. The network is now paying $3.3 billion annually to broadcast the NFL and NBA.

“This is not going to end today. They have really cost-prohibitive contracts, combined with cord-cutting,” Cowherd said. “I said this [last year] when they cut 350 people, I said it the next day, it’s awful, and it will happen annually for the next decade.”

ESPN signed a whopping nine-year contract with the NBA worth $1.4 billion annually that kicked in at the start of this season. The network inked a $15 billion rights deal with the NFL, despite an increasingly lackluster Monday night schedule. In addition to “Monday Night Football,” ESPN receives access to game highlights and broadcasts one postseason contest per season.

Given the prevalence of cord-cutting, the strategy of overextending for TV contracts doesn’t appear to be a sustainable business model.

“At Fox, we pay $1.1 billion for the NFL,” Cowherd said. “You have the 1:oo window and the 4:00 window, wild card games, NFC Championship, and two of the next four Super Bowls. We make a lot of money on the NFL … ESPN pays $1.9 billion, gets a bunch of highlights, no Super Bowls, and one increasingly irrelevant Monday Night Football game. We have a great NFL contract, they have a really marginalized NFL contract.”

Cowherd is one of several big name ESPN personalities who’s left Bristol in recent years. The longtime talk radio host signed with Fox Sports in 2015 for a contract that pays him more than $6 million annually. Bill Simmons, Keith Olbermann and Skip Bayless are also no longer with ESPN. The WorldWide Leader was reportedly prepared to offer Bayless a deal worth roughly $4 million per year, but Fox Sports topped them.

Since ESPN is hemorrhaging subscribers –– its lost at least 12 million households over the last five years –– it will likely keep looking to cut costs. The WorldWide Leader can seemingly no longer afford to pay exorbitant rights fees and keep its newsroom intact.

Read More: Colin Cowherd, ESPN,
ESPN lays off three NHL reporters, appears prepared to virtually ignore hockey all together 04.26.17 at 3:58 pm ET
By   |  Comments Off on ESPN lays off three NHL reporters, appears prepared to virtually ignore hockey all together
ESPN is cutting virtually all of its NHL coverage. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

ESPN is cutting most of its NHL coverage. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Hockey diehards often lambast ESPN for skimping on NHL coverage. But now it looks like the WorldWide Leader is preparing to ignore the sport all together.

As expected, ESPN underwent mass layoffs Wednesday, cutting dozens of high-profile employees so it can trim tens of millions of dollars from its payroll. The network’s relatively minuscule NHL department was hit hard, with three respected reporters receiving their walking papers.

NHL Insider Pierre LeBrun, columnist Scott Burnside and Boston-based reporter Joe McDonald have all announced they were laid off. The status of anchor John Buccigross, who plays a significant role in the network’s Stanley Cup Playoff coverage, remains uncertain. The Hollywood Reporter said earlier Wednesday he was let go, but walked the story back. Buccigross’ contract expires July 1 and hasn’t been renewed.

“Whatever happens, I’m very optimistic about the future of ESPN and about my future,” Buccigross told Sporting News last month. “We both will be fine. I’m not the anchor for gossip. I go into work with my head down, work with our producers to put a compelling 60 minutes together, and walk out the door and drive to my rural Connecticut home singing Jason Isbell songs. I get home, eat 10 pieces of American cheese and then read until I fall asleep.”

Given Barry Melrose was the only NHL analyst to receive significant television time, the coverage on “SportsCenter” and other studio shows likely won’t be much different. But the NHL’s limited exposure on ESPN’s digital properties will probably be further minimized.

Since ESPN doesn’t own NHL rights, this decision isn’t surprising. Like every other TV network, ESPN is interested in promoting its own programming.

Read More: ESPN, NHL,
Lawyer says Aaron Hernandez and Kyle Kennedy had close relationship in prison 04.26.17 at 2:18 pm ET
By   |  Comments Off on Lawyer says Aaron Hernandez and Kyle Kennedy had close relationship in prison
Aaron Hernandez's family has possession of his three suicide notes. (Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe)

Aaron Hernandez’s family has possession of his three suicide notes. (Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe)

The attorney for Aaron Hernandez’s alleged prison friend affirmed Wednesday his client enjoyed a close relationship with the disgraced ex-NFL star.

At a press conference, Lawrence F. Army Jr. said Kevin Kennedy, the 22-year-old armed robber who Hernandez reportedly befriended at Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, was the intended recipient of Hernandez’s third suicide note. State officials have confirmed the other two letters were written to Hernandez’s fiancee and four-year-old daughter. A judge ruled copies of the messages will be given to Hernandez’s family.

“My client has also relayed to me that he and Aaron Hernandez were close friends and spent a great deal of time together in prison,” Army said in his opening statement.

Army wouldn’t explain the nature of their relationship, saying Kennedy will address that himself at a later date. The Daily Mail reports Hernandez and Kennedy were seeing each other behind bars.

Kennedy, who’s currently on suicide watch, is believed to be the last person Hernandez saw before he hanged himself in his prison cell last week just before 3:00 a.m. Army said Hernandez told Kennedy he was thinking about ending his life three weeks ago. “I think I’m going to hang it up. LOL,” the note allegedly said.

Army also claims Hernandez gifted a $50,000 watch to Kennedy on his 22nd birthday. The whereabouts of the piece of jewelry is unknown.

Army said he’s requesting the note in question be released to his client. The content of the letter is apparently unclear, because it was written in code. But Army says it was meant for Kennedy, citing the closeness of their relationship and a prison source. Hernandez’s attorney, Jose Baez, insists no such letter exists.

In an apparent effort to prove Kennedy’s friendship with Hernandez, Army read aloud one sentence from a letter the former Patriots tight end purportedly wrote to Kennedy’s father. “He’s my brother and always will be,” it said.

In September 2016, Hernandez and Kennedy asked to live with each other, Army said. But the request was denied.

“Aaron Hernandez was one of the most powerful forces as a person [Kennedy] has ever known,” Army said. “Aaron could took any situation, no matter how bad it seemed, and turn it into a positive.”

Kennedy was arrested in January 2015 for robbing a Cumberland Farms gas station in Northbridge. During the burglary, he was sporting a black mask and wielded a butcher knife. Police handcuffed him after a high-speed chase.

Kennedy is eligible to be released from prison March 1, 2018.

Read More: Aaron Hernandez,
Derek Jeter is reportedly buying the Marlins 04.25.17 at 3:42 pm ET
By   |  Comments Off on Derek Jeter is reportedly buying the Marlins
Derek Jeter reportedly won a bid Tuesday to buy the Marlins.  (Adam Hunger/USA Today Sports)

Derek Jeter reportedly won a bid Tuesday to buy the Marlins. (Adam Hunger/USA Today Sports)

Derek Jeter is taking his talents to South Beach.

Bloomberg reports the ex-Yankees great and former Florida governor Jeb Bush have won an auction to buy the Marlins. The value of their bid is unknown.

Earlier Tuesday, Forbes said the Jeter-Bush ticket was “running around trying to look for money.” Other bidders included a team headed by Mitt Romney’s son, Tagg, and ex-Braves hurler Tom Glavine. Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria almost sold the team to the Kushner family two months ago, but the deal fell through. Around the same time, Loria was also rumored to be named Ambassador to France. Jared Kushner is married to Ivanka Trump and serves as a special advisor to the President.

The loathsome Loria, who once dropped the Marlins payroll to $20 million, could receive nearly $1 billion from the sale. He bought the Marlins in 2002 for $158 million. Forbes says the franchise is currently valued at $940 million.

While 75 percent of owners need to approve the ownership change, it likely won’t be a problem for Jeter and Bush. Assuming the sale goes through, the failed Republican presidential candidate will finally have something to clap about.

 

Read More: Derek Jeter, Jeb Bush, Miami Marlins,
Report: ESPN layoffs could be worse than expected 04.25.17 at 12:38 pm ET
By   |  Comments Off on Report: ESPN layoffs could be worse than expected
ESPN layoffs could be announced as early as tomorrow. (Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

ESPN layoffs could be announced as early as tomorrow. (Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

It’s been reported for some time ESPN will undergo massive layoffs this spring. But the damage might be worse than expected.

According to the Sporting News’ Michael McCarthy, the WorldWide Leader could slash 70 employees, most of whom are on-air talent or digital reporters. This is a larger figure than the original estimation of 40-50 cuts, which media reporter James Andrew Miller mentioned last month on Richard Deitsch’s Sports Illustrated podcast.

Citing multiple sources, McCarthy says ESPN’s campus was “eerily silent” Tuesday and that it’s the “dead calm before the storm.” ESPN staff writer Paul Kuharsky, who covers the Titans, was laid off Monday.

On Facebook Tuesday, Deitsch said the majority of layoffs could come as early as Wednesday. Disney holds its second-quarter earnings call May 9.

The Sporting News also reports many ESPN anchors are offering to take pay cuts so they can keep their jobs at the network. The company is reportedly offering talent the choice to walk away with 50 percent of their pay, or hold out for what they’re owed and likely be sidelined from TV.

It’s no secret that ESPN has been hemorrhaging subscribers. In February 2011, the network was available in more than 100 million households. As of December 2016, that number was down to 88.4 million. The decreased advertising revenue coming out of Bristol is one of the reasons why Disney, ESPN’s parent company, reported lower-than-anticipated first quarter earnings earlier this year.

On the Deitsch podcast, Miller also mapped out what he thinks ESPN’s new weekday lineup will look like. Following the re-airing of Neil Everett and Stan Verrett’s west coast “SportsCenter,” he expects Mike Greenberg to host his own variety show from 7-10 a.m. Miller said he believes Bomani Jones and Pablo Torre will get their own afternoon show, with the afternoon block of programming staying in place along with Jemele Hill and Michael Smith’s “SC:6.” Scott Van Pelt’s solo “SportsCenter” would still air at midnight following live game coverage.

Read More: ESPN,
Bart Hubbuch wrote maybe the most boring hit piece ever on Robert Kraft 04.25.17 at 11:43 am ET
By   |  Comments Off on Bart Hubbuch wrote maybe the most boring hit piece ever on Robert Kraft
Robert Krafts sits on the board of a private-equity firm that owns shares in Caesars Entertainment. (Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports

Robert Krafts sits on the board of a private-equity firm that owns shares in Caesars Entertainment. (Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports

NFL reporter Bart Hubbuch, who was fired from the New York Post last year for comparing Donald Trump’s inauguration to September 11 and Pearl Harbor, wrote what appears to be a bombshell story about Robert Kraft brazenly defying NFL rules. The headline, “This is the story about Robert Kraft’s casino holdings that Rupert Murdoch’s paper never ran,” implies a massive cover-up between two Trump-loving billionaires to hide the Patriots owner’s unsavory business dealings. In other words, it’s the equivalent of crack cocaine to Deadspin’s left-leaning and Patriots-hating audience.

Except, the content of the article doesn’t live up to the grandiose headline. It might be one of the most boring hit pieces ever written.

Here’s the crux of the story: Since 2014, Kraft has sat on the board of directors for the Manhattan private-equity giant Apollo Global Management. At the time of Kraft’s arrival, Apollo owned a 60 percent stake in Caesars Entertainment, which operates 50 casinos and horse-racing tracks around the globe. Due to bankruptcy proceedings, Apollo now only retains a 16 percent share in the entertainment conglomerate.

According to NFL policy, league personnel can’t own more than five percent of a company’s stock and “serve as an officer or director” of a company that generates revenue from “gambling-related” operations. Since Apollo is financially tied to Caesars, and Kraft sits on the firm’s board, he appears to be in violation of one portion of the rule. But yet, commissioner Roger Goodell isn’t doing anything about it.

To further prove his point about how Kraft is getting away with this supposedly egregious act, Hubbuch points to the persecuted Tim Rooney, the son of Steelers founder Art J. Rooney. In 2008, the NFL forced Tim Rooney to sell his entire stake in the team, because one of the companies he owned, Yonkers Raceway, received a gambling license.

Of course, there’s a difference between heading a company that obtains a gambling license and sitting on the board of a private-equity firm that owns a 16 percent stake in a corporation that operates casinos. In a statement provided to Deadspin, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Kraft isn’t overstepping his bounds, because of his “small investment” in Apollo.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bart Hubbuch, Robert Kraft,
Should Boston newspapers mention Aaron Hernandez sexuality story? 04.24.17 at 5:08 pm ET
By   |  Comments Off on Should Boston newspapers mention Aaron Hernandez sexuality story?
Neither major Boston daily newspaper has reported on the Aaron Hernandez sexuality story. (Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe)

Neither major Boston daily newspaper has reported on the Aaron Hernandez sexuality story. (Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe)

Information about the most lurid portion of the Aaron Hernandez saga can’t be found in the pages of the Boston Globe or Boston Herald. In order to read about it, one must head to New York, where it was plastered on the covers of both tabloids over the weekend.

On Kirk & Callahan last week, Boston-based investigative journalist Michele McPhee first reported how Hernandez’s sexuality may tie into the 2013 Odin Lloyd shooting. Citing law enforcement sources, McPhee said Hernandez carried on an intimate relationship with a male high school classmate from Connecticut. Lloyd, who was engaged to the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee, knew about the romance.

“There was a relationship with somebody from his high school years,” she said. “That may have provided –– and this was one of the investigative theories in the beginning –– because they got information from Ernest Wallace that perhaps –– and remember, Ernest Wallace was the guy who ditched the gun –– they had information from him that one of the motives is Odin Lloyd used a derogatory term for gay people in front of Aaron Hernandez and that Odin Lloyd had knowledge because of this relationship he had with the man in Connecticut.”

On Friday, McPhee published a story in Newsweek outlining the theory. In it, she writes that one of the three notes Hernandez left in his cell before he hanged himself last week was addressed to his prison boyfriend. The Daily Mail also posted its own piece about the letter and identified the alleged lover.

The New York Daily News and New York Post both picked up on these reports. We’ve covered the story at WEEI, because it’s currently one of the hottest topics on our airwaves.

A judge ruled Monday the Hernandez family will receive copies of his suicide notes, so perhaps the truth about the prison letter will come out. In the meantime, it’s worth examining the legitimacy of the reports regarding his sexuality, and whether the Boston papers are right to ignore them.

Why is there doubt about sexuality reports?

It’s safe to say the Daily Mail doesn’t have a sterling reputation. The tawdry British tabloid recently paid Melania Trump almost $3 million in a libel settlement and was banned on Wikipedia as an “unreliable source.”

Typically, editors need more than the Daily Mail before they green-light stories. That’s where McPhee comes in. A former police bureau chief for the Daily News and Boston Herald, she’s plugged into law enforcement agencies across the region. But so far, she’s the only non-Daily Mail journalist who’s reported on this. A source tells me journalists at the Globe and Herald are digging into it, but haven’t come up with the same information. In an email, Boston Herald editor-in-chief Joe Sciacca said the paper “doesn’t report rumors.” Boston Globe sports editor Joe Sullivan declined comment.

There’s also the theory, perpetuated by Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, that police officials are trying to smear Hernandez in order to distract from any possible investigations into his suicide attempt.

What’s believable about the sexuality angle?

Since McPhee is attaching her name to the story, it’s apparent Hernandez’s alleged bisexuality is being discussed in law enforcement circles as a potential motive for the Lloyd murder. In the Newsweek piece, McPhee says the disgraced ex-NFL star’s high school friend was even forced to testify in front of a grand jury.

She’s also been right about other aspects of the suicide. McPhee reported the tidbit on Wednesday about Hernandez writing “John 3:16″ on his forehead in red marker before he died. In a tweet Monday, she said the lawyer for Hernandez’s alleged partner in prison confirms there was a note in the cell addressed to his client.

Rumors about Hernandez’s sexuality have apparently circulated among police officials for a couple of years. Retired police sergeant Dic Donohue, who was injured in the Boston Marathon gun battle, tweeted Sunday he knew about it “for a while.”

There’s also the curious absence of information about the third suicide note. State officials confirmed last week Hernandez left three handwritten letters in his cell. The Globe and Herald both cite law enforcement sources who say Hernandez addressed two of those messages to his fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins Hernandez, and four-year-old daughter, Avielle. McPhee and the Daily Mail have those details as well. Neither Boston paper, however, references the third letter in any story.

If the unidentified note contains sensitive information, such as a look into Hernandez’s sexuality, perhaps the state would hold off on revealing it. The alleged boyfriend is reportedly under suicide watch, which would likely further complicate matters.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Boston Globe, Boston Herald,
Robert Kraft reportedly serves as unofficial advisor to Donald Trump 04.24.17 at 2:14 pm ET
By   |  Comments Off on Robert Kraft reportedly serves as unofficial advisor to Donald Trump
Donald Trump honored the Patriots at a White House ceremony last week. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

Donald Trump honored the Patriots at a White House ceremony last week. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

Robert Kraft is close friends with Donald Trump. The Patriots owner donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural fund and has even taken a ride on Air Force One. With that in mind, it shouldn’t be surprising that Kraft may serve as an unofficial advisor to the President.

The New York Times published a report over the weekend detailing the cadre of friends and associates who Trump regularly phones for advice. Most of them, much like Trump himself, are older white men with sizable wealth.

Several of the confidants, including inaugural committee chairman Thomas Barrack Jr. and economic counselor Carl Icahn, are longtime friends of Trump who supported him throughout the campaign. The conservative media establishment is represented, too. Fox News host Sean Hannity, 21st Century Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch and Newsmax Media chief executive Chris Ruddy reportedly console the President and offer advice on a regular basis.

The article says Kraft, a longtime Democrat, is an established presence at Mar-a-Lago Resort and often conversed with Trump about the Patriots during football season. Their friendship dates back several decades, but intensified in 2011 shortly after Kraft’s wife, Myra, passed away. Trump called Kraft once per week for the next year to lift his spirits.

“When Myra died, Melania [Trump] and Donald came up to the funeral in our synagogue, then they came for memorial week to visit with me,” Kraft said earlier this year, via the New York Daily News. “Then he called me once a week for the whole year, the most depressing year of my life when I was down and out. He called me every week to see how I was doing, invited me to things, tried to lift my spirits. He was one of five or six people that were like that. I remember that.”

Read More: Donald Trump, Robert Kraft,
Katie Nolan calls Sean Hannity a ‘literal f****** moron’ during feisty Twitter spat 04.24.17 at 11:18 am ET
By   |  Comments Off on Katie Nolan calls Sean Hannity a ‘literal f****** moron’ during feisty Twitter spat

Fox News host and Donald Trump lapdog Sean Hannity often spars with the vaunted mainstream political press. But he set his sights towards Katie Nolan this weekend, after the FS1 personality called him a “literal f***** moron.”

The exchange started when Hannity lambasted the New York Times, which published a story Saturday about Trump’s habit of phoning friends outside of the White House for strategic advice. Hannity, who’s been one of Trump’s most ardent defenders, was listed as a trusted confidante to the President. The right-wing firebrand didn’t take kindly to his inclusion in the piece, accusing the National Security Agency of surveilling and unmasking him –– an apparent reference to reports that former NSA head Susan Rice asked for the identities of some Trump associates whose conversations were caught on surveillance.

Maggie Haberman, one of the authors of the story, fired back at Hannity.

But Haberman’s rebuttal was nothing compared to Nolan’s reaction. The former “Garbage Time” host dug right into her Fox cohort, unleashing a stream of insults. This prompted Hannity to take a shot at Nolan’s career.

When Hannity stopped engaging Saturday night, Nolan went after tweeters who were taunting her with sexist remarks.

Hannity appeared to express contrition Sunday, saying he has “ZERO problem” with Nolan “being real.” While Nolan and Hannity work for different networks, FS1 and Fox News are both owned by 21st Century Fox.

Though “Garbage Time” is on indefinite hiatus, FS1 says they have big plans for Nolan. Earlier this year, the Sporting News reported the station is developing several new TV shows for the feisty commentator. Perhaps Hannity could be her first guest.

Read More: Katie Nolan,
Report: Aaron Hernandez left note to gay prison lover before death 04.21.17 at 3:51 pm ET
By   |  Comments Off on Report: Aaron Hernandez left note to gay prison lover before death
Aaron Hernandez reportedly had a gay prison lover. (Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe)

Aaron Hernandez reportedly had a gay prison lover. (Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe)

State officials say Aaron Hernandez left three handwritten notes next to a bible in his cell before he hanged himself this week. One of them was reportedly addressed to a gay prison lover.

The Daily Mail quotes a source close to the investigation who says the disgraced ex-NFL star was intimately involved with another inmate at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley. The article says the other two letters were addressed to his fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins Hernandez, and four-year-old daughter, Avielle, corroborating an earlier report from the Boston Herald’s Chris Villani.

The source also alleges the bible in the cell was open to John 3:16, which is the same verse that officials say was written on Hernandez’s forehead in red marker.

According to the Daily Mail’s source, the convicted murderer’s gay lover is the last person he spoke to before he ended his life. The man is now reportedly under “eyeball to eyeball” suicide watch.

On Kirk & Callahan Thursday, Boston-based investigate journalist Michele McPhee reported Hernandez was in a relationship with a male high school classmate from Connecticut prior to the 2013 Odin Lloyd shooting. She says Lloyd’s alleged knowledge of the romance may have played a role in his murder.

“There was a relationship with somebody from his high school years,” McPhee said. “That may have provided –– and this was one of the investigative theories in the beginning –– because they got information from Ernest Wallace that perhaps –– and remember, Ernest Wallace was the guy who ditched the gun –– they had information from him that one of the motives is Odin Lloyd used a derogatory term for gay people in front of Aaron Hernandez and that Odin Lloyd had knowledge because of this relationship he had with the man in Connecticut.”

Hernandez, 27, was serving a life sentence for Lloyd’s slaying. He was acquitted last Friday on double-murder charges for a 2012 Boston shooting, five days before he was found dead in his prison cell early Wednesday morning. Jenkins Hernandez is suing the Department of Correction in an effort to get the state to produce Hernandez’s writings and other contents from his cell.

Read More: Aaron Hernandez,