NFL pressure may force ESPN to sack 'Playmakers'
Now that CBS president and CEO Leslie Moonves has won his network's Edward R. Murrow Courage in Broadcasting Award, it comes as no surprise to learn that pro football has been taking notes. Rather than expose his parent company, which includes a number of government-sponsored businesses, to political pressure, Moonves pulled a miniseries about Ronald Reagan off his network. Sounds good to the NFL.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie says it's certainly a possibility'' that the league could cut its ties to ESPN if its hit show, Playmakers,'' continues on the air. Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, who is in charge of TV negotiations, doesn't care for the show, either.
NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue has appeared on CNN to call it a gross mischaracterization of our sport.'' Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw has complained about it.
Playmakers,'' which wrapped up its inaugural season Tuesday, uses pro football as a setting for subjects such as drugs, spousal abuse, casual sex, locker-room fights, homosexual players and more. Its ratings have been excellent, particularly in the coveted 18-34 demographic, in which it leads its time slot, beating out such competition as 24'' and Larry King Live.''
Would ESPN, which has developed quite a bit of new programming recently, actually pull a show that is doing so well? Don't bet against it.
We're hoping our powers that be don't cave in to this pressure,'' Jason Matthew Smith, who has a major role in the show, told Florida Today. But it's a big business. They're going to do what they're going to have to do.''
If ESPN does decide it can't stand the heat, it could fill the time slot with an objective recounting of what passes for news in the NFL these days. Like those 10 Raiders called to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the use of designer steroids. And the lawsuit filed by the family of one of Al Davis' former partners with the Raiders, accusing Davis of financial misconduct and challenging his control of the team.
And Redskins owner Daniel Snyder sending his personal jet to pick up former Raiders defensive tackle Darrell Russell, who has been suspended twice -- most recently for a year and a half -- for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. And former Jets offensive tackle Greg Lotysz's suit against the team's doctors after knee surgery ended his career and left him walking with a cane.
And the Patriots cutting offensive tackle Kenyatta Jones after he was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault to maim and mayhem. And the Jets restoring defensive tackle Josh Evans to their roster after a third violation of the league's substance-abuse policy. And Broncos running back Mike Anderson, an ex-Marine with a clean-cut image, being suspended for four games for what he says was secondhand exposure to marijuana smoke.
Never mind Playmakers.'' That would be must-see TV.
The Bulls aren't the only team with players unhappy about their playing time. Would you believe the Lakers? I don't even want to discuss it,'' Gary Payton, who sat out 21 minutes of the Lakers' 105-95 loss Monday to the Grizzlies, told the Los Angeles Times. Just let me play, that's all.'' ... Kobe Bryant, who was 4-for-14 from the field in a loss Friday to the Hornets, was 5-for-15 against the Grizzlies. ... Then there is the normally mild-mannered Don Chaney, who is feeling the pressure with the 2-5 Knicks. I don't mind you killing us,'' Chaney told reporters who wondered about the benching of Dikembe Mutombo against smaller players. That's your job. You do it all the time, so I'm used to it. I don't want you to beat a dead horse when you ask me stuff because you're insulting me.'' ... LeBron James was 3-for-3 from three-point range in a 94-80 victory Monday against the Knicks and scored 17 points while taking only one shot from the paint. Every day in practice, I go into the gym and hear voices saying I can't shoot,'' James said. ... Roger Clemens says he is retired, but the Rangers might try a creative way to bring him aboard. The Dallas Morning News says they might offer him a deal similar to the one Nolan Ryan had in his final seasons that allowed him to pitch at home as much as possible and have a lot of time off. Clemens has yet to file official retirement papers and has filed for free agency instead.
Washington State lineman Billy Knotts is a graduate student in computer technology. Asked if he could hack into the school's system and change a grade, he told the Spokane Spokesman-Review, That's a work in progress.''
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