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11-24-2004, 07:08 PM
ESPN boss makes right call after announcers blame fans
By Rudy Martzke USA TODAY

A phone call from the boss can produce changes. Just ask ESPN's NBA studio announcers.

Criticism from ESPN executive vice president Mark Shapiro contributed to the announcers altering their stances and second-guessing their initial commentary on the brawl that occurred during Friday night's Indiana Pacers-Detroit Pistons game.

Shapiro called NBA Shootaround host John Saunders and analysts Stephen A. Smith, Tim Legler and Greg Anthony on Saturday after seeing replays of them criticizing the Detroit fans for tossing beverages and debris at the players but giving a pass to Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O'Neal of the Pacers for going into the stands to attack fans.

"I wish the studio hadn't laid the blame solely on the backs of the fans Friday night," Shapiro said Tuesday. "In this instant-opinion culture, it's easy to make a knee-jerk reaction in the wrong way. But we're proud of the body of work over the entire weekend."

Pistons President Joe Dumars told The Detroit News for Tuesday's editions that the NBA had "read ESPN the riot act" over its coverage Friday night, but spokesmen Mike Soltys of ESPN and David Cooper of the NBA said Tuesday the league had not complained to the network.

Saunders at first called the fans "a bunch of punks" and said, "I don't blame the players for going into the stands." Legler, a former NBA player, said, "The blame should be put on the Detroit Piston fans."

Triggered partly by Shapiro's calls, the announcers later took on a more balanced tone.

Sunday, in his role as host of ESPN's The Sports Reporters, Saunders took a new stance.

"I got extremely emotional on Friday night ... and I reacted as someone who is a former athlete who had been in a situation like that before," he said, "so I'll clarify that there's no way the players should be going into the stands."

By phone Tuesday, Saunders added, "Had we had the amount of time other people were given more than once to view the scene, our take on it would have been more balanced. As host I should have taken the responsibility for taking on the players for going into the stands."

Said Legler: "I was focused initially on how it got triggered. I wasn't paying enough attention to the fact you can't go into the stands."

Said Anthony: "Some of our guys were wrong in what they said. But I'm on the team. I've got to take the blame because of what was said through emotion."

Smith, who usually boasts the toughest tongue, also was hard on himself.

"We all saw the cup flying into Ron Artest's face," Smith said. "Then I saw an elderly man lying on the floor and a kid crying. And I thought, 'My God, what was I thinking?' Regardless of how wrong the fans were, it was wrong of Artest to jump into the stands.

"I listened to Saunders, an older gentleman, allude to how a black person would take that. I understood the emotions of Anthony and Legler, both former players. But the most inexcusable culprit was me. What excuse did I have?"

Speaking about Shapiro's role in all of this, Saunders said: "Mark didn't want us to become the story. He was right. We should have had someone out there presenting the other perspective."

11-24-2004, 07:40 PM
BSPN is nothing more than a bunch of cowardly sell-outs. I have no respect at all for them or anyone that represents them. From now on, everything Anthony, Legler, Smith, Saunders, or any of them say is meaningless. They should be ashamed of themselves for selling out like a bunch of little *****es.

11-24-2004, 08:12 PM

11-24-2004, 08:32 PM

11-24-2004, 10:07 PM
If they don't want to be the story why in the hell are they becoming "investigators"?

11-24-2004, 11:56 PM
Their "knee-jerk reaction" was spot on. "A bunch of punks"