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ESPN responds to questions regarding Kraft relationship

After posting our take regarding the SportsBusiness Daily report regarding the decision of ESPN to hire the Kraft Sports Group to sell advertising for Bristol’s new Beantown-centric ESPNBoston.com, we posed a few questions via e-mail to ESPN spokesman Bill Hofheimer.

Bill responded this morning, but I haven’t had time to post a followup. 

Though I don’t really have time to do it now, either, I don’t want anyone to think I’m dragging my feet regarding the publication of information that I expressly solicited from ESPN.

“This will have no impact on ESPN’s editorial coverage,” Hofheimer said.  “Kraft Sports Group is simply the local ad sales and sponsorship agent for ESPNBoston.com.  We did not have a sales force in Boston and this was a solution for that.  ESPN will maintain full, independent editorial control.  We have a history of separating business relationships from our news and information division, and this will continue to be the case.  We provide coverage — sometimes critical — of leagues, teams, players and others with whom we may have business relationships.”

That’s all fine.  And it sounds good in writing.  But it doesn’t change the fact that, at a minimum, there’s a reason to question the objectivity of ESPN regarding anything written or said about the Patriots. 

Surely, we and others will be watching.  So is it really worth it, then, to undermine the credibility of the coverage of one of the primary teams that ESPNBoston.com will be covering, all in the name of not hiring an in-house advertising sales staff?

And though ESPN can claim that there will be no change to its editorial approach, we have a feeling that Mike Fish’s February 2008 reporting regarding the Matt Walsh situation might have been couched a bit differently if Kraft Sports Group were selling ads for ESPNBoston.com at the time.

The current connection also doesn’t hurt the ongoing effort to unruffle feathers of Pats fans who hold a grudge against the Boston Herald and ESPN for the perception that they created a huge distraction in the days preceding the Patriots’ effort to complete what would have been the only 19-0 season in NFL history.

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35 Responses to “ESPN responds to questions regarding Kraft relationship”
  1. slipkid says: Sep 24, 2009 9:19 PM

    i dont think that crap bothered belichick and the pats effort to win. i think a banged up brady and the furious gynauts rush line did the pats in.
    say what u want about belichick but ya have to give him credit for staying focused.

  2. denverpilot says: Sep 24, 2009 9:23 PM

    Cant wait to see the Patriots fall into mediocrity. Is anyone gonna bring into the conversation that Josh McDaniels (aside from Dilfer) is a huge loss?

  3. Devils Advocate says: Sep 24, 2009 9:27 PM

    @Florio – PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN GLASS HOUSES SHOULDN’T THROW STONES!
    “that’s all fine. And it sounds good in writing. But it doesn’t change the fact that, at a minimum, there’s a reason to question the objectivity of ESPN regarding anything written or said about the Patriots.”
    The exact same thing can be said about you and your association with NBC . Why are we to believe you are more impartial and objective? You are on the NBC payroll pal. You part of the same system. Wake up!

  4. TheWizard says: Sep 24, 2009 9:27 PM

    That grudge against the Herald is forever.

  5. Roynp3 says: Sep 24, 2009 9:29 PM

    I think this allegation is an attempt to grasp at straws. ESPN also has television deals with the NFL, MLB and NBA that involve a lot more dollar than this, yet you aren’t criticizing their ability to be impartial in their coverage of the respective leagues. More importantly, you work for N-B-C (emphasis intended), an organization with multiple REAL news outlets (as opposed to sports news) attempting to be impartial when their flagship company is a MASSIVE corporation. The reality here is that the nature of the modern corporate media does not allow for any media outlet to be free of these sorts of relationships. Except for bloggers…at least until they sell out.

  6. Fike Mlorio says: Sep 24, 2009 9:32 PM

    espn favoring the patriots? yeah that would be new

  7. Roynp3 says: Sep 24, 2009 9:33 PM

    and it’s not a perception that ESPN and the Herald created a huge distraction, it’s a reality. Matt Walsh’s story turned out to be flat out wrong. The guy was a bizarro Roy McAvoy out for his 5-seconds of fame.

  8. Fike Mlorio says: Sep 24, 2009 9:34 PM

    hey devils advocate, stop hating on florio for doing whats best for himself, if you dont like the site get off

  9. bearsrule says: Sep 24, 2009 9:36 PM

    So what ? They can give out all the bullshit answers they want. They’re making up the rules as they go along. If nobody likes it, tough titty…..That’s their attitude, not mine. Berman gave Ralph Wilson’s intro speech to the HOF and his daughter is employed by the Patriots. They answer to no one.

  10. Anrkist says: Sep 24, 2009 9:43 PM

    I’m confused, don’t you post entries about NBC shows now? You’ve had it out for ESPN since time began, never quiet put my finger on it… but it seems pretty obvious why. They are your biggest competitor.

  11. Furious George says: Sep 24, 2009 9:44 PM

    “The current connection also doesn’t hurt the ongoing effort to unruffle feathers of Pats fans who hold a grudge against the Boston Herald and ESPN for the perception that they created a huge distraction in the days preceding the Patriots’ effort to complete what would have been the only 19-0 season in NFL history.”
    Perception??? you call losing your entire coaching staff for the entire day and night before the Super Bowl to respond to fabricated claims of walk through tapes, the “perception” of a distraction? you have to be absolutely out of your mind.

  12. sim448 says: Sep 24, 2009 9:48 PM

    well said devils advocate. umm. florio, do you think espn has a problem being critical of the patriots when that idiot mike fish brought up the “super bowl walkthrough tapes” that never came to fruition. yeah, i bet kraft would love for them to do that 3 days before trying to win the super bowl. i am starting to realize your no more an expert than any of us.

  13. Dan Mateus says: Sep 24, 2009 9:50 PM

    Florio are you serious?
    Hello kettle this is pot ….you’re BLACK!

  14. Shackman v2.0 says: Sep 24, 2009 9:59 PM

    Even though I’ve noticed a distinct change in the flavor of your blog ever since you’ve partnered up with NBC, consider yourself doing the Lord’s work, Florio.

  15. ClassicRockProfessor says: Sep 24, 2009 10:09 PM

    ESPN would need the money from the Krafts. Considering Cell Phone Salisbury planning to sue the network. Not too mention his tell all book ESPN Exposed.
    http://deadspin.com/5365919/sean-salisbury-has-a-few-things-to-get-off-his-chest
    http://deadspin.com/5366926/sean-salisbury-gets-the-final-word-i-think

  16. Fan_Of_ Four says: Sep 24, 2009 10:14 PM

    So we can expect ESPN to be about as fair and balanced as Faux News when it comes to the Pattys ? Ah well, who really cares, its the Patty’s

  17. DanFoutsBeard says: Sep 24, 2009 10:24 PM

    I thought that site was a joke until I just went there. Are you kidding me? ESPN is a joke.

  18. ItalianArmyGuy says: Sep 24, 2009 10:28 PM

    How horrible it must have been for Bellicheat to be reminded of his own transgressions in the week leading up to the Super Bowl.
    Hey Bill – got a deal for you – next time, don’t cheat, and you won’t have that problem.

  19. geogibso says: Sep 24, 2009 10:46 PM

    “So is it really worth it, then, to undermine the credibility of the coverage of one of the primary teams that ESPNBoston.com will be covering, all in the name of not hiring an in-house advertising sales staff?”
    ESPN would’ve had to have credibility to begin with for this to cause any real change.
    The Patriots now have ESPN and CBS (CBS Scene attached to Gillette Stadium) in their pocket. They just need to rope in FOX and NBC and they’ll control all four of the major NFL media outlets.

  20. stanjam says: Sep 24, 2009 11:13 PM

    ESPN favors the Pats? That would indeed be something new. Many of their player analysts carry a longstanding grudge against the Pats, and it shows. That is why many Pats fans boycott ESPN.
    Also about the comment of the Pats sliding into mediocrity. Slow down pal! The Pats may well do that. It has to happen sometime. They can not forever be competitive every year. Some day they may slide. I think that you are a bit quick to assume it is happening right now. After all, we are just two weeks into the season. If the Pats start scoring some TDs instead of kicking field goals, things will change pretty quickly. No one should be quite ready to write them off yet, you just might end up looking like a fool (common place to be for Pats haters in the past).
    Also, if the Pats DO slide into mediocrity, it will not be because they lost Josh. Heck, they instantly became a better team without him! When I can call what play the offense is going to run on just about every down, that is not a good sign. With Josh every second and long was a run play. I see that a bit in the NFL. Why on Earth do teams do that? You aren’t fooling anyone. I mean, doing it once or twice a game, and it might fool a defense, but when it is called consistently, it is almost always going to fail! Last year every team knew the Pats were running on second and long, and the Pats got killed on second and long pretty consistently.
    Josh has since gone and proven that he was a bas OC, by taking his idiocy to the head coaching level. He has turned the Broncos from a very good team, and turned it into a joke. He won’t last long in the NFL. He reminds me of Norv Turner, a coach who had a good record as OC when he had a team so filled with talent on offense that Peter Griffin could have done well.

  21. darrius_heyward-bey-butterfingers says: Sep 25, 2009 12:36 AM

    The critics say The Jay Leno show sucks, but NBCPFT says it’s totally AWESOME! It’s ok that you got in bed with the man, and things have been ok since, but you are no longer an independant site in a position to call out others on conflicts of interests. I love this site and ESPN sucks, but don’t go there, please. And where is the updated response from the NFL on the Louis Murphy catch?

  22. AdamEagle5 says: Sep 25, 2009 12:38 AM

    1) Ain’t this the kettle callin the pot black? Florio, you yourself are a corporate tool. Scratch that, corporate power tool. As biased as ESPN is (and that would be very, very biased), PFT is hardly a bastion of objectivity.
    2) It isn’t like this will change anything. ESPN has been balls deep on Boston’s short dong since the Sox won the WS and Boston fans started watching sports again. They wouldn’t have criticized the Pats anyway.
    Cot damn, I wish I had better sports alternatives…

  23. JimmySmith says: Sep 25, 2009 7:08 AM

    ESPN has been spiraling down for years now so this is just the latest unprofessional transgression and hardly the worst. So Kraft makes a few more dollars at the direct expense of ESPN, its not like ESPN has a reputation to protect anymore and Kraft threw his away during Spygate.
    Anyone have a lead on those “19-0″ t-shirts or have they all been sent to Africa?

  24. Chargers-Superhero says: Sep 25, 2009 7:08 AM

    They are no longer the New England Patriots.
    They are officially the ESPN Patriots. lol

  25. davis1281 says: Sep 25, 2009 7:17 AM

    denverpilot says:
    September 24, 2009 9:23 PM
    Cant wait to see the Patriots fall into mediocrity. Is anyone gonna bring into the conversation that Josh McDaniels (aside from Dilfer) is a huge loss
    *****************************************
    You wont see it this yr or next yr or even the year after that. They will be on top for as long as Brady plays, just like the Colts with Manning.
    Hate on Hater, Hate on……….

  26. tj.52 says: Sep 25, 2009 8:05 AM

    “The current connection also doesn’t hurt the ongoing effort to unruffle feathers of Pats fans who hold a grudge against the Boston Herald and ESPN for the perception that they created a huge distraction in the days preceding the Patriots’ effort to complete what would have been the only 19-0 season in NFL history.”
    ———————————————————
    Ya think?
    ESPN is in serious ass kissing mode. I think it may have something to do with their incompetent and dispicable coverage of the Patriots 2007 season and the subsequent loss of viewership in the nation’s second largest market.
    They still have years to go, but Bruschi and Reiss are a good way for them to start.

  27. winkel33 says: Sep 25, 2009 8:28 AM

    did you really just mention Mike Fish’s reporting? it was horrible and inaccurate. you have a great point about this conflict of interest, but i think you might want to find a better supporting argument than worrying that mike fish’s reporting might be affected.

  28. preludetosmack says: Sep 25, 2009 8:32 AM

    “Kraft Sports Group is simply the local ad sales and sponsorship agent for ESPNBoston.com. We did not have a sales force in Boston and this was a solution for that.”
    RIIIIIIIGHHHHT
    Because those hundreds (thousands?) of minions they have running around in Bristol, CT (all of about 2 hours away) could NEVER sell into Boston…
    Half of the Bristol employees probably live in Hartford or East Hartford anyway, putting them only about an hour or so away from Boston/Cambridge area.
    There may not be anything wrong with their business relationship, but that was about the lamest excuse I’ve ever read.

  29. Devils Advocate says: Sep 25, 2009 8:38 AM

    @Fike Mlorio
    yeah right. keep drinking the kool aid!

  30. DemocratsAreStupid says: Sep 25, 2009 9:21 AM

    I feel bad for any team playing the steelers or patriots on monday night football. espn has shown an obvious bias by hiring kraft and not covering the qb rape story. good luck to the unfortunate teams facing a pre-decided losing outcome

  31. VoxVeritas says: Sep 25, 2009 9:42 AM

    JimmySmith! Welcome back man, I was starting to get worried about you! What does it feel like to see the freaking BENGALS kick the Packers asses in Lambeau Field? I hope McCarthy’s dog survives! Have you seen your partner EskinSux anywhere?
    31-24

  32. CliveRush says: Sep 25, 2009 10:38 AM

    To those who beleive that Bristol, CT. is an area under the influence of the Boston sports market please understand this. The location of Bristol was chosen because of the strong satellite signal. It would have been in NYC if the, at the time young and struggling network, could have done so. The execs are New York centric. The New England/ Boston sports influence ends in CT. just east of the Hartford area. The studio is filled with New Yorkers and people who grew up in the NYC area. While the national perception is one where ESPN loves Boston the perception in the New England area is the opposite. The reason there is so much attention shown to the northeast area is the fan interest in the teams. Just check out the attendance figures of Boston, New York and Philly. The fans up here love their teams.

  33. virtueandvice says: Sep 25, 2009 11:26 AM

    “We have a history of separating business relationships from our news and information division, and this will continue to be the case.”
    That is the funniest thing I have ever read on this site.

  34. texasPHINSfan says: Sep 25, 2009 12:05 PM

    i find it hard to believe that ANY reporter that works for this group will make any attacks toward the Patriots, in the interest of job preservation.

  35. Marima says: Sep 25, 2009 12:10 PM

    “The current connection also doesn’t hurt the ongoing effort to unruffle feathers of Pats fans who hold a grudge against the Boston Herald and ESPN for the perception that they created a huge distraction in the days preceding the Patriots’ effort to complete what would have been the only 19-0 season in NFL history.”
    ______________
    That was no “perception” by Pats fans, that was the reality – and all for a big, fat, speculative nothing.
    The ESPN ombudsman at the time, Le Ann Schrieber, wrote a long column detailing where ESPN had gone wrong, and even changed the format of it’s broadcasts because of it. No more “specials” where analysts like Mark Schlereth could just spout off for hours, unscripted, on pure speculation and rumor. That was just the worst media build-up of nothing since Geraldo opened the empty safe.

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