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ESPN's decision to fire Paul Pierce seen as logical move

ESPN's hiring of Pierce was greeted with much fanfare, but the former NBAer's star at the net had dimmed in recent yearsNBAE/Getty Images

ESPN's decision to cut ties with NBA analyst Paul Pierce "should not come as a surprise," but rather as a "wonder it took three days" for the net to let him go, according to Chad Finn of the BOSTON GLOBE. ESPN parent Disney "doesn’t exactly endorse the lifestyle Pierce’s video indicated he was living at the moment." This "should not be spun by anyone as an instance of 'cancel' culture," but as the "consequences that come due when an employee does something to put the employer in a bad light." ESPN's hiring of Pierce was "greeted with much fanfare," but the former NBAer's star at the net has "dimmed in recent years." Perhaps a personality with a higher profile at ESPN "would have been suspended rather than fired." But Pierce was "expendable, and his cause was not helped by the fact that he posted the video himself" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/7).

ALREADY ON THIN ICE: In Toronto, Cathal Kelly writes there are a "million former pros who can do" what Pierce does. His professional value "has been reduced to showing up on time, being nice to the crew and never doing anything too ridiculous in public," and he "broke one of those rules." ESPN "didn’t fire him for what appears to be playing host to strippers at his house, or what could be smoking a blunt on a livestream," but because this is the "most entertaining Pierce has ever been while talking on camera" (GLOBE & MAIL, 4/7).

DID ESPN GO TOO FAR? SI.com's Jimmy Traina called ESPN's decision to cut ties with Pierce a "ridiculous overreaction." Pierce went on Instagram Live while "enjoying the company of some scantily clad women showing off their twerking skills," which was "beyond dumb." Pierce worked for Disney and "had to know the company wouldn’t be happy about a host representing them that way." But he "didn’t break any laws; he didn’t harm anyone; and he didn’t do or say anything offensive." A suspension "would’ve been more than sufficient." Traina: "All ESPN had to do was either suspend Pierce or wait out the social-media storm for a day or two and this entire issue would be over" (SI.com, 4/6).

OTHER MOTIVES? WFAN's Craig Carton speculated that Pierce may have been looking to work elsewhere, and the “only way to go get that opportunity is to be fired because once you’re fired, the employer that fired you can’t stop you from working.” Carton said “clearly he doesn’t seem all that bothered about” being fired (“Boomer and Gio,” CBSSN, 4/7).

SBJ Spotlight: TikTok’s threat to traditional sports media

While tech companies are consumed with finding ways to compete with TikTok, almost no one in conventional media “spends any time talking about it,” said Recode senior correspondent Peter Kafka in an Spotlight interview with SBJ’s John Ourand. “To me, that’s just an obvious disconnect.” Kafka authored a recent column headlined, “It’s TikTok’s world. Can TV live in it?” He said the main response to TikTok’s growth from traditional media execs has been to “punt and hope it’s someone else’s problem a quarter from now or two years from now.” But Kafka said that ignores the trend of conventional broadcast audiences growing older while a billion younger consumers spend most of their media time watching short video after short video. “If you’re in the business of getting anyone under the age of 30 to look at what you’re putting on a screen, you have to think about the fact that you’re probably asking them to put down TikTok and watch your thing instead,” said Kafka. “That’s a very difficult ask. … [TikTok] is insanely addictive.”

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