TIME Baseball

ESPN Removes Curt Schilling From Little League Broadcasts Over Nazi Meme

curt shilling suspension broadcasts
Scott Eells—Bloomberg/Getty Images Curt Schilling, former Boston Red Sox pitcher, speaks during an interview in New York on Feb. 13, 2012.

The tweet appeared to compare Muslims to Germans during the Nazi regime

ESPN has removed Curt Schilling from the Little League World Series broadcast after the former baseball star tweeted a meme that appeared to compare Muslims to Germans during the Nazi regime.

The tweet, which has since been removed, featured a graphic that showed Adolf Hitler next to text reading: “It’s said only 5-10% of Muslims are extremists. In 1940, only 7% of Germans were Nazis. how’d that go?”

ESPN condemned the tweet and announced Schilling would be removed from the broadcast. “Curt’s tweet was completely unacceptable, and in no way represents our company’s perspective,” ESPN said in a press release. “We made that point very strongly to Curt and have removed him from his current Little League assignment pending further consideration.”

Schilling responded with an apologetic tweet, saying it was “100% my fault.”

This isn’t Schilling’s first Twitter controversy: in November 2014, the former pitcher took to the social media platform to argue against evolution.

TIME Television

Bill Simmons Lands Exclusive Deal at HBO

Bill Simmons on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on Dec. 18, 2013.
Randy Holmes—ABC via Getty Images Bill Simmons on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on Dec. 18, 2013.

Simmons will not only have a weekly talk show but also will advise on sports, create documentaries and house his podcasts

Bill Simmons has found his next act.

As The Hollywood Reporter first reported in an HBO cover story in mid-June, the ESPN cast-off will make HBO his exclusive TV home. At the premium cable network, Simmons will launch his own talk show in 2016. The weekly show, which will air on HBO’s linear service as well as HBO Go and HBO Now, will be both topical and spontaneous, with stories and guests across the sports and cultural landscape.

As part of the multi-year, multi-platform pact, which begins in October, Simmons will also have a production deal to produce content for the network and its digital platforms, delivering video, podcasts and features as he did at ESPN. Additionally, the long-time sports personality will consult for HBO Sports, working closely with HBO Sports president Ken Hershman on non-boxing-related programming, including the development of shows and documentary films for the network.

“We have been fans of Bill Simmons and his work for a very long time. His intelligence, talent and insights are without precedent in the areas he covers. We could not be more thrilled for him to bring those talents to HBO and to become a signature voice at the network, spanning the sports and pop culture landscapes,” HBO programming president Michael Lombardo said in a statement Wednesday.

Simmons added: “It’s no secret that HBO is the single best place for creative people in the entire media landscape. From the moment I started talking to Michael and Richard [Plepler, HBO chairman and CEO], it was hard to imagine being anywhere else.”

The news comes nearly two months after ESPN, Simmon’s home of 14 years, unceremoniously dumped the prolific on-air/online personality, whose other contributions include Grantland, popular podcasts and the critically praised 30 for 30 documentary franchise. Simmon’s following, which includes 4.3 million Twitter followers, was no doubt of appeal to HBO, which is looking to grow its stable of must-see personalities in an increasingly on-demand era of TV viewing.

In recent years, Simmons has become not only one of the best-known media personalities in sports but also one of the most outspoken. During his ESPN tenure, he was famously unafraid to criticize the sports world’s most powerful inhabitants, including NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. A tirade against Goodell on Simmons’ podcast, for instance, earned him a three-week suspension, without pay, last September. And earlier this spring, he took another public swipe at the commissioner for his handling – or in Simmon’s view, mishandling — of DeflateGate on Dan Patrick’s radio show.

ESPN president John Skipper, like Simmons, has remained tight-lipped about the precise cause for his firing, just as he has on the early July decision to yank another controversial ESPN personality, Keith Olbermann. At the network’s upfront presentation in mid-May, Skipper told reporters only that “it was business,” adding that his decision not to re-up Simmon’s contract does “not detract from the appreciation I have for Bill Simmons.”

HBO is poised to be a good fit for Simmons, whose colorful — and at times controversial — commentary will be welcomed at the premium cable network, which doesn’t depend on advertiser revenue or lucrative deals with leagues like the NFL. What’s more, HBO launched its standalone service, HBO Now, earlier this spring, and is seeking more timely, younger-skewing content, like Simmons’, that is likely cut through in an on-demand universe.

Several close to Simmons, who’s been courted by several entities following his ESPN ouster, say they wouldn’t be surprised to see the prolific columnist launch another Grantland-esque site for his written commentary moving forward. The two-time New York Times best-selling author got his start writing for ESPN.com in 2001, before segueing into lead columnist for ESPN The Magazine for seven years. In the years that followed, he was part of Jimmy Kimmel Live‘s early writing staff and had remained a must-read columnist for his own Grantland until his springtime exit.

Simmons is repped by Dixon Talent/WME and Hanson Jacobson.

This article originally appeared on The Hollywood Reporter

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TIME ESPYs

Google, Airbnb Air Transgender Ads During ESPYs

As ESPN honored Caitlyn Jenner at the awards ceremony, the brands pitched themselves as trans-inclusive

Many corporations have for years supported the transgender community internally by providing inclusive non-discrimination policies and benefits. But few corporate brands have publicly endorsed the transgender community.

Google and Airbnb became exceptions to that rule Wednesday night during ESPN’s annual ESPY awards on ABC, when they both ran ads advocating for diversity and trans-inclusion.

During the ESPY ceremony, ESPN awarded Caitlyn Jenner the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for going public with her transition.

Google capitalized on the recognition of Jenner by running a two-and-a-half minute advertisement that championed transgender individuals. The Mountain View, Calif., company first launched the video on YouTube in June to celebrate gay pride. The video received more than 1 million views on YouTube, so Google decided to air it during the ESPYs as a way to pitch itself as a trans-inclusive brand: “Not that many big brands have very publicly supported and endorsed the transgender community,” Google’s Vice President of Marketing Arjan Dijk told USA Today in an interview. “It’s a role we want to play as a brand.”

The Google ad chronicles the story of Jake Nothnagel, a 26-year-old, as he transitions from female to male. The Google tie-in is that he found a gym that supports transgender individuals in their efforts to build their new bodies.

Airbnb, the room-sharing platform, also aired a 60-minute spot during the ESPYs that’s part of its “Mankind” campaign. The “Is Mankind?” spot advocates viewing the world from alternative perspectives. “Go look through their windows so you can understand their views,” it says. “Sit at their table so you can share their tastes.” Near the end, the ad flashes “mankind,” “womankind,” “trans-kind,” “humankind.”

The transgender community has garnered new attention since the July cover of Vanity Fair featured Jenner, presenting as a woman for the first time, but plenty of challenges remain. Case in point: in all but 19 states and the District of Columbia, transgender individuals can be fire for their gender identity.

TIME ESPY Awards

Read the Full Text of Caitlyn Jenner’s Inspirational Speech at the ESPY Awards

"It’s not just about me, it’s about all of us accepting one another"

Caitlyn Jenner stood before a standing ovation at the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles on Wednesday night to receive the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage. This was her speech in full.

“Thank you so much. It is so wonderful to be here tonight. Now the last few months have been a whirlwind of so many different experiences and emotions. But to tell you the truth, it seems like every time I turn around in life, I’m putting myself in these high-pressured situations. Competing in the Games, raising a family. But I’ve never felt more pressured than I ever have in my life, than over the last couple of months. Picking out this outfit — O.K., girls, I get it! [Laughter.] You’ve got to get the shoes, the hair, the makeup, the whole process — it was exhausting. And next, the fashion police — please be kind on me, I’m new at this.

“Anyway, I just want to say a quick shout out to our soccer team [applause]. Ladies, you clean up very well.

“But the real truth is, before a few months ago I had never met anybody else who was trans, who was like me. I had never met a trans person, never. Now, as you just saw, I dealt with my situation on my own in private and that turned this journey into an already incredible education.

“It’s been eye-opening, inspiring, but also frightening. All across this country, right now, all across the world, at this very moment, there are young people coming to terms with being transgender. They’re learning that they are different and they are trying to figure out how to handle that, on top of every other problem that a teenager has.

“They’re getting bullied, they’re getting beaten up, they’re getting murdered and they’re committing suicide. The numbers that you just heard before are staggering, but they are the reality of what it is like to be trans today.

“Just last month, the body of 17-year-old Mercedes Williamson, a transgender young woman of color, was found in a field in Mississippi stabbed to death. I also want to tell you about Sam Taub, a 15-year-old transgender young man from Bloomfield, Michigan. In early April, Sam took his own life. Now, Sam’s story haunts me in particular because his death came just a few days before ABC aired my interview with Diane Sawyer. Every time something like this happens, people wonder, ‘Could it have been different, if spotlighting this issue with more attention could have changed the way things happen?’ We’ll never know.

“If there is one thing I do know about my life, it is the power of the spotlight. Sometimes it gets overwhelming, but with attention comes responsibility. As a group, as athletes, how you conduct your lives, what you say, what you do, is absorbed and observed by millions of people, especially young people. I know I’m clear with my responsibility going forward, to tell my story the right way — for me, to keep learning, to do whatever I can to reshape the landscape of how trans issues are viewed, how trans people are treated. And then more broadly to promote a very simple idea: accepting people for who they are. Accepting people’s differences.

“My plea to you tonight is to join me in making this one of your issues as well. How do we start? We start with education. I was fortunate enough to meet Arthur Ashe a few times and I know how important education was to him. Learn as much as you can about another person to understand them better.

“I know the people in this room have respect for hard work, for training, for going through something difficult to achieve the outcome that you desire. I trained hard, I competed hard, and for that, people respected me.

“But this transition has been harder on me than anything I could imagine. And that’s the case for so many others besides me. For that reason alone, trans people deserve something vital. They deserve your respect. And from that respect comes a more compassionate community, a more empathetic society and a better world for all of us.

“There have been so many who have traveled this road before me. From, in sports, Renée Richards to Chaz Bono, to Laverne Cox, and many others. Janet Mock is here tonight. And I want to thank them all publicly, as well as the ESPYs, and the late Arthur Ashe, for giving me this platform to start the next phase of my journey. I also want to acknowledge all the young trans athletes who are out there — given the chance to play sports as who they really are.

“And now, as of this week, it appears that trans people will soon be serving in the military. That’s a great idea. We have come a long way. But we have a lot of work to do.

“I’d like to thank, personally, my buddy Diane Sawyer. You know, you can only tell your story the first time once, and Diane you did it so authentically and so gracefully. And me and the community are so thankful for that. And I thank you so much Diane. I’m so proud to have you as a friend.

“Here comes the tough part. I’d like to thank my family. The biggest fear in Caitlyn Jenner coming out was I never wanted to hurt anyone else, most of all my family and my kids. I always wanted my children to be so proud of their dad because of what he was able to accomplish in his life. You guys have given so much back to me, you’ve given me so much support. I’m so, so grateful to have all of you in my life. Thank you.

“And certainly last, but not least, my mother. My mom who, just a little over a week ago, had to have surgery and I didn’t think she was going to make it, but she is here with me tonight to share this night. Now, you know I always thought that I got my courage and my determination from my dad, who landed on Omaha Beach and fought all the way through World War II. But you know what I’m realizing now, Mom, I think I got all those qualities from you. I love you very much. I’m so glad you’re here to share this with me.

“You know, it is an honor to have the word courage associated with my life. But tonight another word comes to mind, and that is fortunate. I owe a lot to sports. It has shown me the world, it has given me an identity. If someone wanted to bully me, well, you know what? I was the MVP of the football team. That just wasn’t going to be a problem. And the same thing goes tonight. If you want to call me names, make jokes, doubt my intentions, go ahead, because the reality is, I can take it. But for the thousands of kids out there coming to terms with being true to who they are, they shouldn’t have to take it.

“So for the people out there wondering what this is all about — whether it’s about courage or controversy or publicity — well, I’ll tell you what it’s all about. It’s about what happens from here. It’s not just about one person, it’s about thousands of people. It’s not just about me, it’s about all of us accepting one another. We are all different. That’s not a bad thing, that’s a good thing. And while it may not be easy to get past the things you always don’t understand, I want to prove that it is absolutely possible if we only do it together.

“Thanks you so much for this platform. Thank you so much for this honor bestowed on myself and my family.”

TIME ESPYs

Caitlyn Jenner at the ESPY Awards: ‘It’s About What Happens From Here’

It was her first major public appearance since coming out as transgender earlier this year

In her first major public appearance since coming out as transgender earlier this year, Caitlyn Jenner stood before a standing ovation at the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles on Wednesday night to receive the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage.

“I’ve never felt more pressure than I have in the last few months. As you just saw, I dealt with my situation in private—and that turned this journey into an incredible education,” she said. “This transition has been harder on me than anything I could ever imagine, and that’s the case for so many like me.”

The Arthur Ashe Award goes to individuals whose bravery “transcends sports,” a distinction previously bestowed upon Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King, and Nelson Mandela. Abby Wambach, the American Olympic soccer player, introduced the presentation, which began with a video documenting a four-decade career marked by public triumph and private struggle.

It has been a long and winding road for Jenner, whom the American public knew for decades as Bruce, the Olympic superstar who won gold and broke world records at the 1976 games in Montreal. Amid the geopolitical insecurities of the Cold War, America found in its athletes — primarily its male athletes — a bulwark to the national psyche, and Jenner, as Buzz Bissinger wrote in Vanity Fair‘s July cover story, was “a symbol of masculinity as interwoven into American culture as the Marlboro Man.” It was exactly two hundred years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and Jenner, Bissinger wrote, “was America.” Jenner made it onto the Wheaties box, that distinctly American totem of athletic triumph. Jenner married a beauty queen, and had two kids with her — adding to the two Jenner had with first wife Chrystie Crownover; Jenner would have two more with Kris Kardashian.

And Jenner had a secret. The secret was that Bruce Jenner wasn’t Bruce Jenner, or at least not the Bruce Jenner known to the adoring masses. Bruce Jenner was a woman, a truth disclosed only to a trusted few until Jenner’s now-seminal 20/20 interview with Diane Sawyer three months ago. To those who’d watched Jenner astound the world in Montreal, the athlete was still the Olympic hero; to that generation’s children, Jenner was still Bruce, the quirky paternal figure on Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

“I’ve been thinking about this day forever,” she said in April to Sawyer and the 20 million people watching at home. “And what I should do with my life, how do I tell my story, how I tell people what I’ve been through. And that day is today. I need the tissues. It’s gonna be kinda tough, but today is the day. Be honest with myself.”

Onstage Wednesday night, she thanked her “buddy” Diane Sawyer, and also her children and her mother, her voice breaking with emotion.

“I always wanted my children to be so proud of their dad — for what he’d accomplished in his life.” “You guys have given me so much support, and I’m so, so grateful to have all of you in my life.”

A month after the 20/20 special, ESPN announced that it would give Jenner the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the ESPY Awards over the summer. The decision was controversial. A number of obstinate sports fans took to social media to say that Jenner wasn’t brave, or at least not brave enough to earn sports’ highest accolade for bravery, and that it should have gone to, say, a soldier who’d lost his legs in Iraq.

In the midst of the outcry, though, Jenner stood strong — a resolve she carried to the stage on Wednesday night. She used the speech as a rallying cry for the fair treatment of transgender youth.

“If you want to call me names, make jokes, doubt my intentions, go ahead, because the reality is I can take it,” she said. “But for the thousands of kids out there coming to terms with the truth of who they are, they shouldn’t have to take it.”

“For the people out there wondering what this is all about — whether it’s about courage or controversy or publicity — it’s about what happens from here,” she continued. “It’s not about just one person… it’s not just about me, it’s about all of us, accepting one another. We’re all different. That’s not a bad thing. That’s a good thing.”

TIME ESPN

ESPN Lost This Huge Number of Subscribers In a Year

Time Warner Cable, Disney Talks Said To Focus On ESPN3.Com
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images The ESPN logo.

Subscribers are dropping cable and using streaming services

ESPN, long championed for its money-making ability in the sports broadcasting arena, is feeling pressure, as droves of its subscribers flee the service.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the sports behemoth has lost 3.2 million subscribers in a little over a year, citing Nielsen data. The reason: Subscribers are dropping cable and using streaming services, and there’s more competition around. ESPN currently reaches 92.9 million households.

But while it has lost a chunk of subscribers, the publication reported that ESPN is paying more money than ever to secure rights to sports games and matches.

Last year, for example, as part of a renewal deal with the National Basketball Association ESPN agreed to triple its average annual fees from $485 million to about $1.47 billion, the Journal reported.

Owned by Disney, ESPN is expected to make up 25% of the parent company’s total profit in 2015, according to the newspaper.

“We are constantly looking at the cost side of our business and calibrating that against our expectations for the future,” Ed Durso, ESPN’s executive vice president of administration, told the publication. “Regardless of what the future holds, we’re incredibly well-positioned to adapt.”

For more on the future of ESPN, check out Fortune’s recent feature by Mathew Ingram.

TIME Television

Keith Olbermann Is Leaving ESPN Again

2013 Summer TCA Tour - Day 1
Frederick M. Brown—Getty Images BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JULY 24: TV Personality Keith Olbermann speaks onstage during the Olbermann panel at the ESPN portion of the 2013 Summer Television Critics Association tour at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 24, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

The departure follows a point of contention over delivering "commentary"

Keith Olbermann is exiting ESPN once again.

The television personality, who rejoined the sports network in August 2013, won’t be renewing his deal to anchor his ESPN2 program, a source confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter. His deal is complete at the end of July and he is expected to appear on the network until the conclusion of that deal.

Sources say that ESPN management made Olbermann an offer to take his show to the network’s headquarters in Bristol or to the Los Angeles facility but was rebuffed. This was a cost-saving measure, with Olbermann’s show produced out of the network’s Times Square studio.

Not having that show being produced in Times Square will save the network roughly $40 million, say sources.

Olbermann’s impending departure follows a THR report on July 1 detailing the anchor’s “commentary” in his segments as a point of contention in his contract negotiation with the network.

“Keith is a tremendous talent who has consistently done timely, entertaining and thought-provoking work since returning to ESPN,” the network said in a statement. “While the show’s content was distinctive and extremely high quality, we ultimately made a business decision to move in another direction. We wish Keith nothing but the best and trust that his skill and ability will lead him to another promising endeavor.”

This article originally appeared on The Hollywood Reporter

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TIME Media

Why Disney Is Poised to Absolutely Dominate

Measles California
Jae C. Hong—AP Sleeping Beauty's Castle is seen at Disneyland on Jan. 22, 2015, in Anaheim, Calif.

The Mouse House is on a epic winning streak

Luke Skywalker. Tony Stark. Elsa and Anna of Arendelle. Captain America. Woody and Buzz. The fictional heroes of family entertainment have never dominated popular culture as much as they have in recent years. And there is one company that is largely responsible for that: Disney.

Founded nearly a century ago, Disney has long-held a firm place in America’s popular imagination, but even within that long history the past decade has been an impressive ride. Since Bob Iger took over as CEO in 2005, Disney’s stock has more than quadrupled while the S&P 500 is up 77%. Most of the gains have come since 2011 as Iger’s early moves began to bear fruit.

And so some Disney shareholders have come to regard Iger with the kind of awe children have for Disney’s franchised superheroes. But in recent months a debate has broken out between bulls and bears over how long the rally can continue.

While no one is doubting Disney’s immediate future, some analysts are concerned about the stock’s heady valuation. Disney is trading at 26 times last fiscal year’s earnings and 22 times its estimated earnings this year. The Dow, by contrast, is trading at 16 times its recent earnings.

Of the 31 analysts covering Disney, 12 of them have a hold rating on the stock – often a rating given when an otherwise healthy stock has grown pricey. It’s not just analysts who are cautious. Goldman Sachs recently calculated that hedge funds have an aggregate $4.5 billion in short interest in Disney, second only to AT&T among US stocks.

The thing is, Disney isn’t just growing, it’s performing so well that it’s surprising even the bulls. In March, one analyst downgraded Disney purely on its valuation,arguing further gains would be limited. But this month, Disney beat Wall Street’s consensus estimate for the fifth time in the last six quarters. Following its last earnings report, seven analysts raised price targets to between $120 and $125 a share. Disney closed Friday at $110 a share.

So while the bears argue that Disney is priced for perfection, bulls counter that the company has enough kindling to keep the bonfire burning for some time, largely because of two things Iger has built over the years: a steady lineup of content that appeals to the masses and an interlacing of Disney divisions that can feed business to each other.

This is especially clear in the film business. In 2006, Disney bought Pixar, an impressive deal given the bad blood that has existed between Steve Jobs and Iger’s predecessor Michael Eisner. Three years later, Disney bought Marvel Entertainment just as it superhero franchises were entering a renaissance. And in 2012, the company bought Lucasfilm just as a new Star Wars trilogy was being planned.

So far in 2015, Disney’s Cinderella has brought in $521 million worldwide and Avengers: Age of Ultron has pulled in $1.2 billion. The company’s Tomorrowland topped the weekend box-office in the U.S., but the movie fell short of expectations in what was the film industry’s lowest-grossing Memorial Day weekend since 2001. But Disney is only getting warmed up: Two Pixar movies, Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur, are coming this year, along with Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. The anticipation of Star Wars is especially high–the latest trailer alone has already had more than 200 million views.

Beyond this year, Disney has a Jungle Book remake coming in 2016, along with Captain America 3, Finding Dory and a sequel to 2010’s Alice in Wonderland, which topped $1 billion in receipts. Frozen 2 and Toy Story 4 are in the works. And the Marvel lineup will remain busy, with new Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy films and two Avengers movies expected through 2019.

The relentless parade of blockbuster fare may feel manufactured but, for Disney, they are paying off through multiple revenue streams. Sales of Frozen merchandise in the past six months rose tenfold over the year-ago period, even though the movie was released in 2013. EA is timing a Star Wars: Battlefront game to coincide with the film’s release, and the Playdom gaming studio Disney bought in 2010 is working on Star Wars- and Marvel-themed games as well.

There are also tie-ins for theme parks, like Tomorrowland. Theme parks have become a growth area with operating profit in the unit growing 22% over the past six months. Disney is planning to open a new theme park in Shanghai in 2016, which could add to revenue in coming years.

The one area of potential weakness is in Disney’s largest unit, the media networks business including ESPN and ABC, which saw operating income flat in the last six months while revenue rose 12% in the period. In a call with investors, Disney cited higher programming costs for NFL and college football games as reasons for the flat profit in the division.

While it’s easy to imagine Disney’s growth continuing, it’s also easy to see areas of vulnerability. Audiences moving from broadcast TV and cable subscriptions in an era of on-demand Internet TV could slowly bleed Disney’s media-networks business. Disney has made moves to adapt to a world of over-the-top television, but the transition has started to accelerate this year.

The blockbusters could also become a vulnerability. Critics often chide the lack of originality in Hollywood’s blockbuster machine, and at some point audiences might lose their appetite for a glut of blockbusters. Tomorrowland, for example, drew only $40 million over the weekend, a disappointing take for a film with a $190-million budget. It doesn’t even rank in the top 20 grosses for Memorial Day openers.

For now, investors seem confident in Disney as long as Iger remains at the helm. Last fall, Disney extended Iger’s contract for the second time, pushing his retirement date back until 2018. More than any movie Disney’s studios may have in the works, the sequel investors are most interested in seeing is the success story Iger has brought to Disney shares.

TIME Football

Projected NFL 1st-Round Draft Pick Shane Ray Cited For Marijuana Possession

Missouri defensive lineman Shane Ray (56) walks off the field after being ejected from the game for a late hit against Alabama quarterback Blake Sims during the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, in Atlanta
Brynn Anderson—AP Missouri defensive lineman Shane Ray (56) walks off the field after being ejected from the game for a late hit against Alabama quarterback Blake Sims during the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, in Atlanta

The standout defensive player will appear in court on June 30

Former Missouri Tiger football player Shane Ray, projected to be drafted in the early-mid first round of the 2015 NFL draft, was cited on Monday for possession of marijuana and a traffic violation.

According to ESPN, the pass rushing linebacker was pulled over for speeding on a Missouri highway and when the officer smelled fresh (unsmoked) marijuana he searched the vehicle — finding a “personal amount” in the car.

The officer said Ray was cooperative and did not appear impaired during the procedure. He was given a misdemeanor for having 35 grams or less of pot in his possession and was not detained. The maximum sentence for misdemeanor marijuana possession in Missouri is one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

He will appear in court on June 30.

Ray is also dealing with a toe injury and there is speculation that he may need to undergo surgery, but he told ESPN that he will “take it easy through rookie camp and continue to focus on rehab and healing.”

He started every game for Missouri last season and recorded 61 tackles and 14 sacks. The NFL draft starts on Thursday.

[ESPN]

TIME Media

ESPN Suing Verizon Over More Flexible Cable Package

Time Warner Cable, Disney Talks Said To Focus On ESPN3.Com
Getty Images The ESPN logo is displayed outside L.A. Live, which houses the ESPNZone, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010.

Verizon put ESPN in a sports add-on package, which ESPN says is a breach of contract

ESPN is suing Verizon over the pay-TV operator’s flexible new cable bundles. The sports network is arguing that Verizon’s new cable packages, which don’t include ESPN in their primary offering, are a breach of contract.

Verizon unveiled earlier this month a new set of cable bundles called Custom TV that give subscribers more choice over what channels they pay for. Customers pay for a basic channel of packages that includes broadcast networks and a few cable channels. Bundles of genre-specific channels are offered as $10 add-ons, with ESPN available as part of the sports add-on package.

However, the Disney-owned ESPN, which is the most valuable cable network by a large margin, said last week that its contract with Verizon stipulated that it not be shuttled to an optional sports tier. When the Custom TV offering was unveiled, Verizon executives said they believed the new configurations were in line with existing contracts with networks. The operator is still marketing ESPN and ESPN2 as part of the sports bundle on its website.

ESPN is suing Verizon in the state of New York, seeking injunctive relief and damages. “ESPN is at the forefront of embracing innovative ways to deliver high-quality content and value to consumers on multiple platforms, but that must be done in compliance with our agreements,” the company said in an emailed statement. “We simply ask that Verizon abide by the terms of our contracts.”

A Verizon spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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