Just on the common sense face of it, there really doesn't appear to be any way that Marv Albert can work any more basketball games this season for NBC.
Albert was indicted Monday on felony sodomy charges in Arlington, Va. Even allowing for the constitutionally mandated presumption of innocence until guilt is proven, and his adamant denial of the charges, the fact is that his presence on NBA telecasts will cause the viewer to wonder why Albert is there. There's also the risk of backlash against the network for having him there in the first place.
And considering that the league's marquee event, its championship series, is on the playbill, with all of the games to air in the larger audiences of prime time, neither the league nor NBC can afford the distraction that Albert's visage will undoubtedly cause.
This, to be sure, is not a pleasant time to be in NBC Sports president Dick Ebersol's shoes. While his inclination may be toward cutting Albert some slack and letting him remain on the air, Ebersol may well have to be the man to tell Albert to cool his heels for a while -- or longer.
Loyalty to an employee, and especially one with Albert's credentials, is admirable, but Ebersol would do well to remember what happened at CBS two years ago. Sports division president David Kenin backed Ben Wright when the former golf analyst was accused of making inflammatory statements about lesbians in a Delaware newspaper, which Wright initially denied doing.
After Kenin went to the mat to support his employee, Wright started telling small groups that he had, in fact, made the remarks. Sports Illustrated reported this, and CBS eventually removed Wright from its golf announcing crew.
In a certain sense, it's a tribute to Albert's reputation in both basketball and broadcasting that the network didn't immediately bounce him from Saturday's Chicago-Miami telecast -- his next scheduled appearance -- when news of the indictment was announced.
Last night, Washington's Channel 4, which is owned and operated by NBC and was scooped on the original story by Channel 7, reported that the 41-year-old woman who has made the allegations against Albert faces a July trial on charges that she threatened to kill her former boyfriend.
Albert, who has been the lead voice of NBC's NBA telecasts since the network obtained the rights in 1991 as well as the television and radio voice of the Knicks for the last 30 years, is scheduled to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame next week. He has been a semi-regular on David Letterman's late-night talk shows on NBC and CBS and is also the No. 2 man on NBC's NFL coverage.
Next to Bob Costas, and perhaps Dick Enberg, Albert is the most identifiable symbol of NBC Sports, and the man who is out front on what is the most significant property the network has all to itself, a property whose rights expire after next season.
If he has to make a change, Ebersol would likely turn to Greg Gumbel or reassign Enberg from the French Open to handle Albert's duties.
The relationship between NBC and the NBA is not likely to be affected by Albert's legal difficulties. But Ebersol will no doubt consult with league commissioner David Stern, who accompanied Ebersol to this week's NBC affiliates meeting in Phoenix, to gauge Stern's reaction to all of this and how it might impact on the championship series.
When the Walt Disney-owned Anaheim hockey team cut loose Ron Wilson, the only coach the franchise has ever had in its four years of existence on Tuesday, CNN/SI was there to carry the news conference. But the all-sports news network that was conspicuously absent was ESPNEWS, which is 80 percent owned by Disney.
Coincidence? Nope, or at least not according to an ESPN spokesman, who said the network simply couldn't get a satellite truck to the news conference in time.
The spokesman said once it learned the news of Wilson's dismissal, the network contacted the Ducks to see if the briefing could be delayed for a bit until the truck arrived, but the team nixed the idea.
It sounds like information travels through big media conglomerates the same way it does through most companies, which is to say, not well.
Pub Date: 5/22/97