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TV Commentator: “Neil Olshey Got Me Fired”

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CSNNW analyst Isaac Ropp calls Portland exec “The Sports Trump”, says he “controls content”, calls team’s media process “embarrassing”.

Neil Olshey
Blazers General Manager Neil Olshey sits on the bench before a game.
Getty Pictures

Update—11:15 a.m.

Molly Blue of The Oregonian has published quotes from Comcast Sports Northwest executive Larry Edridge claiming responsibility for Isaac Ropp’s dismissal.

CSN Northwest vice president and general manager Larry Eldridge, in an email exchange with The Oregonian/OregonLive, said the decision to fire Ropp was his, not Olshey's.

"It was totally, 100 (percent) my decision to remove Isaac from Talkin' Ball," Eldridge wrote. "The team/(Neil) Olshey did not participate at all in that decision."

Original story follows.


CSNNW commentator Isaac Ropp created a stir today after he was let go from the network’s Talkin’ Ball post-game show. In a 6:56 audio clip released on Twitter, he detailed the reasons explained to him for his release, which included details of the relationship between Portland Trail Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey and local media.

Ropp has been with Talkin’ Ball since 2013, the last season and a half spent as a regular panelist. For perspective, CSNNW covers the Blazers as one of their designated broadcast affiliates. They are theoretically an independent media source. Ropp’s explanation suggests that Olshey exerts control over independent coverage of his team.

Ropp and radio partner Jason Scukanec, better known as “Big Suke” called out Olshey, terming Portland’s practice of controlling media coverage “petty” and “unprofessional” and “embarrassing”. He also termed Olshey “The Sports Trump” and “the most sensitive guy I’ve ever seen in the business”. He expressed empathy for fellow media personnel, naming CSNNW’s Jason Quick specifically, saying he [Quick] was forced to “do a dance” with Olshey “watching everything he does or tweets or says”. Quick responded to a comment on Ropp’s Twitter thread, seeming to acknowledge the predicament.

A full transcript of Ropp’s audio follows:

Ropp: But yes, I did get fired from talking ball. And it might have been the ascot—a lot of people are weighing in that it was the ascot.

Scukanec: That was kind of my thing.

Ropp: I did send a message rather early that it was going to be that kind of year, but—

Scukanec: You did rock the ascot.

Ropp: Well look, let me explain something, because I don’t know how many people really know how it’s structured, but when you watch the Trail Blazers play, they have Trail Blazers broadcasting. That is controlled 100 percent by the Blazers.

Scukanec: The paycheck comes from the Portland Trail Blazers.

Ropp: I don’t think a lot of teams actually have that. Most teams farm out their broadcasts to TV professionals like CSN or whatever—whoever their partner is. Well, Blazers broadcasting is controlled by the Blazers. (They’re) one of the few sports teams that has their own in-house broadcasting, and that’s when you see—you know, obviously Mike and Mike were part of that—Kevin and Lamar and Brooke—and then when you watch Jordan Kent and Michael Holton on the halftime-pregame—

Scukanec: All Blazers stuff.

Ropp: That’s all Blazers stuff. They control everything. When you get to Talking Ball after the post-game show, that is controlled by CSN, the station that we’re on here. And they are partners with the Blazers, but the Blazers shouldn’t control that content. But what I think you need to know about me getting turfed was—and look, I take responsibility because I am a smartass—I don’t sugar coat—I have actually a really hard time sugar coating stuff. I don’t do that; that’s just me. And particularly on Twitter. But I’ve always prided myself on just telling the damn truth about this basketball team. And look, they’re having a bad year. They are having a bad year. And I think if you think I’m too negative, you need to go back and look at clips of last year when I loved this team. This team was fun last year and I praised them all year. But I always tell it like it is and I got fired for that. And I asked the guys who let me go—who are very good guys to work for—I asked them ‘Did I cross the line or did I do anything wrong or was I unfair?’

That was my question. Was I unfair, did I cross a line, they said no and no. Well, I still got fired. And this is what you need to know; what you need to know is the Trail Blazers are controlling content that they shouldn’t be controlling. That’s BS. And if I’m a Blazers fan, I’m pissed about that. And guess who it is—it’s Neil Olshey is who it is. I called him the sports Trump because that guy is the most sensitive guy I’ve ever seen in this business. EVER.

He hears and sees everything and he’s got a bee in his bonnet about Twitter because of its shareability, and it’s been a bad year. So if you think I crossed a line, that’s for you to decide. Whatever. CSN didn’t think I crossed a line, I certainly didn’t think I crossed a line; I’m just telling it like it is. Well I got fired for that. I think that’s BS, and if you’re a fan watching Blazers content, I just think you need to watch closely and understand how much they are controlling what they should not be able to control.

Scukanec: There is an influence they try to assert over those broadcasts.

Ropp: And they’re super, super sensitive, man. And like I said—

Scukanec: This was your personal Twitter account.

Ropp: Yeah it was, but, you know, look—and this is deeper than me, way deeper than me, because remember, they just signed a new contract and a lot of people are upset about that because some people can’t get Comcast, but I told you and I think you were on board, that it’s a lot more complicated than just getting into every household. This is a good deal Blazer fans. CSN I think does a good job. The problem is—

Scukanec: The content that you get, the amount of content you get, the original content that you get on Comcast Sports Net, I think is as good as you are going to get around the country, and you wouldn’t get that if you were on ROOT Sport or something like that.

Ropp: But they should not have a say in the content or the individuals who are not controlled by Blazer broadcasting and they do. That is a—I don’t know if it’s in their contract, it might be in their contract, if it is, that’s BS too, and you should know that this is not the—it’s just not the way it should work, and that’s why I feel sorry for particularly Jason Quick, who has always been a very good impartial journalist. Now I’m not a journalist. I’m like you. We’re just opinion guys and—

Scukanec: Talk show hosts.

Ropp: We’re talk show hosts. So we’re not breaking news or anything. I’m just telling you what I see, and I hope people appreciate that because you don’t get a lot of honesty in this town about this team. Jason is one of the good ones who is trying to tell it honestly and, again, fairly, but also the good and the bad.

Scukanec: I think that’s an important thing to differentiate there is there’s a difference between being honest and fair and having a vendetta and being out to get someone, and I don’t think that line has ever been crossed on this program. Or the other platform that you’re on.

Ropp: And I would agree. And Jason still has to do that dance. I feel terrible for him because he’s just trying to do his job and the freaking sports Trump is sitting there watching literally everything he does or tweets or says.

Scukanec: And then trying to use their influence in order to silence them. And they do carry a lot of weight and they don’t have a problem throwing it around and I think that that is embarrassing, quite honestly. I think it’s petty; I think it’s unprofessional; I think it’s immature, and to be honest with you, it’s BS.

Ropp: I think embarrassing is a very good description and I do think it’s BS as well. I was pissed about it; I went around with the guys who let me go, I’m over it. Again, it’s not about me, but you do need to know that the Trail Blazers are waving that wand over things that they should not be waving that wand.

Scukanec: And this is very reminiscent of what we’ve come to know from the last what? Two decades basically.

Ropp: It’s the same crap. It’s been going on—

Scukanec: It’s paranoia. It’s—

Ropp: Self-preservation.

Scukanec: Self-preservation.

Ropp: Olshey’s afraid that he’s going to get fired.

Scukanec: Yes! This is about the time where everyone kind of starts to worry about their own skin and it is very much a public perception sort of thing and he’s trying to control that message. And the sad part is in some ways he’s succeeding with it.

Ropp: Yeah, they’ve done a pretty good job of scaring people into saying what—

Scukanec: But I hope they realize that under past regimes, these things have always come back to bite you in the ass. When you do things the wrong way and you try to control everything, I don’t know, just karma to me always has a funny way of coming back and kicking you in the ass.

We will keep you updated with reactions as they come in.

—Dave blazersub@gmail.com / @Blazersedge / @DaveDeckard

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