It’s generally never a good thing when an off-air conversation makes it onto live television.
Just ask Thom Brennaman, who was fired by FOX Sports after using a homophobic slur on a hot mic between innings during a game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Kansas City Royals.
The backlash from that was so quick that Brennaman had to issue an on-air apology during the game, all while Nick Castellanos hit a drive into deep left field.
Situations like these happen a lot in the world of sports, albeit not to the extreme of Brennaman’s blunder, and legendary figures like current ESPN announcer Joe Buck and WWE’s Michael Cole have had conversations with producers make it onto their respective networks over the years.
So, it isn’t entirely surprising that the NFL Network would run into a similar issue as the league prepares for the 2022 NFL season. But, the context of this recent incident is a bit troublesome, to say the least.
During an interaction between James Palmer, Ian Rapoport, and Andrew Siciliano, Palmer referenced an evidently off-air conversation between the NFL Network reporters about the fact that WNBA star Brittney Griner was recently sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison.
Griner’s situation has been an ongoing national story for months, drawing attention from athletes, sports leagues, national politicians, and President Joe Biden throughout the controversy’s lifetime.
Unfortunately for the NFL Network, something that was said in the dark about it all ended up being brought to the light.
“Listen, if Ian thinks he can survive in a Russian prison, which apparently he believes, a tackle from Nathaniel Hackett is the least of his problems,” Palmer said during the trio’s segment, with Rapoport standing right next to him.
“That was not really for air,” Rapoport replied. “But sure. I would say that’s true.”
The segment turned awkward from there, and didn’t get any better on social media as viewers took to Twitter to share their displeasure.
As of August 7, 2022, neither Rapoport nor Palmer had commented on the issue on social media, with Rapoport and Palmer’s feeds looking like business as usual as they prepped for a busy 2022 NFL season.
Rapoport has been suspended for less in the past when he was taken off the air for a few weeks during the 2020 season for posting an ad for the company “Manscaped.”
“Hot mic” incidents rarely get discussed on the platform on which they occurred, unless you do something nuclear like Brennaman did on FOX Sports that night in 2020.
But, considering the NFL’s silence as it relates to the Brittany Griner situation, it’s not surprising to see the league’s network leave the incident in the past as the days dwindle down until the 2022 season opener.