NESN ditches popular Bruins sideline reporter Naoko Funayama

naoko

This has not been the best of weeks for Boston sports fans. First, the Bruins lost the Stanley Cup on home ice to the Chicago Blackhawks. Second, the strange Aaron Hernandez story that led to his arrest on first degree murder charges and subsequent release from the New England Patriots. Third, former Celtics coach Doc Rivers got traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. Fourth, the Celtics traded 2008 Championship stalwarts Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn. And fifth, you have NESN deciding to not renew the contract of popular Bruins rinkside reporter Naoko Funayama.

In a blurb that was sent out to reporters just before 8 p.m. ET on Thursday, NESN stated the following:

AA_Logo_SM

Subscribe to the AA Newsletter

"NESN has elected to go in a different direction and will not be renewing the contract of NESN Bruins sideline reporter Naoko Funayama when it expires later this summer……

… A search for a new sideline position is underway".

If you thought that this was just a mere personnel move that would escape the attention of passionate Bruins fans, check out the outpouring of support for Naoko that swelled to the point where she trended in Boston on Twitter. 

NESN has gained a reputation in New England for being cheap and dropping talent when management feels they become too expensive. Sean McDonough, Hazel Mae, Cole Wright, Randy Scott and Heidi Watney are some of the people who come to mind.

Funayama caught the attention of NESN executives in 2007 when she was a reporter for WMUR-TV in Manchester, NH. She was covering the Red Sox signing of Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka when the official interpreter was having trouble translating the press conference. Naoko who is fluent in Japanese, quickly took over and NESN hired her as a freelance reporter to cover Daisuke for that season. She was hired full-time by NESN in 2008 as the Bruins sideline reporter and followed the team as it rose from mediocrity to Stanley Cup Champions in 2011 and continued through the Cup run that fell short this season.

What's interesting about the whole thing is the day before the NESN announcement, Naoko tweeted some profound words about Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference who was let go by the team this week.

The Boston Globe's Chad Finn who covers the sports media in New England wonders if NESN knew how unpopular this move would be by attempting to bury the announcement in the evening hours.

Her co-worker, NESN Bruins voice Jack Edwards showed support and then tried to rally angry Bruins fans to come to Naoko's defense.

The "fighting the good fight" line is in reference to Jack's infamous 2011 commentary following the Bruins' elimination of the Montreal Canadiens.

Naoko's NESN Red Sox counterpart Jenny Dell gave her support.

Bruins radio voice Dave Goucher chimed in.

Former NESN co-worker Randy Scott who is currently at ESPN gave Naoko some career advice.

Another former co-worker, Heidi Watney of MLB Network gave her support to Funayama.

Bruins forward Tyler Seguin summed up the players' thoughts.

Not only did Naoko gain the respect of the fans, but she also had the respect of the players over the five seasons she was with NESN.

And when ESPN's hockey maven, John Buccigross tweets in support of Naoko, you know she has gained some national respect.

To see the reaction almost unanimous in a sideline reporter's favor is practically unheard of in this Twitter age. Perhaps her popularity will vault her to the NHL Network or to NESN's Boston competitor, Comcast SportsNet. 

Ken Fang

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013. He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television. Fang celebrates the three Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

Quantcast