Many prospects’ commitment announcements are playing out on national stages now, from ESPNU to The Players’ Tribune, but that can be problematic when something unexpected happens. It seems that’s what went on with the NFL Network, which broadcast from Nike’s The Opening camp in Oregon Saturday and was expected to air Ja’Marr Chase’s commitment at halftime of the event’s 7-on-7 championship game, with the four-star receiver from Metarie, Louisiana’s Archbishop Rummel High School (who’s reportedly deciding between LSU and TCU) even tweeting Friday that he was moving his commitment back a day to put it on NFLN and let his family watch. That didn’t happen, though, with Sam Spiegelman of SEC Country writing it was because the network spent more time with another prospect:
The biggest announcement of The Opening won’t be taking place after all.
Ja’Marr Chase, who was scheduled to commit to either LSU or TCU on Monday afternoon during the Finals 7-on-7 tournament, will not be making a commitment publicly. The 4-star wide receiver had his NFL Network spot bumped after an issue with timing during Monday’s broadcast of the event.
Chase was slated to make his college announcement at 4:35 p.m. PT, which coincided with halftime of the 7-on-7 championship game. The event was nationally televised.
NFL Network aired Jordyn Adams’ commitment to North Carolina, then spent time with Greg Emerson, the defensive lineman who injured his ankle during Sunday’s events. Emerson made a surprise commitment to Tennessee at the conclusion of his TV spot, then spent extra time speaking on the set.
That time pushed back Chase’s TV spot and the 4-star wide receiver opted not to commit on Monday after all.
And this has some people mad. James Smith of The New Orleans Times-Picayune went in on the network for this, in a piece titled “The NFL Network owes Ja’Marr Chase and his family an apology,” which said that the network convinced Chase to switch his announcement from July 2 (his grandmother’s birthday, when he’d wanted to announce) to July 3 for the broadcast, then didn’t follow through once Emerson (a higher-ranked prospect) came on set, announced a surprise commitment, and then stayed around and kept talking:
For journalists and media outlets, unfortunately, a prospect’s commitment is often just another way to get clicks or draw viewers to their program. What the NFL Network did to Rummel wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase Monday may have been in the pursuit of ratings, but they forgot that people matter, too.
…The network now held the responsibility of making Chase’s moment special. But they failed, and they failed miserably.
… It wasn’t pushed back until after the game. It wasn’t rescheduled for a later time. “Pushed back” equated to ‘you just got bumped for a higher profile prospect.’
This is something the NFL Network will never admit to, and the spin artists are already at work trying to cover their tracks, but what happened is blatantly obvious for all to see. As a journalist, I am appalled. As an advocate for children, I am furious.
Of course, this is from Chase’s side, and we don’t know what assurances the network gave him (and specifically, whether he was promised airtime if he moved his announcement to the third, or if it was “if time permits”). We also don’t know if they tried to reschedule with him after the game; that wouldn’t be a great option, and it’s not hard to fault him for declining if they did offer, but at least making the offer would make them look a little better.
From what’s out there, though, this feels like a poor move by the network. If they had a deal with Chase, they should have followed through on that, even if it meant shortening Emerson’s screentime or doing something else, like asking the camp to delay the start of the second half. Not airing something they apparently agreed to doesn’t look good on them, and that was reflected in some tweets:
Top247 WR Ja'Marr Chase was about to make his college choice, but NFL Network pushed it back to after game since halftime just ended. pic.twitter.com/dhzLscdXsa
— Shea Dixon (@Sheadixon) July 3, 2017
He pushed his commitment back from the 2nd (His Grams Bday) to do it on NFL Network & this how they do my guy??We gone be good @10jayy__ !!
— Lonnie Johnson..1️⃣ (@LsLiving_) July 4, 2017
I'll make something up when I go home, I'll do it will my family. Thanks for the support everyone. ?#BlessedandThankful
— Ja'Marr Chase (@10jayy__) July 4, 2017
Some may wonder why NFL Network is airing NCAA prospect camps and recruitment commitments in the first place, and there’s some merit to that, but the main answer is that “It’s July, and this is the most football-like substance we could find.” That’s fair enough. If the network wants to improve its bona fides with prospects and with those who cover recruiting, though, they may need to be a bit more careful about how they handle unexpected commitments, and more committed to honoring their own commitments. Oh, and Chase’s highlights video on YouTube (by Aaron Fisher for NOLA.com) is titled “You just don’t want to make him mad.” It looks like NFLN failed there.