Yes, the NFL has the ability to show off games and depending on how the Browns perform as well as how fans interact with Watson, network partners may feel better about putting the Browns in a prime time slot later in the season. However, given the subject matter and the potential to alienate viewers, this seems unlikely from here.
In the 1 o’clock box, networks can designate a journalist who is equipped to take due diligence in discussing the story once and then moving forward. They are also registered to ensure that they perform the required level of care and professionalism.
For prime-time games involving Brown, there is between 90 minutes to two hours of pre-game to fill in and Watson’s status will be shown live. Not only can it be uncomfortable for viewers, especially if they have kids watching, but it’s a very sensitive situation for networks and on-air talent. One comment worthy of the annoyance that goes viral is all it takes to produce a lot of bad press and the league would prefer to avoid it.
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But perhaps ESPN’s Adam Schifter can handle it with the same level of grace and civility that he often does with his Twitter account on Live TV when he’s more interested in the opportunity to catch Steve Young’s soft five-yard throw as the show transitions into a respite. Networks employ any number of former athletes with strong opinions that can cause a stir.
Thursday’s Browns are scheduled to be in week three football against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Monday night football against the Cincinnati Bengals in week eight. Both games are in Cleveland, which is a clever game, because with the talent on site, it reduces the chances of opposing fans picking up on mics considering their ideas about Watson.
Don’t expect Brown to complain because they benefit from this arrangement, too. They’re glad to have Watson because it could allow them to win the Super Bowl, but flying under the radar this season is ideal under the circumstances. Brown doesn’t need to be hype. They just need to win football matches and qualify for the post-season. The rest of that time they will avoid as many cranes and arrows as possible.
However, this is the latest indication that Watson’s situation and the repercussions that result from it will not go away in the near future.