NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus tried to split the baby and wound up butchering it this afternoon at TCA Summer TV Press Tour 2013, when he said the network’s upcoming coverage of the Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi “comes with political and social issues” which NBC will address — “as they are relevant at the time of the game, as has always been the case.” Then, without missing a beat, he began to “we cannot wait to get to Sochi, very optimistic about the U.S. team, biggest Winter Olympics ever,” blah blah, blah, while TV critics in the hall tried to recover from the whiplash. Russia’s newly-adopted anti-gay laws have some calling for NBC to boycott the Games (The International Olympic Committee has said it will “work to ensure” that LGBT athletes competing in the games will not face danger or legal issues).
Among those calling for boycott, HRC President Chad Griffin reportedly wrote a letter to NBCUniversal CEO Stephen Burke, saying the media conglom has a “responsibility to expose this inhumane and unjust law to the millions of American viewers who will tune in to watch the Games.” Griffin said it would be wrong for NBCU “to air the opening ceremonies, which is an hours-long advertisement for the host country, without acknowledging that a whole segment of the Russian population — not to mention foreign athletes and visitors — can be jailed for an immutable aspect of their identity.”
NBC’s response — at the Press Tour anyway — was Lazarus’s baby-splitting act: “The IOC has addressed it with the Russian government and has been assured athletes, fans, and the media there will not be any issues with regard to what takes place during the Games,” he said. “Right now they have a law that is the law of their land,” he said, stating the obvious, and adding the even more obvious, “governments across the world have different laws.” “It exists,” he continued, warming to his theme. “We don’t know what it’s going to mean to us, so we don’t know how we’re going to cover it.” Then he added, limply, that NBCUniversal believes in “equal opportunity for all” and that he didn’t think the Russian laws where in the spirit of The Games.
This would be a good time for NBC Sports to replay that footage of “Miracle on Ice” medal-round men’s ice hockey game during the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, New York, in which the underdog U.S. team beat the Russian team. Sure enough — here it comes!
Lazarus did, however, take a strong anti-rannygazoo-from-NBC Entertainment stance about the upcoming Games. Olympics-interrupting premieres of comedies starring monkeys — or other celebrities, for that matter — will absolutely not be tolerated during NBC Sport’s coverage of the Sochi Games, he promised, adding, “I don’t think we’d put ourselves in a position to do that again,” he said in re the network’s notorious interrupt of the London Summer Games Closing Ceremonies to premiere its Crystal The Monkey starrer Animal Practice.
Well that’s a relief, anyway.
While we may get no coverage of Russia’s new anti-gay laws during NBC’s Olympics coverage from that country, we will get an NBC Sports documentary about Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding. NBC Sports announced at the Press Tour today it will commemorate the proud moment in which the ex-hubby of Olympian Tonya Harding had Olympian Nancy Kerrigan’s knee clubbed ahead of the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics. NBC’s Harding/Kerrigan documentary joins ESPN’s Harding/Kerrigan documentary, in the growing pantheon of Harding/Kerrigan documentaries. NBC Sports, however, says it’s got the exclusive sit down with Kerrigan; ESPN, which came to press tour a few days earlier, said it was still trying to land Kerrigan.