Red Bull and Sky Sports: A Dangerous Precedent for Media

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - OCTOBER 28: Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner talks in a press conference prior to practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on October 28, 2022 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202210280964 // Usage for editorial use only //

After Oracle Red Bull’s bold statement by shunning Sky Sports in Mexico, what does it mean for Max, Christian, Ted, and F1’s future coverage?

In the United States of America, the importance of the Freedom of the Press is highlighted by the 9th section of the 1st Amendment of the Constitution.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peacefully to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

In the United States, this is critical! It maintains an essential right to a core principle of democracy. The presentation of truth and accountability. Along those same lines, the differentiations between how an individual receives the delivery of news can prove critical to the behavior of the human mind.

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The Delivery

This type of delivery can be seen from the simple coverage of local affiliated evening news to national cable and opinion-based cable news coverage as seen during primetime programming on the Fox News Channel and MSNBC.

The world of sports media is no different. Sometimes, the viewer looks to league insiders to learn why a particular story is a big deal. Others tune in to ESPN on weekday afternoons during the Happy Hour block of programming (Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption). Here, they witness sports writers and insiders give their respective takes on headlines from the world of professional sports. It is these opinionated takes that provide a voice. An important voice symbolic of the importance of discussion, while also remaining grounded with respect.

It is not a voice designed to persuade viewers by saying the host is the only one right and everyone else is wrong. It is a voice of a healthy, constructive conversation about trending topics. While it is important for journalists and television presenters to be opinionated in the appropriate situations, there are times when the opinion could be seen by the subject(s) of the discussion and taken the wrong way.

Recently, Ted Kravitz, the pit-lane reporter for Sky Sports’ coverage of Formula One, made the following comments in his Sky Sports segment: Ted’s Notebook:

“(Sir Lewis Hamilton) doesn’t win a race all year, and then finally comes back at a track where he could win the first race all year, battling the same guy who won the race he was robbed in the previous year, and manages to finish ahead of him.”

“What a script and a story that would have been. But that’s not the way the script turned out today, was it Because the guy that beat him after being robbed actually overtook him, because he’s got a quicker car, because of engineering and Formula One and design, and pretty much because of [Adrian Newey, Red Bull’s lead car designer] over there.”

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A Bold Statement

With the controversy surrounding Oracle Red Bull Racing and how they were able to obtain their back-to-back World Driver’s Championships and their first World Constructors’ Championship since 2013, one could make a big-picture assessment that the comments were a tipping point for the Austrian franchise. As a result of Kravitz’s comments, Oracle Red Bull Racing and reigning World Drivers’ Champion, Max Verstappen, have opted to boycott Sky Sports and their coverage for the foreseeable future. A move that could seem harsh, as it would be erroneous and unfair to suggest that the entire entity of Sky Sports had anything to do with Kravitz’s thoughts. As the pit reporter, he had the right to freely deliver his opinionated segment without malicious intent.

This is not to say that the respective parties at Oracle Red Bull do not have a right to disagree with Sky Sports’ assessment of the issue. The concern is that Sky Sports has the responsibility of broadcasting Formula One’s coverage across the world. For Oracle Red Bull Racing to make this bold statement as if it’s a battle of them versus the media, or in this case, Sky Sports, it comes across as power-hungry. As if Oracle Red Bull Racing are the only ones who are correct and everyone else is wrong.

A Dangerous Precedent

It presents a dangerous precedent for how professional sports teams could view themselves. How they’re presented by the media and across various outlets. In an era where the topic of fake news rests firmly in the back of a viewer’s mind, what does this mean for the future of how teams and athletes allow media access across the world?

Whether one is an athlete, a team principal, a reporter, a spectator, or a viewer, at the end of the day, we’re all fans. We love our favorite sports so much that at times, we have to protect them. For some, it is not merely an escape, it is what they do for a living. A specific happiness that we surround ourselves with. A desire to remain in that magical place and how it makes us feel. At the same time, we cannot allow our own, personal beliefs to overshadow how news coverage is presented.

Red Bull’s Next Move

One cannot deny the reemerging success of Oracle Red Bull Racing. Statistics are critical. Christian Horner continues to showcase why he is among the best bosses today in all of professional sports. The same is said for the World Drivers’ Champion. Max Verstappen has proven why he is the best driver at the moment. Yet part of the job, on both sides of the coin, is dealing with the negativity and individuals saying things that they can find frustrating.

The old phrase states: If you can’t take the heat, then stay out of the kitchen. How one handles themselves in particular situations, is a representation of their reputation. While Oracle Red Bull Racing have stated they are willing to renew their relationship with Sky Sports at Interlagos, is this new precedent a power grab if someone says the wrong thing?

In Closing

Depending on which outlet an individual receives their news from, the lines between the coverage of delivery between straight-forward news and opinionated coverage become too frequently crossed. As a result, opinions tend to overshadow facts. It is a sad reality that highlights a division that all parties should avoid.

It is the responsibility of journalists, regardless of background, to cover the facts and the truth in mannerisms that tell a compelling story. At the same time, it is their responsibility to take their ego out of the equation, and build a trustworthy and respective rapport not only between themselves and the viewer/reader/listener but between themselves and the subject(s) highlighted in their story.

In the case of my work at Last Word on Motorsports, I have an open-door policy if someone has a story to tell. If for whatever reason the World Drivers’ Champion, Christian Horner, or anyone at Oracle Red Bull Racing has any issue with how I covered them in this story, please feel free to reach out. I am more than willing to speak to you one-on-one and have you present your side of the story.

Featured Image Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images