AP Photo/Brandon Wade

Dallas Mavericks’ Mark Cuban takes stand against automated sports coverage.

By Diamond Leung
November 10, 2016

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Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban explained Monday that the credentials of two Dallas-based ESPN.com reporters were revoked because he was against automated coverage of NBA games that he felt would become inevitable.

Marc Stein covered the entire NBA while based in Dallas while Tim MacMahon provided coverage of the team before having their credentials pulled. All ESPN.com reporters wishing to cover the team at American Airlines Center this season would not be issued credentials, according to The Star-Telegram.

Cuban wrote to SB Nation and explained that he reached out to all beat writer publishers, asked what he could do to make sure all Mavericks games were covered, and only ESPN “resisted.” ESPN this season has transitioned at least one beat reporter to a more general NBA writing role.

“Maybe I will be wrong but I see a direct path from the trends in coverage of games we are seeing over the last couple years to the automation of reporting on games and the curation of related content,” Cuban wrote in an email to the Associated Press. “This isn’t a knock on wire services or their reporters. They are valued and valuable in sports coverage.

The Associated Press entered into a partnership with Automated Insights to provide automated stories on minor league baseball, but does not use it for most of its sports coverage and has continued to staff NBA games. ESPN.com has for some games used the AP’s wire service.

“While it may seem counterintuitive to ban someone from covering us as a way of stopping automation, it really was my only option,” Cuban wrote. “As is evident by the AP partnership with Automated Insights, it’s not if but when.”

Cuban’s decision has drawn criticism at a time when his team is off to a 1-5 start.

“We are deeply troubled by the Dallas Mavericks’ move to revoke the credentials of two respected, longtime NBA journalists,” read a statement from the Professional Basketball Writers Association. “The Mavericks’ move is without merit. We call on the Mavericks to reverse their decision or for NBA officials to intervene to allow Tim MacMahon and Marc Stein to continue their work.”

But Cuban is at this point taking a stand.

“If I did nothing and the trend towards more and more games being covered by wire reporters continues, then it could get to the point where it was too late,” Cuban wrote to SB Nation. “I felt like if I didn’t do it now, I wouldn’t have a chance to stop or slow what I felt was a negative trend for the Mavs and NBA.”

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