ESPN NFL analyst Ryan Clark felt that ABC’s “Good Morning America” violated an agreement with him.
Separately from ESPN, Clark co-hosts the Pivot Podcast and was slated to have Mike Hollins — the hero in the University of Virginia mass shooting who initially escaped but returned to help others get off the bus where it was happening — on the show. Thursday morning, Clark sent tweets accusing “Good Morning America” of breaking a deal they had to release their interviews on the same day. Later, he spoke to The Post about his series of events and eventually had a second call to talk about a phone call he had with the ABC morning show’s leadership to clear the air.
“I thought a show like @GMA would operate with integrity since they have fooled us into thinking thy [sic] care about things like truth,” Clark tweeted Thursday morning. “After what GMA producer @JennLeongABC did this morning I now know that’s false. Schemed, stole, & lied all to be first. Long as you win right? It’s crazy that @JennLeongABC & @GMA manipulated a young man & mother that have been through so much. We are so grateful Mike Hollins & his mother Brenda trusted us to sit down with him first. Still, @thepivot can stand on delivering every promise we made to their family.”
Reached by phone and asked what happened, Clark told The Post that Hollins is one of his son’s best friends, dating back to middle school, and that their families are “extremely close.”
“We’d obviously been in contact since the shooting. I wasn’t pursuing doing anything on this story, because I care more about him, not the story — not exploiting him or using him in any way,” Clark said. “He reached out to me last week and said that if he was going to share the story for the first time he wanted to do it with someone that loved him.
“That’s when we started planning to get everything done. We booked it, we’d fly him in and shoot it on Tuesday. And then, shortly after, we were contacted by ‘GMA’ as well, for working with them to allow him to do that show too. ‘GMA’ was going to go to Louisiana and put it out next week, or if they could, to put it out on Friday, but once they realized we were paying for them to come up to New York, they could just piggyback off of that and do their interview as well.”
A spokesperson for “Good Morning America” declined to comment; one person familiar with ABC News said that the program had booked the interview with Hollins through his father in November.
ESPN and ABC are both owned by Disney. Clark felt that the ABC program broke an agreement.
“We had an understanding,” he said. “We both worked together on when we were going to release it, what we could do with the clips as far as promotions, so there could be some synergy between their show and our show as to how we released it. Also, a part of it was they didn’t want us to release anything before they could, with them being a big-time morning show, and wanting something of an exclusive — which, obviously it was not, because we were not only doing it as well, we did it first.
“They’d agreed to hold it till Friday because that’s when we were releasing our show. We agreed it couldn’t be called an exclusive, because obviously it’s not.”
Clark said his team at Pivot realized it would be running on “Good Morning America” on Thursday when they saw a clip from Michael Strahan promoting it.
“We did our best to continue to reach out. We spoke to Mike’s mother, Brenda. She was not aware that it was happening,” Clark said. “I think the part for me that’s disheartening is I only did this because I love him — I want him to be able to tell his story himself and truly allow people to know what type of hero the young man is.
“Now, his mother, who we booked on this trip so they could just enjoy his birthday, is having to apologize to us and having to say that she and Mike would never do anything like that to me. I think it’s unfair for them to have to go to that sort of trauma, and to be trying to recover, and that they have to be worrying about apologizing to us for anything when they’d done nothing wrong. For me, that’s the part that hurts me the most, is I did this from a place of love. Our show was shot with love and care. We got an opportunity to advise him and share with him and love on him and now the kid has to deal with this.”
Clark believes there were further agreements that were violated.
“We were able to reach ‘GMA’ at first,” he said. “They said that because Strahan had posted that this was happening there was no way to pull back on it and honor the agreement or the understanding that we had come to at first that it would be on Friday. So we were just looking for ways that we could be included to send them a clip that they could show, because it’s Michael’s birthday today. We gifted him a Mike Tyson-signed glove for his birthday on the show. We sent that clip to them. They were going to mention that he was going to be on our show as well. They couldn’t use the word exclusive. And then all of those understandings were not done either. Those agreements were not honored by ‘GMA.’”
Later in the day, Clark told The Post that he’d had a long chat with “Good Morning America” brass and that things had been smoothed over.
“For me it was about getting an understanding of the things that took place and why they’re handled the way they are,” Clark said. “We spent about an hour on the phone with PR, the executive producer of the show to explain what happened in communication, why communication lapsed in some areas, why certain decisions were made and also their perceptions of certain conversations and details that were given.
“I did the same exact thing. I told them how I felt, whether it was intent or not. They were extremely apologetic for what they phrased as some miscommunications and misunderstanding. I was extremely honest about how I felt about those things and the impact of the actions, not the intent, because I can’t speak to those things. They were extremely apologetic.”
Clark said there is no lingering ill will.
“In the end, what we decided was to move forward in the best way,” he said. “There are no ill feelings between myself, The Pivot and ‘Good Morning America.’ [There were] even talks of trying to figure out how this relationship could be better in the future, so we’ll see.
“For me, this definitely wasn’t a great experience, but I learned from it. From a business standpoint, them being willing to have the conversation with me and actually care enough to try to clarify was important — because I think it would have left a terrible taste in my mouth had they not.
“They did state to me that the perception of their show, the way they conduct business, is extremely important to them — and that’s why they wanted to get me on the phone and hear me out. Those things were done. So now it’s just about moving forward, and having Mike’s story be told on our show tomorrow, because if I’m gonna be honest, we did it a lot better than they did. I’m excited about that.”
Clark added in a tweet: “It’s been a crazy day for sure. Lots of conversations that should’ve all been about @MikeHollins7. I spoke with @GMA & they agree his story should be in the forefront. We clarified our misunderstandings & acknowledged where we all could’ve been better. Let’s focus on Mike now!”