Last week on his podcast, sports media personality Dan Le Batard discussed why he didn’t get the chance to interview Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Of Hill, Le Batard said:
“I have mentioned several times that he hits men, women, and children. And I have mentioned many times also that we were going to do, when he was starting his podcast, we were going to go on each other’s podcasts. He was gonna come on this one and I was gonna go on that one. And as soon as I told his people, “Hey, I’ve gotta ask him about his past,’ that vanished. But his past hasn’t vanished. But, there’s no one in Miami, I think, that wants to hear about it right now.”
The discussion happened in the midst of a broader conversation about how to handle allegations of athletes’ off-the-field misdeeds, like domestic abuse and sexual assault. Le Batard, like many in sports media, admitted that he’s not sure how to handle topics like the allegations of multiple instances of domestic abuse against Hill, including a criminal conviction for choking his pregnant girlfriend in college and the investigation into whether he broke his three-year-old son’s arm back in 2019. Hill was never charged with child abuse and the NFL decided not to levy a suspension.
Le Batard brings up a common conundrum for those in sports media: How often should one mention a player’s off-the-field conduct? Every time a player comes up? Only when talking about his life off-the-field? Is there a time limit? Is everything more than two years old completely off-limits? No one seems to have a good answer.
Of course, there is a certain segment of society that won’t tolerate any mention of a player’s bad conduct. They flood social media with aggressive comments and, usually, personal insults against any journalist who discusses a player’s questionable behavior. Just check out how some Browns fans turned out to welcome Deshaun Watson back to the NFL.
The problem is that teams and the NFL do everything in their power to rehabilitate the image of the athlete who has been accused, and a lot of sports journalists go along for the ride. Teams are well aware of which “journalists” are going to buy the company line and not make waves, and which journalists are going to be “difficult,” which means going off-script and asking hard questions. Which reporters teams leak info to, who gets the big interviews with players, who gets the top brass on their radio show — it’s all a game of quid pro quo. And a huge factor in that give and take is which journalists give a team or a league consistently positive coverage. And now that shows that prioritize investigative reporting of uncomfortable topics, like Outside the Lines and Real Sports are going away, there are far fewer members of the media who are willing to take the risk of angering a team’s front office. Remember Adam Schefter’s softball interview of Greg Hardy? Get ready for a lot more of that.
All this is to say that I appreciate that Le Batard was even willing to discuss the difficulty of how to practice responsible journalism; how to find the balance between bringing up a player’s past every time they take the field/court, while also not allowing a league to sportswash a player’s violent history. It’s not easy, it’s not fun, and no one got into this industry to write about athletes with predilections toward violence. At the same time, while it’s easier to go along with leagues and teams to get along, it does make it harder to sleep at night. At least for some.
I’m not naive enough to expect every sports journalist to take a stand against violence off the field. I’ve met plenty of reporters who genuinely do not care what athletes do outside the lines, and lean heavily into the side of the teams they cover. But it’s nice to know that there are guys like Dan Le Batard out there, who actually think about this stuff and put genuine thought into what’s fair coverage of an athlete and what’s not. Now we just need a lot more of them.
Original source here
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