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Saturday, April 4, 2020

Policing the Media

USC reporter Adam Maya apologizes to Clay Helton for getting story wrong

Clay Helton USC

USC reporter Adam Maya has finally addressed the pretty big matzah ball he left hanging out there this week.

On Sunday, Maya reported that USC would fire Clay Helton and target Urban Meyer for the job. Maya covers USC for Maven, a publishing company that now has rights to the SI name thanks to a licensing deal. Maya’s report was quickly disputed by many national college football reporters, including SI’s Pat Forde, which led to SI writing a story about one of their reporters disputing the information for another one of their reporters.

SI let Maya’s story remain on the site all the way until Wednesday without an update or note to address the conflicting (and ultimately incorrect) information. Finally, several hours after USC announced that Helton would return as head coach, Maya wrote an apology note in place of where his original Helton article stood.

The new headline on the old url says: “Why I Was Wrong on the Clay Helton Story” and includes the following note in italics: “An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Clay Helton would be dismissed by USC. Below is a retraction from the author.”

In the article, Maya said he apologized to Helton for getting his report wrong. Maya explained what led to him getting the report wrong, saying it was due to his sources misinterpreting information:

“I know many are wondering how I came to write my initial story Sunday that Helton would be dismissed. If you’ve followed my work, you know it’s a situation I’ve been tracking the entire season. Fast forward to this past weekend and I was told by multiple sources that USC had decided to make a coaching change. These same sources had alerted me to three developments in the past — athletic director Mike Bohn’s hiring, Bru McCoy’s transfer back to USC, and Graham Harrell becoming the offensive coordinator.

“I’m not going to out my sources — this is my sword to fall on — but essentially there was a misunderstanding on their end as it pertained to Helton’s status. They confused certain actions by Bohn and their superiors at USC, particularly in the previous week or so, to mean Helton was definitely being fired, when in actuality keeping him was still under consideration.

“As a result, a coaching change was inaccurately characterized to me as being a formality rather than, as was later explained to me, conditional. If I had known the latter, I would not have filed my report in such terms.”

Maya has had good information concerning USC in the past. We cited him for his reports about JT Daniels’ knee injury, Bru McCoy’s transfer and Graham Harrell’s hiring. Though each of those scoops were important, they had nowhere near the significance and ramifications as being the first to report a coach would be fired when the opposite happened. For that level of a scoop, you better have much more certainty and sourcing, which Maya clearly did not.

Getting this wrong is a poor reflection upon Maya as a reporter and the new editorial standards of SI under The Maven.

Bart Scott throws out bogus stat in attempt to make point about Patriots

The 2018 AFC Championship Game was one of the best NFL playoff games of all time, but apparently Bart Scott has already forgotten about it.

During Monday’s edition of FS1’s “First Things First,” Scott was discussing how important it is for the Patriots to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. While that is certainly a fair point, he threw out a completely bogus fact about the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era in an attempt to support his argument.

While the Patriots have certainly had their struggles on the road in the postseason, they have won three AFC Championship Games away from Gillette Stadium. You could even understand if Scott forgot about the two they won in 2001 and 2004, but they beat the Chiefs in Kansas City less than a year ago in a 37-31 overtime thriller.

Plenty of people make mistakes on live TV, but this one from Scott is magnified because he’s such a known Patriot hater. For evidence of that, look no further than the ridiculous take he had on Robert Kraft’s spa scandal. The former New York Jet and Baltimore Raven is going to have to try harder than that if the thought of Tom Brady winning a seventh Super Bowl terrifies him.

Charles Robinson, Jemele Hill smear NFL with factual inaccuracy about Nike statement

Colin Kaepernick

The Colin Kaepernick workout situation has split many fans, observers and media members into factions. There are those who believe Kaepernick was wronged by the NFL and that the NFL’s workout was just a P.R. stunt. There are those who believe Kaepernick is more interested in furthering his career as an activist than playing football. The events of this week are unlikely to change anyone’s minds based on what they believed before, and probably only strengthened their previous beliefs.

Kaepernick has his media supporters and his team/reps leak information to them. The NFL has their media members of choice and leak information to them.

Charles Robinson has been a go-to media member for Kaepernick’s team and has written several pro-Kaepernick pieces since news of the NFL-backed workout became public on Tuesday. Hearing both sides of a story is important for providing balanced coverage and allowing people to make their choices about what they believe to be truthful and not. Robinson has provided Kaepernick’s camp with a platform and large outlet to share their views. That serves a valuable role.

However, while Robinson can provide his pro-Kaepernick biased pieces, one thing he should strive for is to at least be factually accurate with his platform. He was not on Saturday night on Twitter when he alleged the NFL asserted Nike attended the Kaepernick workout on Saturday to film it.

Robinson said on Twitter that the NFL made an “assertion” that Nike was “on hand to film Colin Kaepernick’s workout.” He even said Nike was trying to get the NFL to retract that statement.

This sounds like a big gotcha! moment and more proof of the NFL being wrong and looking to smear Kaepernick and his brand. But there is one big problem: the NFL NEVER said that, so there is no statement to retract.

In the NFL’s statement in response to Kaepernick no-showing their workout and instead handling his own, the league wrote the following:

The third bullet point mentioned Nike and said this:

“Last night, when Nike, with Colin’s approval, requested to shoot an ad featuring Colin and mentioning all the NFL teams present at the workout, we agreed to the request.”

The fifth bullet point also mentioned Nike and said this:

“We heard for the first time last night, around the same time we heard from Nike, that Colin wanted to bring his own video crew. We heard for the first time this afternoon that Colin wanted to open the event to all media.”

The NFL never once said Nike attended Saturday’s workout. All they said was that Nike requested to shoot an ad featuring Kaepernick and that the league agreed to the request. Those are two different things.

If a person asks whether they can bring a friend to the party and the host says yes, does that mean that the friend came to the party? No, it just means that the person asked and the host said yes.

What is so hard about that to understand?

The thing about the Kaepernick story — as this example perfectly illustrates — is that people are seeing what is unfolding for what they want to see. In the case of Robinson, his bias is so strong that he isn’t even representing the facts accurately, which makes him lose credibility.

If he wants to represent Kaepernick’s side of things, that is fine. But at least attempt to be accurate and fair, especially when you have this platform and the influence that goes along with it. At the time of this publishing, his tweet was retweeted by over 1,400 Twitter accounts and liked by over 3,000.

On top of that, after Robinson tweeted to suggest Nike caught the NFL in a lie, Jemele Hill joined in and added it to her story, saying it’s all “part of pushing the narrative.”

Hill didn’t even bother to see whether the story was accurate or not. She just took the information and added it to the story she wants to tell, even if it’s not true.

If either of these respected journalists cared about fairness and accuracy — which are key tenets for journalists — then they would issue corrections and retractions to let their audiences know the truth. If they don’t, then their positions will have been made clear: they are slanted activists working to make Kaepernick look good, not to present facts and truth.

Cris Collinsworth made mistake with mention of Dak Prescott’s mom

Al Michaels Cris Collinsworth

Cris Collinsworth probably regrets an error he made while calling the Dallas Cowboys-Minnesota Vikings game on Sunday night.

Dak Prescott had thrown a touchdown pass to Michael Gallup in the second quarter, which led Collinsworth and Al Michaels to talk about the Cowboys quarterback’s contract situation.

According to Michaels, Prescott told the two that he was not at all worried about his contract situation and would “play for free.” That’s when Collinsworth made a mistake.

“He got his mom a house. He’s happy. He said his sponsorships pay for a few other things,” Collinsworth said.

Though the remarks from Collinsworth were flattering, they’re incorrect.

Prescott’s mother died of colon cancer in November 2013 when Dak was in college at Mississippi State. Prescott wasn’t drafted by the Cowboys until 2016.

Perhaps Collinsworth got the detail wrong or misspoke. Maybe Prescott bought a house for another family member. The announcer did not mean anything personal or negative, but that was a bad mistake to make, and something he would probably want to correct.

UPDATE: During the third quarter, Collinsworth corrected his error and said that Prescott was close with his mom and wanted to buy her a house.

Le’Veon Bell: NFL ‘screwed’ over Sam Darnold with seeing ghosts clip

LeVeon Bell

Many with the New York Jets are upset with ESPN and the NFL over the Sam Darnold mic’d up clip that aired during “Monday Night Football.”

ESPN aired a clip during the Jets’ shutout loss to the New England Patriots where the second-year quarterback admitted he was “seeing ghosts.” The admission was an honest one intended for his coaches, but ESPN playing it embarrassed the quarterback.

Le’Veon Bell did not like that and expressed his feelings via Twitter on Tuesday.

It’s hard to disagree with Bell. Teams and players agree to cooperate with these sorts of projects with an understanding that the league won’t embarrass the subjects with this sort of privileged access. That’s why Adam Gase was so upset with ESPN and threatened to not be as cooperative in the future.

Kevin Kietzman offers apology for Andy Reid comments, pulled off air indefinitely

Kevin Kietzman

Radio host Kevin Kietzman has been pulled off air indefinitely by WHB over his comments about Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and has issued an apology.

On Monday, Kietzman, the longtime host of “Between the Lines” on Sports Radio 810 WHB in Kansas City, got personal in his criticism of Reid. Kietzman discussed the issues Tyreek Hill is facing and combined Hill’s disciplinary issues with the problems Reid’s sons have had. He concluded Reid has problems disciplining people. Keep in mind that two of Reid’s sons have had drug problems, including son Garrett, who died in 2012 of a heroin overdose.

A day after the controversial comments made headlines and received attention, the station’s owner, Union Broadcasting, issued a statement saying they were pulling Kietzman off air for now.

“We are aware of the controversial comments made by Kevin Kietzman during yesterday’s broadcast of Between the Lines. We have decided to take the immediate step to take Kevin off the air until further notice as we review this matter.

“We take Kevin’s comments and those of all on-air staff seriously. Kevin’s comments were clearly not to his or our standards. Please know that we will take necessary appropriate actions.

“We sincerely apologize to Andy Reid and his family, the Kansas City Chiefs organization and our loyal listeners and share their concerns,” the station said.

Kietzman also issued an apology but he placed blame on others for misinterpreting his words.

I’m really not sure Kietzman understands what he did wrong if he thinks the problem lies with the way people took his words. He could have just left his comments at saying Andy Reid is not good with disciplining his players. That would have been fine. As soon as he brought up Reid’s family and insisted that needed to be included in the argument, that’s where he went wrong. Thinking the problem is the misinterpretation by people rather than his actions of bringing up Reid’s family is the real issue.

Stephen A Smith totally embarrasses himself with Dwayne Haskins comments

Stephen A Smith

Stephen A Smith really needs to reconsider his ability to competently speak about football.

The ESPN personality has made headlines the last few months for the wrong reasons — embarrassing himself with his lack of football knowledge, with this December video taking the cake.

On Friday, he exposed himself for his pathetically wrong take on Dwayne Haskins. Smith said he sees the former Ohio State quarterback as “more of a runner than a thrower.”

Smith made it clear once again that he does not watch football and that he in all likelihood never saw Haskins play. Haskins is a pocket passer, period. There is no debate. It feels like Smith was racially stereotyping Haskins as a runner because he’s black, not because of the type of football he plays. This would be like calling Jameis Winston a running quarterback; everyone knows he’s not.

And in case you need more, stats say Haskins only scrambled on five percent of his dropbacks last season. A guy who runs once out of 20 times is not a running quarterback.

But you know the worst part? Rather than just admit he was wrong and take the L, Smith kept trying to defend himself even though he had been busted. Fans weren’t letting him off the hook.

Smith has rapidly lost credibility and proved just how difficult it is to be knowledgeable about multiple sports. It’s impossible to watch everything, and when your job requires you to comment on things you haven’t seen, you’re going to get exposed like this at times.