Reports have surfaced recently that the NFL has informed the agents of several players who have been accused of failing drug tests at the combine that they did not, in fact, fail any tests.
If this is true, then someone has some serious explaining to do.
Far be it for me to chastise the traditional media, but I’m more than annoyed with the recent handling of “leaked” NFL combine drug test results.
About 12 years ago, I exchanged e-mails with a popular ESPN writer. I had just launched a sports website and was trying to get him to link to it on his ESPN page.
The writer told me that he was against fan-driven sports sites (at the time, “blogs” didn’t exist). His contention was that outside the traditional media, there are no checks and balances.
Since they’re not in danger of being fired, there’s nothing to stop “fans who are pretending to be sports writers” from reporting false rumors.
They answer to nobody. There’s no accountability. He wasn’t about to encourage something like that.
I e-mailed him when ESPN followed the Boston Herald’s lead and rushed to report the whole “Patriots taped the Rams’ walk-through” story.
ESPN knew it was a shaky story with even shakier sources, but they reported it anyway in the hopes that it would help their Super Bowl pregame show ratings.
The report was false. They knew when they reported it that it was likely false. Yet nobody was fired. There was no accountability.
Of course, my e-mail went unanswered.
More recently, Sports Illustrated reported that Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji tested positive for a banned substance at the combine. They were confident in their sources. They reported it as if it were fact.
The traditional media, ESPN included, wasted no time jumping on the story.
NFLDraftBible.com, hardly a bastion for reputable journalism, followed up the Sports Illustrated report with a report of their own. They claimed that USC linebackers Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews Jr. had both tested positive for steroids.
Again, the traditional media pounced.
When I wrote my open letter to potential NFL draft picks, I refused to play that game.
It was irresponsible, especially considering that when these names were leaked, the NFL wasn’t even aware of who passed or failed the combine tests.
The NFL has reportedly informed Raji, Cushing, and Matthews Jr. that they did not fail their drug tests.
So I checked SI.com. No retraction. No apology. Though oddly enough, the original report about Raji was no longer on their site.
Not that I expected one, but NFLDraftBible.com didn’t have a retraction (that I could find) on their site either.
It’s amazing. In a race to break the news first, nobody seems to care anymore whether or not the news is true.
And accountability? Nonexistent.
John Tomase still works for the Herald, even though he falsely reported that the Patriots videotaped the Rams’ walk-through.
Nobody at Sports Illustrated is going to get fired for the B.J. Raji story.
NFLDraftBible.com is still allowed to exist.
Apparently, in the media, the only way you can get yourself fired is if you advocate downloading pirated copies of movies that were made by the guys signing your paycheck.
After all, it’s about making money, not reporting the news.
To hold them accountable.
After all, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and the rest of the traditional media aren’t going to hold themselves accountable. They’ll tarnish the reputation of their own mothers without a second thought if they think it’ll help their ratings.
So let’s make a deal. From now until draft day, unless the NFL puts out a statement saying a player tested positive for a banned substance, let’s assume they’re innocent until proven guilty.
Let’s get back to talking about what these tremendous athletes can do on the football field instead of making up stories about what they do off the field.
This article originally appeared on the New England Patriots Examiner page. To read more articles like this one, check them out here.
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