The 650,000 emails uncovered in an NFL investigation into the toxic and misogynistic culture established by the infamous NFL owner turn out to be the rancid gift that continues to give – a rare window into how which the men at the top of the football food chain behave when they think no one is watching. First up was Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, who was revealed to have sent out messages strewn with all kinds of bigotry. Now we also get a look at what is needed for a prominent journalist to score their valuable scoops.
ESPN’s NFL insider Adam Schefter was chatting with Washington football president Bruce Allen ten years ago when he violated a basic principle of journalism: he shared the content of its story with a source for review before publication.
“Please let me know if you see anything that should be added, changed, tweaked,” Schefter wrote, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Journalists do not allow any source of aggression to have the final say in their reporting. They also probably don’t refer to the source as “Mr. Editor,” as Schefter did. The reasons should be pretty obvious. By allowing Allen, who is not mentioned by name in the resulting article, to endorse his work, Schefter was performing at best as a stenographer, not a reporter.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Schefter released a statement. In it, he admitted that “the criticisms made are fair,” and in the next breath he denied participating in the activity for which he was being criticized. Namely, relinquish editorial control.
Those who criticize Schefter are not wrong in themselves. But in doing so, they are giving Schefter a lot more credit than someone with their background deserves.
Over the past decade, as ESPN’s most influential football journalist, Schefter has engaged in other forms of behavior considered anathema to most journalists. He’s appeared in commercials, invested in gambling issues alongside an NFL owner, joined the board of directors of a fledgling NFL development league, and for a hot minute in 2013, anyone with $ 3,000 burning a hole in their pocket could have paid to hang out and watch a game with Schefter.
After all, Schefter’s job is to produce NFL-approved gossip and haul water for the multibillion-dollar entertainment business he’s supposedly tasked with covering. To be good at this kind of access journalism is often not good. Schefter and others of his ilk must nurture and properly maintain friendly and transactional relations with NFL power brokers and agents, distributing choice information and shopping for others. In return for their clever horse trade, they are rewarded with tidy exclusives on impending trades and ongoing contract negotiations. Fans, the type of fans who like to bet or who like fantasy football, eat this stuff. As such, Schefter got a high roost at ESPN. If the release of this highly prized product means that Schefter will on occasion defend a domestic abuser or push preferred NFL policy while pretending to be apolitical, well, that’s the sometimes grim cost of doing business.
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As long as he continues to catch the eye, there’s no chance ESPN will take Schefter off his high profile if he beats relentlessly 24/7. These successes may be the reason why whenever Schefter gets caught running a questionable side business, the world leader issues a tasteless statement and eliminates the brief outcry that follows. They are beyond the bribe.
In a statement, an ESPN flack said on Tuesday: “Without sharing all the details of the reporter process for a story from 10 years ago during the NFL lockdown, we believe nothing is more important to Adam and ESPN than to provide fans with the most accurate, fair and complete story.
Did Schefter provide “accurate” or “full story” coverage like ESPN is now? At first glance, this does not appear to be the case. As Barry Pechesky noted at Defector, at the time, Schefter wasn’t pulling the sleeve of a front office executive to see if the QB star’s shoulder had turned into a burger. While Schefter and Allen were sending emails, the NFL and NFLPA were squatting in negotiations over the new collective agreement. The property had a clear and vested interest in promoting its version of events and rallying NFL fans. Schefter, as his email made clear, saw no problem in writing a story that would benefit them no matter how much it cost the league’s workforce, Pechesky wrote. And ESPN readers were no better off.
It’s a question that has plagued ESPN since its inception: how can they function both as a financial partner with professional and college leagues, tasked with disseminating and promoting their product, while simultaneously engaging in relationships. rigorous and contradictory? Make no mistake, the people at Bristol do a great job. But when it comes to entities they’ve slept with, like the UFC and its main draw, Conor McGregor, as The Daily Beast reported, prioritizes one (profitable) aspect of the business. can replace those (more prestigious but far, much less profitable) messy aspirations.
Schefter doesn’t seem overly concerned with the latter, especially if it could hamper his ability to make money or strengthen his brand. For years he peddled various merchandise, both in advertisements and on social media, some of which also have a financial relationship with the NFL.
Other prominent ESPN figures have also taken this route, such as Adrian Wojnarowski, their most prominent NBA reporter, and Matthew Berry, perhaps the most well-known fantasy football scribe. When readers raised eyebrows at the amount of shillings Berry was making for DraftKings – which at the time was still a fantastic daily sports center and not a full-fledged gaming portal – he was forced to admit that he had not disclosed that he was a paid sponsor. That’s okay, though, Berry wrote, because he really enjoys the business.
But there is a difference between getting paid for ads and joining management in some capacity. Schefter briefly removed it.
In 2017, Schefter joined the board of directors of the Pacific Pro League, a fledgling team offering high school students a paid path to the NFL outside of bondage training by the NCAA. When asked if Schefter may have violated his reporting practices, ESPN told the Sports Business Journal that since Schefter’s role would be “unpaid and ceremonial,” they were okay with that. A few days later, Schefter resigned. The network again stressed that the now scuttled gig was “minimal in nature and unpaid,” as ESPN said in a statement, and therefore “[Schefter] determined that this was the appropriate outcome.
Equally appropriate, according to ESPN’s estimate, Schefter’s recent investment in Boom Entertainment, a company developing gaming applications. Another investor in the company is the owner of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft. A shrewd reader might be led to ask if Schefter was burying a juicy nugget on the Patriots, which would have negatively impacted his financial partner. Or, since Schefter’s usual terrain directly overlaps with player interests, what is it that prevents him from personally profiting from this information in one way or another.
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Bloomberg reached out to ESPN in September hoping to get answers to those same questions, but the site couldn’t get them to comment on whether there was a conflict of interest policy, let alone whether Schefter s was opposed to it. Understandably, ESPN also dodged the larger question of whether Disney’s efforts to get on the widely legalized gambling sauce train could have compromised its reports in general.
ESPN has relentlessly promoted Schefter as the one-stop source for all your football news – a man glued to his phone around the clock who only lives to beat his competition to the punch, even though that punch is a tweet that would be confirmed by a press release issued by the team or the league shortly thereafter. (On one occasion, his thirst for the scoop led Schefter to tweet screenshots of medical records belonging to a defensive end whose hand was mutilated by fireworks. The player sued Schefter and ESPN. case was settled in 2017.)
No one is suggesting that Schefter’s job is not difficult and time consuming or that he has failed to publish newsworthy articles. According to a profile without gloves from 2014 in the Washington post, keeping up with his grueling schedule sounds like hell. But maybe it’s time to stop asking him to adhere to journalistic standards. After all, if ESPN really had a problem with their demeanor – the branding or side hustles or overly comfortable relationships with sources or one of the ways the firewall between the commercial and editorial sides went down. collapsed in Schefter’s hands – they would have said so a long time ago.
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