“There’s something happening here, but what it is ain’t exactly clear” -- Buffalo Springfield, “For What It’s Worth”
For the sports media world, mid-July is usually the time for taking any and every story that comes your way and running with it. This famine of news leads ineluctably to half-stories and speculation and, occasionally, an infuriatingly irrelevant competition determining "who's now," whatever that means.
It's curious then, that according to Pro Football Talk, ESPN issued a “do not report” alert to all reporters on their payroll, with respect to the developing Ben Roethlisberger sexual assault allegations.
Big Ben has hired an attorney, who then released a statement. Pro Football Talk broke the story last night and, despite ESPN's gag order, it is growing by the hour.
Not that you'd know that from watching SportsCenter.
The exact reason for the selective silence is unclear. However, there’s little doubt that something is amiss. And considering the network’s treatment of any story involving Terrell Owens or the Dallas Cowboys over the past three or so years, it seems doubtful that it’s an issue of integrity.
This is, after all, a network that still makes reference to Owens’ “suicide attempt.”
Further, it’s nothing new.
ESPN issued a similar alert last year, when Brett Favre was accused of giving the Lions information in an effort to beat the Packers.
The reasoning behind that decision was that the story was not true. Indeed, this civil suit may not have a shred of validity to it; but that’s not the point.
Because the civil suit is there. It has been filed. It is a story, regardless of the ultimate merit of the suit at this point.
Perhaps the story’s absence on SportsCenter can be explained by the presence of another, far less compelling story; “Shaq’s reality show.” Roethlisberger will be featured on the show -- which airs on (surprise, surprise) ABC, ESPN’s sister network.
The White Stripes once said “you can’t be a pimp and a prostitute too,” but ESPN might actually be pulling it off. Showing Terrell Owens on ABC’s “Superstars” might be (might be) explainable, but if I see one more “Dancing With the Stars” recap when I’m looking for sports news, I might gouge my own eyes out with a Ginsu knife.
One must ask, what’s relevant to ESPN?
Controversy, sports and thinly veiled, heavily scripted reality television, apparently. But only sports in which they have a stake, only controversy that doesn’t affect a network darling and only reality television that airs on ABC.
I guess all that money leaves little room for objectivity.
Update: ESPN has acknowledged the civil suit filed against Ben Roethlisberger. This is the first acknowledgement we've seen, via Deadspin.com.