“When the media knows where the bodies are buried and they fail to reveal to the public what they know they are serving the wrong master.”
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Twitter is ablaze this morning with furor over video unearthed by TMZ from the interior of an Atlantic City elevator showing Ravens running back Ray Rice laying out his then fiancé with a nasty one-two punch. The surveillance reel displays what smart fans already knew had taken place in the confines of the lift; however the viciousness of Rice’s blows is illustrated in a way that our imaginations would not allow. It’s a shocking piece of video.
How is it that TMZ found a way to unearth both the original video (the one taken from the hallway that shows Rice dragging the girl) and the newly-revealed one before any of the massive media outlets charged with covering the NFL? Does TMZ have resources at its avail that ESPN does not? How about the Baltimore Sun or WBALTV, Baltimore’s NBC affiliate? These outlets could certainly have done the work that the salacious TMZ stepped up to do … but they didn’t … because they are part of the conspiracy to make stories like this one go away as quickly as possible.
The NFL and its teams have an unspoken agreement with national and local reporting outlets. The league will allow reporters access and provide them with stories they can sell to their viewers, readers and listeners and, in return, these league partners will help keep the lid on stuff that the teams would prefer not sully the reputation of the league.
An example of this phenomenon took place amongst the Denver media as the pre-season wound down. Kayvon Webster and Ronnie Hillman remained in Dallas when the rest of the team flew back to Denver and were hospitalized due to an undisclosed “illness”. Two weeks later the pair were demoted by the Broncos and both were inactive for Denver’s week one game versus the Colts. Clearly whatever happened in Dallas pissed the Broncos off pretty good. Players don’t sit on game day because they caught a cold.
The Broncos have been dispensing lies about the Webster / Hillman situation since it first occurred and they have continued to do so. Mike Klis of the Denver Post has been the team’s chosen conduit to providing misinformation to the ticket buying public. It’s not in the Broncos’ best interests that the truth be revealed therefore it has not been. In a town with three sports radio stations, three network TV stations and a powerful newspaper, where Dove Valley gets swarmed with reporters on a regular basis, somebody knows what really happened. Many people do. But they carry the water for the Broncos, keeping the details of the players’ “illnesses” to themselves.
The Webster / Hillman case is probably harmless enough that the media feels that the public’s right to know what really happened isn’t as valuable as their access to the team. The first person to tell the whole story would be ostracized by the Broncos and nobody is willing to risk having his or her access cut off. Of course, it shouldn’t work that way. The NFL is a public trust, a “non-profit” corporation that does business under a special exemption, granted by the Federal Government, to anti-trust rules. The Broncos play in a stadium financed by the taxpayers of Colorado and are to a degree property of the citizenry. Fans have a right to know the truth about the doings of Denver players and to be given the facts when they are known by the people we rely on to report.
When the media knows where the bodies are buried and they fail to reveal to the public what they know they are serving the wrong master. In the case of Ray Rice reporters did all they could to turn the other cheek to the situation and not to do the kind of investigative reporting that TMZ wound up doing. As Mile High Sports’ James Merilatt pointed out this morning on Twitter, TMZ was able to do that they did because they are in no way beholden to the league. ESPN, Fox Sports, NFL Network, NBC, CBS, etc all are – and they value their relationship more than they value the truth.
This is not going to change. Major outlets both nationally and right here in Denver will continue to serve the teams before they serve the public. Luckily, a growing alternative media will report what it knows without regard for access. TMZ is one sleazy sample. The newly-funded VICE News is perhaps a better one. And the NFL had better pray that Al Jazeera America doesn’t decide to start covering it because, unlike the old guard American media, that company isn’t scared to report.
NFL fans know that what Ray Rice did is shockingly wrong. They also know that the NFL knew and that the media was complicit in helping to keep the information buried. So don’t be surprised when folks are even less trustful of traditional reporters and more apt to look for new ways to get their news.