I enjoy sitting in the NBA hospitality room, chatting with many of the national and international media types who cover the league and find a moment or two to chill-out and socialize. I always found the hospitality room to be a little like NYC, a melting pot.
Some of the media complained over the years that the international media - "The Europeans" (they would inaccurately say) are "taking over the joint." I would laugh to myself, usually wait a bit, then pull the guy(s) or gal(s) aside and ask if any of their relatives had ever passed through Ellis Island?
That comment was usually met with an, "Oh yeah? I see what you mean. Sorry." (Ahh, don't worry about it, we all make a mistake like that now and then...)
That is a two graph lead-in to the fact that I always enjoyed my conversations with Jason Whitlock of the KC Star who was always an interesting part of that melting pot og the NBA Finals. He was fun, always cordial to me while being highly opinionated and always very appreciative of the efforts we made to make the NBA beat a little more fun and the sports a little easier for journalists to cover, often noting our efforts to provide fair access and good working conditions under the pressure of the late starts and crushing deadlines.
Now, the cut to the chase:
In case you missed it earlier this week, Jason Whitlock on MSN's FoxSports teed-off in a column which took a critical look at the media and the way the media of 2009 covers sports and breaking sports news.
Here's his viewpoint:
A-Rod biographer/hunter Selena Roberts is beginning to remind me of Rev. Al Sharpton.
Sharpton separated the crime from the culture, too. When he gallivanted around New York in the '80s seeking justice for alleged victim Tawana Brawley, his target was the culture of racism more than the six white men falsely accused of rape.
Tuesday, as I listened to Roberts defend her New York Times columns that painted the Duke lacrosse players as rapists, cowards and liars during an interview on Jim Rome's nationally syndicated radio show, I couldn't help but notice she went with the Sharp-tongue defense.
"I wrote about the culture at Duke, and there's no doubt about that. I stand by that today," Roberts said. "I separated the criminal investigation from the culture."
Maybe it's a New York, freedom-fighter thing, this amazing ability to ignore the innocence of the criminally accused while making your justifiable point that America suffers from and with racism and sexism.
Roberts' writings/rantings on Duke lacrosse have become relevant again because she's asked us to trust her anonymous investigative reporting and speculation about Alex Rodriguez, the confessed steroid cheat and home run hitter.
According to Roberts' new book and her interview blitzkrieg, Rodriguez used steroids in high school, tipped pitches to opposing batters, tipped Hooters waitresses a paltry 15 percent, was nicknamed "Bitch Tits" in the locker room and is caught up in being perfect because his father abandoned him as a child.
Her sourcing for the most damaging allegations, by her own admission, is either anonymous or non-existent. She wants us to trust her, and her New York Times- and Sports Illustrated-highlighted résumé.
Unlike Bob Costas, the producers at ESPN and the steroids-obsessed baseball journalists, I don't trust Roberts or her book, and I expressed some of my reasons in a Kansas City Star column that ran on Sunday.
he Times and SI can kiss my ass. Jayson Blair worked at The Times. Mike Price won a settlement against SI for the lies the magazine published about him. And years ago, an SI writer wrote a profile about me for the Columbia Journalism Review and, among other journalistic crimes, lifted a quote from an old column and passed it off as something I said to him.
Never trust a publication. Hell, the more prestigious the publication, the more pressure there is for the writers to cut corners in pursuit of a good story.
Place your trust in the writer. And Roberts' reaction to the exoneration of the Duke lacrosse players calls into question her credibility. By refusing to acknowledge her mistakes in the Duke case, she creates the impression that her agenda trumps the truth.
She looks like a feminist version of Al Sharpton.
Jim Rome asked Roberts about the questionable sourcing for the allegations she levels against A-Rod.
"You give people a litmus test, Jim," she said. "You say to them, you go back to them over and over again and you say, 'Is it consistent what they're saying to me? Have they changed at all? Do they have a credibility issue? Is there anything in their past that might make me wary of this person?' "
You see, Selena Roberts thinks like me. Is there anything in her past that would make me wary of her allegations against A-Rod?
Rome asked her specifically about my column contending that the Duke lacrosse case should make us suspicious of her reporting about Rodriguez.
"First of all (Jason) needs to go back and read the columns that I wrote about Duke lacrosse," she said. "It doesn't exactly jibe with what he's saying now. I have always separated what the crime was ... and what the culture was. It didn't have to rise to the level of a crime to rise to the level of a column. And I wrote about the culture at Duke, and there's no doubt about that. I stand by that today."
She later added: "What I did about Duke is I separated the criminal investigation from a culture. Now we know what is irrefutable about that night. These women had pornographic pictures taken of them and distributed on the Internet. These women had racial slurs yelled at them. That is indisputable. There were broomsticks waved at them. That is indisputable. The issues that happened that night, separate from the crime, were in my opinion — and people can disagree with this — were worth writing about."
Here's what's also indisputable: At no time in her original Duke lacrosse-bashing column did she mention anything about pornographic pictures, racial slurs or broomsticks waved at strippers. She wrote about rape, robbery, strangulation and a hate crime. You can read the column for yourself here.
You can read a detailed analysis of Roberts' many Duke lacrosse errors at this blog.
It is embarrassingly disingenuous for Roberts to suggest that her columns about Duke lacrosse weren't founded on the belief that the players sexually assaulted the false accuser. Her refusal to admit this mistake and apologize makes me wonder what other truths she's willing to fudge.
During her interview with Jim Rome, she claimed she went into her investigation of Rodriguez believing he had never used steroids. She said that A-Rod's interview on 60 Minutes convinced her of his innocence.
"I didn't think he was dirty," Roberts said. "I thought he was clean."
This is nearly impossible for me to believe. Roberts is a cynic, at least she is in her column writing. When she worked for The New York Times, she wrote numerous columns about A-Rod with the same theme: Rodriguez is a phony. Read this, this and this and then read this blog for examples of her A-Rod cynicism.
In those columns, does she come off like someone who would take Rodriguez at his word? She comes off like someone who doesn't believe a word that comes out of A-Rod's mouth.
What I'm about to write is pure speculation.
Selena Roberts believes America is a safe haven for sexism (I happen to agree, but that's beside the point). She wanted the Duke lacrosse players to be shining examples of how deep-rooted and protected our sexism is, and she was more than willing to ignore their innocence to make her point (this repulses me).
Selena Roberts believes professional sports — the money, fame and power they primarily give young men — are corrosive of good values and a haven for sexism (I happen to agree, but that's beside the point). She wants Alex Rodriguez to stand as a shining example of what's wrong with American sports, and she just might be willing to ignore flattering truths about A-Rod and publish hearsay and gossip to make her point (and this is unfair).
She's written a celebrity-gossip book, "A-Rod: Game of Innuendo." Maybe you despise Rodriguez so much that you don't care about her methods and whether the rest of the alleged mainstream media characterize her work properly.
I bet the Duke lacrosse players and Tawana Brawley's victims could explain to you why you should care.
You or someone you love could be the next criminally innocent, shining example of a New York freedom fighter's social agenda.
You can e-mail Jason Whitlock at email@example.com.
Here is Whitlock's column from the May 2nd edition of Kansascity.com - The KC Star's only chance of competing on a national/global scale for professional newspaper survival:
Roberts’ book on A-Rod should be questioned
Not long ago, sports writer Selena Roberts compared the Duke lacrosse players to gang members and career criminals.
She claimed that the players’ unwillingness to confess to or snitch about a rape (that did not happen) was the equivalent of drug dealers and gang members promoting antisnitching campaigns.
When since-disgraced district attorney Mike Nifong whipped up a media posse to rain justice on the drunken, male college students, Roberts jumped on the fastest, most influential horse, using her New York Times column to convict the players and the culture of privilege that created them.
Proven inaccurate, Roberts never wrote a retraction for the columns that contributed to the public lynching of Reade Seligmann, Colin Finnerty and David Evans.
Instead, she moved on to Sports Illustrated, a seat on ESPN’s “The Sports Reporters” and a new target, baseball slugger Alex Rodriguez.
Last week, the New York Daily News and The New York Times acquired “leaked” copies of Roberts’ soon-to-be-released biography, “A-Rod.” In it, according to the two New York newspapers, Roberts paints a highly unflattering picture of Rodriguez as a human being and, among other things, speculates that Rodriguez used steroids in high school.
Roberts’ speculative opinions are deemed as so credible by ESPN and others that the Worldwide Leader ran all-day updates stating that Selena Roberts believes that it’s “irrefutable” that Rodriguez used performance-enhancing drugs while a teenager.
At no point did ESPN’s TV anchors or radio broadcasters mention that Roberts was the same person who led the media charge against the Duke lacrosse players. I listened to Roberts’ interview on Dan Patrick’s radio show. Patrick never asked her about Duke lacrosse or why we should trust her reporting.
In its news story about her book, The New York Times failed to allude to her position on the Duke lacrosse case. I’ll give the Times credit for including one sentence of clarification in its news story:
“Some of the accusations in the book are based on anonymous sources, and others are simply presented as knowledge the author has without an explanation of how the information was obtained.”
Translation: the majority of the stuff written in her book is information the National Enquirer might reject.
The national media anti-snitching campaign is twice as pervasive and effective as anything put together by the Bloods, Crips and LAPD. For the most part, we refuse to squeal on each other.
Roberts’ book is a long-winded blog. Why it’s being treated as an unimpeachable piece of journalism can only be explained by the cushy position she’s been handed by The New York Times, ESPN and Sports Illustrated and the unchallenged institutional bias found within the elite sports media institutions.
Like the Duke lacrosse players, the elite media have decided that Alex Rodriguez is fair game for abuse. Rules of fairness do not apply.
In a rush to prove its racial even-handedness, the media initially chose to swallow the accusations of a black stripper over white college students. Roberts and others made fools of themselves. They were given the leeway to do so only because lacrosse players aren’t part of the NCAA money-making machine and unlikely to be future subjects of high-profile stories.
The players were convenient, vulnerable targets.
So is Rodriguez. Like Barry Bonds, A-Rod is a threat to surpass Babe Ruth (and Hank Aaron) on the home run chart. A-Rod, a Dominican, is the dominant player in a sport that is almost solely analyzed and defined by white American sports writers and broadcasters.
It is not a coincidence that Bonds and Rodriguez have been portrayed as the worst teammates in the history of professional sports while Rogers Clemens’ and Mark McGwire’s teammate shortcomings were largely overlooked. When Clemens skipped games and road trips it was because he was a dedicated family man rather than a bad teammate.
I am not asserting a nationwide racial conspiracy against minority baseball players. I’m in no way stating that Roberts’ pursuit of Rodriguez is motivated by race. I’m asserting that the media’s unwillingness to publicly and aggressively challenge itself breeds unequal and unfair coverage.
We all have biases that must be contested. We’re all capable of getting swept up in the biases of our peers and friends.
The allegations in Roberts’ book might very well be true. But I’m not going to trust her, not without some on-the-record reporting, not after what she wrote about the Duke lacrosse players.
To reach Jason Whitlock, call 816-234-4869 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.
TL's Viewpoint: I think it's very important to openly discuss issues such as this. I think Jason Whitlock consistently brings these tough topics to the surface of an otherwise "scared" and "legally advised" media world that prefer to sell newspapers with pictures of summer showers, ocean races and pretty summer days, rather than biting journalism. I think the media is often lying and kidding - both their audiences and themselves. As budgets have been cut, both print and electronic media are suffering from lack of human resources in covering events and news, sports, etc. The reporters/writers/columnists are all burned out and sobbing on their own shoulders, constantly complaining about the very state of affairs they allowed to take place right in front of everyone's own eyes. It's a damn shame. But, it is a serious subject, a serious time in history and a time to look in the mirror. Not to point fingers, but to look right in the mirrors and right back at ALL of our own reflections. Are we going to allow this to continue or are we going to MAKE CHANGE happen?
Are we going to use the words "budget cuts" as the crutch of a new generation of Americans and global citizens or are we going to bring up our kids with a life of HOPE and DREAMS?
I think our parents, many of whom suffered through the Great Depression, had a lot more moral character and - JUST PLAIN - GUTS, than we do. I think we're all soft and cuddily and we try to be politically correct and end up NOT STANDING for a DAMN THING in life. We're lazy, we're addicted to email, we're always pointing the finger of blame.
As a certain person that I know and love often said: "It's time to get off your FAT ass."
Do something to contribute and start today. Not tomorrow.
I wlould be very curious to read your comments on this post and this topic. Let's hear it?