To kick off what was expected to be a boring final day of the 2011 trading period, we pointed out that ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown included a tease, but no payoff, regarding the things that Adam Schefter had been hearing about possible trades after a day of working the phones.
There’s now a question as to whether Schefter knew more than what he said he knew, and whether he withheld it in order to help get the deal done.
The issue arose earlier today, when The Big Lead pointed out that a high school friend and business partner of Carson Palmer’s posted on Twitter that Schefter knew the trade was happening Monday night, and that he stayed silent “to protect [Palmer] and the deal.”
ESPN gave the story credence by issuing a statement denying that the network squatted on the story. “We were pursing the story aggressively yet felt there wasn’t enough confirmed information as of last night to report it,” the statement said. “The suggestion that it wasn’t reported to protect anyone involved, including Carson Palmer, is simply wrong.”
Regardless of whether Schefter was or wasn’t keeping quiet in order to keep Bengals owner Mike Brown from sticking his head back in his shell, there’s a big difference between reporting that the trade definitely would happen and reporting that the two teams were talking about it. The media was on notice that the Raiders wanted Palmer, thanks to Jason Cole’s story from Sunday night. If talks were happening and/or if a deal was moving toward conclusion, why not download whatever Schefter knew about the talks as of last night, during Monday Night Countdown or at halftime? ESPN, and every other media company covering the NFL, isn’t bashful about trafficking in what “could” happen, especially when it comes to who “could” be traded at the annual deadline.
That said, it wouldn’t be unprecedented for a reporter to be told key facts about a looming deal in exchange for a promise that he’ll get the opportunity to break the story once the deal is done. (If such a deal was made, it didn’t work out; Jay Glazer of FOX was the one who broke the story.) In this case, it would be reasonable for someone like Palmer’s agent (who surely knew what was happening, given that the Raiders never would have done the deal if Palmer didn’t plan to show up) or someone with the Raiders to ask Schefter to sit on the story in order to avoid scaring the Bengals away.
I’m not saying I don’t believe ESPN. I’m simply saying that the information tweeted by Palmer’s friend/business partner meshes with the manner in which business routinely gets done, in this particular business. That’s why the better approach for ESPN may have been to say nothing at all.