The Labor Day weekend NFL bad news dump was highlighted by Aldon Smith’s nine-game suspension and a plea deal for Colts owner Jim Irsay. Buried even deeper in the pre-three-day-weekend flurry of things everyone hopes we’ll forget about by Tuesday was a statement from ESPN’s Josina Anderson regarding the Michael Sam’s shower habits report.
Matt Yoder of Awful Announcing spotted the 5:08 p.m. ET statement on the ESPN P.R. site.
“I wanted to take this opportunity to say I understand the vast and varying perspectives regarding our Michael Sam report,” Anderson said. “I’m particularly sensitive to those who feel the content therein worked to perpetuate stereotypes surrounding the LGBT community, or was just overall insensitive. In all humility, I truly understand these viewpoints and have taken time to reflect on how our story had this unintended consequence. To Michael Sam, I truly empathize with and respect your journey thus far on many different levels. Ultimately, I’ve always believed making a professional sports roster should and will come down to production.
“In my role as reporter, it’s also important for me to emphasize that I highly value accuracy and in this case gathered facts using well-accepted journalistic standards. I can also appreciate that there are always lessons to be gained in any situation regardless of experience or tenure.
“As I move on, I look forward to leading off ESPN’s regular-season NFL coverage next week and I appreciate their continued support.”
Bristol has been suspension-happy in recent weeks, from the well-deserved Stephen A. Smith suspension to the possibly deserved Max Kellerman suspension to the completely unjustified Dan Le Batard suspension. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Anderson has not been suspended for her role in the report that left many bewildered and Rams coach Jeff Fisher pissed off.
While reasonable minds may differ on whether an apology is needed, the statement includes no apology to the Rams, to Fisher, or to Sam. In fact, some (including Fisher) could interpret the portion of the statement defending the gathering of facts as an expression of defiance.
But the reporting isn’t the issue. It’s the content. Regardless of how the information was obtained and whether the information presented is accurate from a journalistic standpoint, the story isn’t a story unless the story is that Michael Sam truly is not comfortable in the locker room, supported by something far more tangible than scattered speculation that Sam may or may not be showering with teammates either because Same may or may not be doing something else at the time or because he may or may not be comfortable or because he may or may not want to make teammates uncomfortable. Absent clear proof of actual discomfort for Sam or teammates in the locker room, “He’s one of the guys” is all anyone needs to report.
And that makes the first sentence of the statement a little confusing. Are there “vast and varying perspectives” on the Michael Sam report? Or is there only one perspective — the one that prompted ESPN to issue multiple apologies?