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NFL Media treads lightly in criticism of Jed York

Jed York AP

We’ve recently addressed the minefield through which the employees of NFL Media are tippy-toeing when attempting on one hand to gain legitimacy through displaying independence and on the other hand to remain, you know, employees of NFL Media.

On Sunday night, there was a mild but not widely noticed boom.

In response to the decision of Browns owner Jimmy Haslam to acknowledge that there was an “opportunity” to acquire coach Jim Harbaugh from the 49ers, Dan Hanzus of NFL.com initially had this to say about the impact of Haslam’s words on 49ers CEO Jed York’s previous denial of the report that Harbaugh was nearly dealt to the Browns:  “Haslam’s acknowledgement confirms this was one bit of business the Niners did not want getting into the public sector. It’s also not a good look for York, who was either dishonest in his response to the report or unaware the talks had taken place.”

It was courageous.  It was also revised.

Someone scrubbed the possibility of prevarication from the money line, changing the second sentence to this:  “It’s not a good look for York and the 49ers, who don’t want any friction with Harbaugh playing out in the media.”

It was a subtle but telling change.  No matter how independent NFL Media aspires to be, there are limits to independence of any media owned by the league it covers.  We’re not sure where that line is, but suggesting that one of the league’s owners is a liar clearly falls on the wrong side of it.

OK, it probably didn’t help that we applauded the bravery on Twitter.  But that makes the revision even more glaring.  They knew someone was paying attention, and they changed the wording anyway.

Why are we pointing this out?  Because the media owned by any sports league necessarily has limits on the independence of those who are covering the league that owns the media outlet.  While some could shrug off that reality by suggesting that we all have masters (and indeed we all do), anyone who works for a media outlet owned by the league it covers is beholden to his or her master in a way that will affect from time to time in a very clear and direct way the manner in which the league will be covered.

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23 Responses to “NFL Media treads lightly in criticism of Jed York”
  1. goraidersgospurs says: Feb 24, 2014 2:14 PM

    Tread lightly? Someone owes Breaking Bad!!!

  2. realdealsteel says: Feb 24, 2014 2:20 PM

    Good Call. Because York was clear liar about the whole thing until Haslam outed him.

  3. jpb12 says: Feb 24, 2014 2:21 PM

    I think York didn’t know… and really didn’t like being called stupid. I guess that’s worst than lying.

    Meanwhile… what team is going to trust Jimmy Haslem going forward?

    Fool me once…

  4. mackcarrington says: Feb 24, 2014 2:30 PM

    The NFL Media needs to look at good examples of how to be truthfully objective when being paid by an entity. Living in LA for a while, I was fortunate to hear how Chick Hearn and Vin Scully criticized their teams when it was warranted without incurring the wrath of those who paid them. I never thought either of them “tiptoed” around a situation. These two were the best at knowing who paid their salary and still being able to tell it like it is when the situation called for it.

  5. riggz91 says: Feb 24, 2014 2:33 PM

    Soon the FCC will be in media rooms across the nation doing this sort of stuff.

  6. hjb99992013 says: Feb 24, 2014 2:34 PM

    what about members of the media who are owned by the TV stations who would also like to remain in good standing with the NFL when it is time to renew the TV deal

  7. JSpicoli says: Feb 24, 2014 2:43 PM

    Stupid or liar?

  8. The Great Ted Thompson the Genius says: Feb 24, 2014 2:46 PM

    Remember this when PBS or NPR reports something about the government.

  9. 23rdusernameused says: Feb 24, 2014 2:48 PM

    how about stupid liar, there I said it!!!!

  10. raiderssf says: Feb 24, 2014 2:55 PM

    So, the original report made Jed York too look bad and they changed it? Mark Davis must be wondering why they don’t do that for him when Mike Silver goes off on his monthly Mark Davis rants.

  11. norcalsportsknowledge says: Feb 24, 2014 3:03 PM

    What does Jimmy Haslam mean when he says “opportunity”? Any coach can be had for the right number of first rd picks. It seems foolish to trust Haslam over York, but I guess that’s what the media is now a days. A bunch of fools… Who have unnamed sources…

  12. justintuckrule says: Feb 24, 2014 3:06 PM

    So…the NFL’s North Korean-like media outlet has no independence. Shocked, I say.

  13. imbetteratlifethanyou says: Feb 24, 2014 3:26 PM

    York – Hey Jimmy, we’re shopping you around – but don’t worry – we’d never send you to Minnesota.

    Jimmy – Thank God – I’d rather you trade me to Afghanistan than go to that hell hole of a franchise.

  14. lifeimitatesfootball says: Feb 24, 2014 3:43 PM

    Now, it’s okay for York to make mistakes because the Niners are a winning team, and it’s okay for Haslam to make mistakes because he owns the Browns who always make mistakes…as long as he’s not Stephen Ross, who is not allowed to make mistakes and when he does the media crucifies him…and takes Joe Philbin out with him. But somebody has to be kicked when they are down…last year it was the Jets.

  15. chinahand11 says: Feb 24, 2014 3:48 PM

    If I owned the media for my business, people better know where the line is and not cross it. That’s the way it is anywhere, but I’m not sure this event warranted it.

    And Haslam just blew any goodwill he may have been graced with from the other owners. Except for maybe Jerruh. Jerruh sees a kindred soul in anyone who shoots his mouth off inappropriately.

  16. lifeimitatesfootball says: Feb 24, 2014 3:49 PM

    So it’s okay for York to not be aware of talks taking place between the Browns and Harbaugh, but it’s not okay for Joe Philbin to not be aware of bullying in his team’s locker room…Maybe Philbin should have surveillance cameras in the locker room. So Philbin messed up maybe…but what gets me is that the NFL totally overlooks tampering, because a winning team like the Niners does it. Just like it took 2 years for the NFL to punish Bill Belichick for Spygate…but if the Dolphins do something “wrong” (like notify the NFL of bullying then the NFL sends Ted Wells, who exonerates Ross and Philbin), then the media must kick them even more.

  17. seaeagle707 says: Feb 24, 2014 3:51 PM

    Its a business. That’s the unofficial company motto isn’t it? Supposing Toyota’s PR people suddenly came out and began telling the world of all of the defects in those cars? Would those people still be collecting paychecks from Toyota, for long? NFL, isn’t really any different, is it? But instead of many stockholders they have but, 32 owners/owner groups. Very small Board of Directors. One, highly paid CEO, who would like to continue to be highly paid, I’m sure. It doesn’t take much of a stretch to imagine the length of the tether the NFL company media are on.

    Very short.

  18. justintuckrule says: Feb 24, 2014 4:01 PM

    Difference with Toyota’s media is that they wouldn’t lie about the brakes having any defects whatsoever when Hyundai already made it known to the world that Toyota was looking to trade its defective brakes for 1st round draft picks.

  19. ndirish10 says: Feb 24, 2014 4:14 PM

    Allow DeBartalo back!!!!!!!!!!!

  20. lcevans2 says: Feb 24, 2014 4:48 PM

    Jed York’s initial response was not a lie. He was asked whether the ‘report that Jim Harbaugh was almost traded to the Cleveland Browns over the weekend whereby the 49ers would have received draft picks in exchange for Harbaugh.’ was true. He said it was not. He was absolutely accurate in his response. Harbaugh was not almost traded!! York was asked if the 49ers were interested in trading Harbaugh, and he said that they were not. That is a far cry from being “almost traded.”

  21. trollhammer20 says: Feb 24, 2014 4:59 PM

    You’ve got a league with a media arm that regularly reports on drug test results that are leaked from the league offices, before the public is “supposed” to find out about them.

    If that’s not an enormous conflict of interest, I’m not really sure what qualifies anymore. Hope Browner’s lawsuit leads to a fundamental change in the way they do business.

  22. lucslawyer says: Feb 24, 2014 5:19 PM

    Let me get this straight…Cleveland management hears rumors about friction in SF between Harbaugh and his bosses…starts fantasizing about trading picks for Harbaugh…calls SF and is (politely? laughed at?) told no…and this is worked into an “almost traded” where SF is made out to be the bad guys for not wanting to talk about it?

  23. russellwilsonismymvp says: Feb 24, 2014 5:28 PM

    Niners are going to open the door to STL or AZ. Keep messing around. There are some hungry teams in the NFC.

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