Here’s a bizarre little leftover from the weekend.
In a column that was promptly deleted but later resurrected with changes, Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland.com speculated that Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com is secretly working for the Browns. Via Deadspin, Grossi bases the speculation in part on the notion that: (1) the Browns never fully explained the origin of the unconventional trade that brought quarterback Brock Osweiler and a second-round pick to Cleveland; and (2) Barnwell had previously suggested a hot-potato type deal, with the Texans buying cap space by giving up a draft pick to the cap-rich Browns.
After initially failing to respond to requests for comment from Deadspin, Barnwell said on Twitter that he doesn’t work for the Browns “or any other team,” and that he previously done consulting work for teams before joining ESPN.
Grossi separately posted the following statement: “In my column today on the Browns’ draft decisions, I insinuated a professional consulting relationship may exist between them and ESPN columnist Bill Barnwell. To clarify, there is no tangible evidence of that. I did not intend to question Barnwell’s journalistic integrity. When I attempted to clarify my thoughts, ESPN did not want it to appear they were censoring the column, so I was unable to make any changes to the original story.”
So the column instead went away before coming back. Which suggests that it may have remained gone if it hadn’t been noticed and publicized by Deadspin.
Ultimately, this one is about properly negotiating the confines of a corporate behemoth. Grossi would surely now admit that, before writing a story suggesting that an ESPN colleague may be secretly working for the Browns, Grossi should have asked Barnwell or someone else. The editors involved would admit that, before allowing the article to go live, they should have done the same.
Despite any disagreements that coworkers may have internally, it’s always important to present a united front to anyone on the outside. Ideally, coworkers will have as few disagreements as possible. The bigger the company, the less realistic that is — and the more important it becomes to keep this kind of stuff under wraps.