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Browns spark strange case of ESPN-on-ESPN crime

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Here’s a bizarre little leftover from the weekend.

In a column that was promptly deleted but later resurrected with changes, Tony Grossi of speculated that Bill Barnwell of 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.

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22 Responses to “Browns spark strange case of ESPN-on-ESPN crime”
  1. factschecker says: Apr 10, 2017 10:35 AM

    I don’t like the precedent that particular trade made. The Browns more or less gave Houston a get out of “salary cap jail” free card.

    Doesn’t ESPN have shows where they have 2 guys argue two sides of the same topic all the time? (I don’t watch ESPN myself?)

  2. touchdownroddywhite says: Apr 10, 2017 10:37 AM

    What’s wrong with a little moonlighting? If Barnwell was behind that deal, he earned every penny of his consulting fee.

  3. niko0063 says: Apr 10, 2017 10:40 AM

    Browns didn’t spark anything…Grossi is the Skip Bayless of beat reporters, except he actually believes the garbage he says

  4. bringbackkosar says: Apr 10, 2017 10:44 AM

    Tony Grossi…’nuff said. Browns fans know just how credible he is

  5. lukedunphysscienceproject says: Apr 10, 2017 10:47 AM

    All rules of journalism are completely out the window. The members of the profession seem to be of the mind set that at this point they can pretty much write anything they want.

    They all blame it on the need to be “first” with a story in a world of 24 hours news. But that’s often nonsense, and is certainly absolutely no excuse in this case. I highly doubt any other reporter was chasing this absolutely absurd angle.

    And then he blames ESPN for not allowing him to make “changes” to the article to “clarify” it after originally submitting it. Also no excuse. The article should never have submitted without him at least giving Barnwell and/or the Browns the opportunity to comment.

  6. DitkasHair says: Apr 10, 2017 10:47 AM

    This would be interesting if it were concerning a real NFL team…How much longer is Disney paying the donks at ESPN anyway?

  7. jerruhjones says: Apr 10, 2017 10:50 AM

    Grossi is still bitter that the Plain Dealer canned him.

  8. pj1983a says: Apr 10, 2017 10:53 AM

    What people don’t realize is that Grossi isn’t really an ESPN employee. He’s an employee of Good Karma Brands, who owns WKNR radio station and licenses the rights to call themselves an ESPN affiliate. Part of that licensing agreement allows Grossi to say he works for “ESPN Cleveland” and do some occasional work for the main ESPN office. But Good Karma Brands signs his paychecks, not ESPN.

  9. breadmeatcheese says: Apr 10, 2017 10:53 AM

    “journalistic integrity” lol. you mean trolling (staying relevant)?

  10. 700levelvet says: Apr 10, 2017 10:56 AM

    It’s the Browns…. Anyone surprised?

  11. leftylewee says: Apr 10, 2017 10:56 AM

    Journalistic integrity disappeared when the Clintons were in the White house.

  12. cwmore1169 says: Apr 10, 2017 11:08 AM

    Actually, this was probably less about Barnwell and more about Grossi questioning the Browns organization. For years, Grossi has been fixated with writing negative stories about the Browns that’s why he no longer works for While I’ll be the first to admit their performance on the field probably deserved negative stories but when every story Grossi writes on the Browns is not about a transaction but a hate filled takedown of the team, makes you wonder are you a Cleveland writer writing for Browns fans or Bengal fans.

  13. FinFan68 says: Apr 10, 2017 11:13 AM

    Despite any disagreements that coworkers may have internally, it’s always important to present a united front to anyone on the outside.
    Your opinion often differs when writing about or searching for any strife between players or players/management. Why?

  14. MichaelEdits says: Apr 10, 2017 11:38 AM

    If I worked for the Browns, I know I wouldn’t admit it.

  15. NoobTubeTV says: Apr 10, 2017 11:59 AM

    Grossi is awful.

  16. RegisHawk says: Apr 10, 2017 12:21 PM

    If you could get your people to stick around for more than 3 days, you might see how unimportant these little tiffs actually are.

  17. gromit45 says: Apr 10, 2017 12:23 PM

    Sounds like Grossi in jealous of Barnwell’s intellgent out-of-the-box thinking.

  18. connfyoozed says: Apr 10, 2017 12:44 PM

    Tony Grossi has become a straight up hack, and anyone who knows anything about the Browns knows it. Anyone who writes such a piece of trash as this shouldn’t be allowed to put the word “journalist” anywhere on their resume.

  19. jamarcuslives says: Apr 10, 2017 2:16 PM

    I don’t like the precedent that particular trade made. The Browns more or less gave Houston a get out of “salary cap jail” free card.


    Wrong. Cleveland handed Houston a card, but it cost a 2nd rounder. Very shrewd use of Cleveland’s resources, in this case cap space. Cleveland has become the most intriguing team in football.

  20. roadrocker3 says: Apr 10, 2017 3:07 PM

    Grossi is the floating debris at a sewage treatment plant. Browns should just ban him from all media functions & have security arrest him every time he comes sniffing around.

  21. kfoyo808 says: Apr 11, 2017 11:40 AM

    Is Osweiler the classic example of put average QB on team with great players, and they become better? Put them on average team…and they become worse? Or was it just a matter of too much expectation. Certainly seemed up to the task in Denver. Maybe Bill O’Brien isn’t the guru he thinks he is…he’s had like 80 qbs in Houston so far.

  22. jazzawakens says: Apr 14, 2017 8:36 AM

    “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.”

    This cracked me up because to me ESPN has always apoeared to be the kings of spin and sensorship. They dont report news, they run narratives. I still read and watch, but always with that thought in mind about what I get from them.

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