Maybe ESPN wants to be criticized.
That’s the only explanation we can identify in the wake of the bizarre news from SportsBusiness Daily that ESPN has hired Kraft Sports Group to sell local advertising for the fledgling ESPNBoston.com.
That’s Kraft Sports Group. As in Robert Kraft. As in the owner of the New England Patriots.
Even more amazing is that the SBD report from John Ourand and Daniel Kaplan doesn’t even bat an eye at one of the most blatant and obvious conflicts of interest we ever have seen.
This is well beyond, in our view, the placement of a CBS-themed restaurant at Patriot Place, which has raised some talk of a conflict of interest between the Pats and the network that televises the Sunday afternoon AFC package of games.
This is a sports news outlet entering into a significant business partnership with one of the handful of teams that will be covered by the ESPNBoston.com site.
It’s surreal, frankly.
That said, the new civil suit against Tom Brady, which gives new meaning to the term “shotgun wedding,” has been addressed at ESPNBoston.com. But there’s not a single mention of the serious claims made against one of the top quarterbacks in the league on the mother ship’s mother site — not even on the supposedly ESPN.com AFC East blog.
It’s almost as if a conscious decision has been made to slip the thing onto the Boston-focused arm of ESPN.com, without exposing the broader audience to the news.
Regardless of whether ESPN.com huddled with one or more members of the Kraft group to craft a strategy for mentioning the Brady lawsuit on a scaled-down basis to avoid the kind of criticism that ESPN experienced for keeping its head buried in casino chips as to the civil lawsuit against Ben Roethlisberger, the business relationship between ESPN and the group that owns an NFL team invites such scrutiny.
So, from this point forward, every thing said or written by ESPN about the Patriots needs to be considered in light of this relationship.
Meanwhile, we’ll wait to see what Don Ohlmeyer has to say about this one in the monthly ombudsman column that still ends up buried at the bottom of the alphabet junkyard.
UPDATE: Though we stand by our contention that, as of the original posting of this item, no link to the Brady lawsuit story appeared at ESPN.com’s front page or its NFL page (or its AFC East blog), we’re told that, on Tuesday, a prominent link to the item was indeed posted at ESPN.com. It has since been moved to ESPNBoston.com.