ESPN addresses text-message mishap in Ravens story

One of the more glaring problems with ESPN’s story regarding the Ravens’ mishandling of the Ray Rice investigation relates to the text messages sent by owner Steve Bisciotti to Rice after the team cut him.

In the story, ESPN presents the text messages in italics.  While quotes weren’t used, the technique created the clear impression that the text messages were being quoted verbatim. The surrounding context reinforced the idea that exact quotes were being shared.

The first, from the ESPN report: “Hey Ray, just want to let you know, we loved you as a player, it was great having you here. Hopefully all these things are going to die down. I wish the best for you and Janay.

The second: “When you’re done with football, I’d like you to know you have a job waiting for you with the Ravens helping young guys getting acclimated to the league.”

As it turns out, the text messages weren’t quoted verbatim.  The statement released Monday by the team included the exact language of the text messages.

The first: “I’m sorry we had to do this. I still love you and believe that you will be a great husband and father If you ever need to talk just call.”

The second: “I just spent two hours talking to Ozzie. It was all about you.  We love you and we will always figure out a way to keep you in our lives.  When you are done with football I will hire you to help me raise Great young men. I still love you!!!”

ESPN’s story also creates the impression that Bisciotti texted Rice without prompting.  According to the Ravens, Rice contacted Bisciotti first, saying:  “I understand the decision but I am thankful for what you have done for me and my family. Me and my wife will continue to work on us and being better but I just wanted to say thank you for giving me a chance.”

ESPN has acknowledged that the italicized text messages did not reflect actual quotes.

“We understand the confusion surrounding our use of italics and recognize we could have been more clear,” ESPN said Tuesday in a statement. “Most importantly, the information in our story about the contents of the texts was consistent with what the team released.”

While the contents were consistent, the clear and obvious error in the presentation invites fair questions regarding whether other aspects of the story are incorrect, especially in light of the strong (albeit belated) written response the Ravens provided to 15 different aspects of the report.

This specific flaw also carries with it some irony.  At a time when the Ravens fairly have been hammered for failing to ask for the notorious elevator video, ESPN didn’t ask the Ravens to confirm the precise contents of the text messages sent by Bisciotti. Instead, ESPN asked only if Bisciotti sent two text messages to Rice.

The story from ESPN doesn’t disclose that ESPN asked the Ravens only to confirm that Bisciotti sent two text messages and not to confirm the contents of the text messages.  But the words selected by the authors invite a perception that the Ravens were informed of the alleged language of the text messages: “Asked about the text messages Friday, the team did not deny Bisciotti had sent them: ‘His text messages to Ray reflect his belief that everyone is capable of redemption and that others, including players, can learn from Ray’s experience.'”

Moving forward, it’s up to the reader to decide whether to overlook ESPN’s mishandling of the text messages, or whether to treat this specific wrinkle as the proverbial bite of bad beef in a pot of stew.  Do you keep on eating, or do you throw out the whole thing?

67 responses to “ESPN addresses text-message mishap in Ravens story

  1. Can we also address that the article ESPN posted on Friday claimed that Ray Rice was watching the Ravens-Bengals game from his home with former teammate AQ Shipley? Even though AQ Shipley was on the field for the Colts at that time?

    And then they removed the obvious lie from the article without issuing a correction notice of any sort?

    You keep up the good work ESPN.

  2. Takeaway: ESPN, like everyone involved in the media on this issue, is just as guilty of misrepresentation and sensationalism as everyone else.

    None of you can be trusted to really report the truth because all of you are incentivized to do anything but.

  3. ESPN presented text messages in quotes. How else would readers interpret that other than repeating the messages verbatim.

    Stand tall and admit you lied or were mislead by Rice or his lawyer.

    To leave it as is begs the question, “How much were you paid by Rice’s lawyer to publish that article?”

  4. While the contents were consistent????

    How is changing the meaning and sentiment behind someone’s words considered consistent?

    Smdh why don’t you come out and say the truth?

    Here I’ll do it for you ” we were fishing for a story and when we didn’t get it we thought to make one up”

  5. What in Hades has happened to ESPN? I thought their credibility was totally shot by their-hiring Olbermann – now this BS. Gotta expect as much I guess — they are owned by BIG media after all.

  6. We live in a world where once credible agencies provided the public the news but it has now become “stories, tales, lies, and exaggerations” with the public having no clue what is what.

    And for the love of God, if I’m required to use APA or MLA in college one would think ESPN would require the same from their story tellers.

  7. I haven’t been able to watch ESPN for years. It was a great network in the days of Australian Rules Football; but nowadays it is all about sensationalism and tabloid journalism. The network has become full of itself.

    This recent article is just one of many that challenge ESPN’s credibility and the more one dissects it, the more holes one sees in it. They really worked on it 11 days? What were they doing during that time? Were they that lazy or that hard-pressed to create a controversy that they took all their “anonymous” sources completely at face value without question with no follow-up?

  8. This is typical behavior of hack sports writers. The Ravens came clean, and now, ESPN is starting to back-track. I have little doubt that the Ravens sincerely thought that they were doing the right thing.

    It’s time for the media to stop forcing the issue in order to obtain ‘gotcha’ headlines. ESPN needs to be called out for their conduct.

  9. QUESTION: WHERE WERE ALL THESE PISSED OFF BALTIMORONS WHEN ALL THE “LYING AND FAKE JOURNALISM” WAS GOING ON AND ESPN WAS “TRYING TO GET PEOPLE TO HATE …..” DURING SPYGATE OR BOUNTYGATE? THESE CONTROVERSIES ARE HUGE BONANZAS TO THE FOUR LETTER NETWORK. REST ASSURED THIS WILL BE BLOWN SO FAR OUT OF PROPORTION AS TO NEVER RETURN TO ITS ORIGINAL SHAPE, AS ESPN MILKS EVERY LAST DIME OUT OF THIS.

  10. Both sides use “shady practices” and half truths to make whatever point or paint whatever picture they want the public to see.

    If you think this doesn’t go on even in the most “ordinary” articles you are quite blind to what has become normal.

  11. Journalism 101 at your local community college wouldn’t let anyone slide through with the obvious inaccuracies and misrepresentations in this hatchet job, yet “the worldwide leader in sports” not only does just that, but then defends it as if it’s something of which they are proud.

    If that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about the corrupt nature of ESPN and it’s agenda here, nothing will.

  12. Isn’t ESPN’s action here the industry standard?

    I thought mainstream journalism nowadays was all half truths at best. I didn’t know anyone still did decent, truthful investigative journalism.

  13. It doesn’t have to be either or…

    Fine, ESPN goofed up. The Ravens have still goofed up too, whether ESPN was 100% correct or 100% wrong.

    So both ESPN and the Ravens are wrong is what it amounts to.

    Even if ESPN had not published any story about this, the Ravens handled this badly.

    We may pick apart ESPN, their story, how well the checked or didn’t etc… but that doesn’t change that the Ravens are guilty of botching all of this from day 1.

  14. yet they parade ray lewis out there to tell us about cover ups. c’mon, man.

    pro-tip, they are driven by ratings, clicks, facebook likes, retweets, etc. want to send them a message? stop watching their terrible programming (including MNF), stop going to their crappy website, unfollow them on twitter, and unlike them on facebook.

    i did. never been happier.

  15. One of the guys who wrote that pathetic, lie filled, article used to be a pretty good writer when he was with the Baltimore Sun. Not anymore though. I was surprised at first, but I guess I shouldn’t be.. Hacks like Kevin Van Valkenburg will sell their soul and integrity for a good farce (as long as it gets them attention). Props to Steve Bisciotti for calling those lying bums out.

  16. ESPN has lost all credibility after this manufactured misrepresentation. I hope that the NFL dumps that discredited company from its Monday Night Football franchise.

    ESPN heads should roll, all the way up to the top, for the exaggerations, falsehoods, and downright unethical reporting.

    Hold your head uip high, Mr. Bisciotti, for standing up to these jackals!

  17. ESPN is tabloid journalism. It’s all for ratings, the people are seeing it even more clear than ever. ESPN needs an overhaul, I have a feeling it’s coming sooner than later.

  18. You throw out the whole thing. One bite of bad beef is enough to call into question whether the rest of the stew is safe. Stopped watching ESPN years ago. “Why” is simply nore evident now.

  19. Oh fire that “reporter” and the lead “journalist” for making a glaring mistake and twisting words to feed an agenda. I’m no Ravens fan, I just want fair reporting.

  20. “Hey, it’s not our fault if the reader doesn’t know the AP style book.”

    The stink from this story is like the pink stuff in Cat in the Hat, it’s going to wind up covering anyone that gets near it

  21. Unbelievable. ESPN should be embarassed. These text messages and the ridiculous implication that Bisciotti was trying to bribe Rice, were one of the biggest components of that story. In the end, the story is a non-story and the authors are proven to be hacks that relied on clearly biased sources that did not have first hand knowledge of what they were talking about.

  22. ESPN is taking a turn from TMZ…extorting anything they seem to report…Too bad today’s media can’t report without putting it’s own spin on everything. Heck, ESPN is no better than Fox…at least Fox admits it’s political slant…

    Shame on you ESPN…..YOU should be indefinitely suspended…

  23. I have some good advise for everyone on this Ray Rice situation – LET IT GO AND STOP WRITING OR SPEAKING PUBLICLY ABOUT IT.

  24. I don’t know why ESPN isn’t being called out for all its mistakes in the Ravens story. Maybe other news companies are covering up for their mistakes too, and sweeping their shoddy, untruthful journalism under the carpet. At the very least they should issue an apology for all of the errors.

  25. Thumbs up if you think espn and its defenders would have ripped a new one for any team that trotted out the “it wasn’t exactly correct, and there might have been some confusion, but it was the really consistent” defense for a statement that manipulated actual quotes without indicting they were manipulated, or for a team that silently deleted a false statement (like Shipley seeing texts while he was in Rice’s home when he was actually playing game for the Colts), and hiding the fact they were completely wrong.

  26. Is this any surprise? ESPN is a partner of the NFL. ESPN is not a business partner of the Baltimore Ravens.

  27. $4.4m salary this year and you walk out?

    Any other job in America, you take off during your shift and then dont show up the next day, you’re canned.

    This kid was in high school six years ago. Looks like it didn’t take him long to forget how good he has it these days.

    lol @ ESPN = “journalism”.

    It’s the Entertainment and Sports Programing Network. What did we expect – the AP?

    ESPN feigns journalistic standards and integrity (if that even exists anymore). We can only blame ourselves for expecting an entertainment network to deliver quality reporting.

    I expect ESPN to show sporting events. Anything else coming out of Bristol is dubious.

  28. ESPN is just doing what other networks do in their news shows, selectively editing the truth to play on emotions and create/manipulate a story. Zimmerman police calls anyone?

  29. And this surprises people how? ESPN and “sports” media is like any other “main steam” media in that they make up or bend the facts to support the conclusions they want their readers/viewers to reach! Never, NEVER believe 100% of what you see or read people! Gather information from multiple sources, read between the lines then form you own opinions!

  30. How can the President of ESPN let this happen?

    Someone at ESPN just hurt the Ravens organization and its owner. And it happened under their watch. Fire them now!

    Ray Rice was rightfully let go.

    However, let’s look at all the failings since. The NJ SA, Goodell, Bisciotti, Newsome, Harbaugh, whoever received the video at NFL headquarters, ESPN, etc…

    You know what would be nice?

    Punish the person for the act. Try to do better and move on. This calling for the head of everyone white all this other crap happen is ridiculous…

  31. The really huge problem here is how MORAL and “shame on you” these journalists appeared to be…Monday night crew needed to have eliminated Ray Lewis for this story because it’s too easy to relate these two stories along with the way the ravens handled it. Also, the way so many people were willing to vouch for the credibility of these reporters makes this even more of a mess!

  32. The ESPN story was obviously spoonfed to them by the ‘committee to reelect ray rice’ aka the team trying to get him reinstated and it’s a shame the Mouse doesn’t have better control over it’s subsidiary and make them check their facts.
    Other than that, I have 1 thing to say to the media: ‘Let my people go’ and let them play football instead of be part of this soap opera/witch hunt.

  33. The problem with the media today it’s that they slant a story to elicit the FEELING they want the reader to feel. Therefore truth and facts must be manipulated. What happened to reporting facts and allowing readers and viewers to make up their own mind. The media and the league are all knee jerk reacters who’s stance resemble the direction of the wind.

  34. That is some serious faulty disinformation and ESPN should face repercussions for it. ESPN seems to be doing this kind of thing more and more.

    All media these days are slanted towards persuasion of the people writing it instead of the facts verbatim.

  35. ESPN has lost credibility with me. They should apologize to the RAVENS for the intentional misrepresentation(s) they made. It is difficult enough to walk the line and handle this issue in a fair manner. When ESPN (who was considered a reliable source till now) makes it WORSE, and smears the team and the Owner like that (NATION WIDE), it is very difficult to get the deserved credibility back!!

    I wouldn’t blame the team if they suspended interviews with ESPN for a year. I think the NFL should ban them as well – if they intentionally get it wrong – who needs them!!

    ESPN should resign or be fired!!

  36. So let’s review some “facts”. ESPN has doctored Text messages and used a string of “anonymous” sources that the Ravens say are exclusively from Ray’s camp and have an obvious agenda to get him reinstated. Neither Ray Rice nor ESPN have come out and denied this. The Author of the ESPN hatchet piece, Kevin Van Valkenburg, used to be a Baltimore Sun reporter and was a friend of Ray Rice. You don’t see ESPN advertising that little fact.

    On top of this one of Rice’s arguments for his reinstatement is that the TMZ video was edited to make him look like the sole aggressor. If that is true, and I doubt he would leak it if it wasn’t, then TMZ should be sued for millions by Ray Rice, the NFL, and the Baltimore Ravens.
    I am hoping that the Ravens already have filed the paperwork to sue ESPN for this agenda driven fraud of a story by OTL.

  37. ESPN – once the pillar of responsible sports journalism. Now…the place that gives us Smith and Bayless.

  38. Can ESPN be fired?

    From a journalistic credibility perspective…that is the equivalent of knocking out a women in an elevator. They lied for sensationalism purposes. I wouldn’t believe anything ESPN says.

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