NFL executives immediately recognized that Cris Carter had stepped in it when he urged players at the 2014 rookie symposium to have a “fall guy” take the blame for legal trouble. So the league requested that the only reporter present keep Carter’s comments out of his story.
That reporter, Robert Klemko of TheMMQB.com, got what he describes as “near-unfettered access to the rookie orientation event.” But in return for that access, he agreed to allow the league to make some elements of the symposium off the record, retroactively.
That’s unusual in journalism. Usually, when a source and a reporter agree to go off the record, they make that agreement in advance, and a source can’t make a statement off the record after the fact. But Klemko explained today that he felt it was a concession worth making.
“I only agree to these omissions when the subject matter is immaterial to what I gather is the larger point of the story, which, in the case of the symposium, I believed Carter’s comment was,” Klemko wrote today.
Klemko says Kim Fields, who serves in player engagement as the league’s vice president of strategic development and operations, immediately bristled at the Carter “fall guy” comments.
“Fields looked my way and said, ‘that can’t go in the story,'” Klemko wrote. “I was torn. I take pride in reporting every detail, even at the risk of damaging relationships.”
But ultimately, Klemko agreed to the NFL’s request.
“I loved the Carter quote for how outlandish and idiotic it was, but I didn’t see it as emblematic of the symposium,” Klemko wrote. “Maybe it was a mistake not to run it, but I had made an agreement which boiled down to this: Tell 95% of an untold story, or none of it. I chose 95% because I wanted to take readers someplace they’d never been, and I wanted to continue getting access to these sorts of events.”
Today, Klemko decided to tell the rest of the story, whether the NFL likes it or not.
It’s bizarre that the NFL was so adamant that Klemko couldn’t include Carter’s comments in his story, and then NFL.com ended up publishing the video of Carter’s presentation. But it shows that sometimes in the NFL, the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing. As one league employee was trying to keep Carter’s comments from becoming public, another league employee was putting Carter’s comments on NFL.com.