A quiet Saturday morning in NFL was turned upside down by the news that Dwayne Haskins had died in a traffic accident in South Florida. The story grew various branches, including reactions to the passing of Dwayne Haskins and reactions to those reactions.
We decided to avoid the collateral stories on Saturday and Sunday. In part because I wasn’t sure what needed to be said, if anything. In part because I wanted the focus to remain on Dwayne Haskins and the tragic and permanent loss experienced by his family, friends, teammates, and coaches.
The strongest reactions, by far, arose from the initial tweet posted by ESPN’s Adam Schefter on his Twitter feed, which currently has 9.4 million followers, and from comments made on SiriusXM NFL Radio by Hall of Fame scout and executive Gil Brandt. Peter King thoroughly and appropriately addressed Brandt’s comments in the latest edition of Football Morning in America. Brandt, now 90 years old, sounded every day of it during the interview. He said things so clearly wrong that no reasonable person would assume he occupied during that interview a state of sound mind. An apology was issued, via the official Twitter account maintained (with a somewhat troubling degree of autonomy and discretion) by someone else.
At least Brandt apologized. Schefter didn’t, at least not through a Twitter profile that arguably has become the biggest asset in his $9 million per year (with gambling and podcast rights amazingly retained) arsenal.
This isn’t about dragging Schefter for what he tweeted. We all step in shit from time to time. The process of cleaning the shoe can in many respects be far more revealing.
On Saturday, Schefter initially tweeted this: “Dwayne Haskins, a standout at Ohio State before struggling to catch on with Washington and Pittsburgh in the NFL, died this morning when he got hit by a car in South Florida, per his agent Cedric Saunders. Haskins would have turned 25 years old on May 3.” A torrent of current and former NFL players reacted angrily to the perceived insensitivity of leading a 280-character mention with the notion that Haskins struggled in the NFL.
Schefter deleted the tweet. He replaced it with this: “Dwayne Haskins, a standout at Ohio State before becoming Washington’s first-round pick and playing in Pittsburgh, died this morning when he got hit by a car in South Florida, per his agent Cedric Saunders. Haskins would have turned 25 years old on May 3.” To his credit, Schefter didn’t double down or push back. He simply erased the first tweet (which has hardly been erased from social media or the Internet), and he replaced it with what he should have tweeted in the first place.
Here’s where it becomes less of a lesson in the perils of life at the speed of 280 characters and more of a study in how these mistakes should be rectified. Speaking from the perspective of someone who has made his fair share of mistakes over the years, I can say this: Schefter has endured a career’s worth of them in recent months, but he rarely if ever uses his primary asset — that 9.4 million follower twitter hose — to apologize.
When Schefter found himself embarrassed by the revelation that he once sent the entire story to former Washington executive Bruce Allen for review and comment, Schefter didn’t address it on his own Twitter profile. He instead issued a statement through an ESPN PR Twitter feed with a small fraction of the followers that Schefter has amassed. He did not, and would not, sully his golden goose by mentioning the incident on his Twitter page.
Ditto for the Dalvin Cook fiasco. Schefter posted a cartoonishly ghoulish tweet that operated as an obvious preemptive strike by Cook’s lawyer when Cook faced domestic violence allegations. Schefter later said this on SportsCenter: “In a case like this, it’s important to reach out to all sides for information and comment. When I got the information the other night, I didn’t do that. And I could have done a better job reaching out to the other people, especially on a story as sensitive and as significant as this. Didn’t do that properly, and it’s a reminder to slow down in this world.”
When he tweeted the clip, however, he simply introduced it as the “latest on dual allegations involving Dalvin Cook and his girlfriend.”
More recently, Schefter posted a tweet following the decision by a Houston grand jury to not indict Deshaun Watson on any of nine criminal complaints: “This is why Deshaun Watson, from the beginning, welcomed a police investigation: He felt he knew that the truth would come out. And today, a grand jury did not charge him on any of the criminal complaints.” After being loudly criticized for conflating the decision of a grand jury to not indict Watson as conclusive proof of legal and factual innocence, Schefter acknowledged that his tweet was “poorly worded,” and that he “intended to provide insight into the strategy of Watson’s legal team from its POV.”
In the current situation, the deleted tweet has been followed by nothing. Unlike the Brandt situation, no apology has appeared on Schefter’s Twitter profile.
But he has apologized, in other contexts. ESPN colleague Ryan Clark was upset with Schefter’s initial tweet. Clark has said that Schefter reached out to Clark and “apologized multiple times.” Clark’s tweet was not retweeted by Schefter, however, and Schefter as of this posting has not placed an apology on his Twitter feed.
So why apologize to a colleague privately, but to no one publicly?
It remains to be seen whether — and in what context — a public apology will emerge. From what we can gather, he feels bad about the initial tweet. The question is whether he’ll risk applying any amount of tarnish to his cash cow by posting a clear and conspicuous apology on the one platform through which he communicates with the most people. Throughout a year of periodic rake-stepping, Schefter has tiptoed through the tulips of his Twitter feed. If he’s truly sorry for his original tweet regarding the demise of Dwayne Haskins, that’s the right place to say so.