Divided press room: Taking side of beat reporters in dispute about ESPN story on RGIII

As if there wasn’t enough negative vibes around the Washington football team. The latest is a report by ESPN’s Britt McHenry alleging that Robert Griffin III has alienated the majority of his teammates.

McHenry cited an incident in which players reportedly disrespected Griffin during a press conference last week. From ESPN.com:

A source familiar with the incident told ESPN’s Britt McHenry that Griffin has “alienated himself” from the locker room.

Griffin gave his account of Friday’s incident and challenged the veracity of the subsequent report, saying: “We could hold a panel of guys that were in there that got the media out of the locker room. I know exactly what happened. We were laughing and they were creating the joke. It escalated quickly, and I think the Washington media and the people that are here will understand at the end of the day it is our locker room. Both sides need to respect each other. You guys have a job to do and we have a job to do, and it won’t happen again, but it had nothing to do with them worrying about me starting or not wanting to start. … It is completely false, the reasoning behind that report, but I try not to dive into what you guys have to do.”

Gruden addressed McHenry’s report by saying, “I saw that. It was an amateurish report. Totally not true. For anybody who reads that, to believe that, they’re an amateur. Anybody who reports that is an amateur. It’s totally false. Just something else you have to deal with up here at a press conference, that Robert has to deal with, that the players have to deal with, that they’re going to write about and ask about. But we are in [Washington] D.C., it is Robert Griffin, they’re going to try and tear him down and tear us down, for whatever reason. But we’re going to stay united as a locker room and that’s that. We’re not going to let anybody get to us. That’s some small-time reporter reporting fiction.”

In an email interview with Richard Deitsch of SI.com, McHenry defended her story:

“I’m confident enough in my reporting to do it all over again,” McHenry said. “I spoke with multiple sources within the organization and even talked to players around the league who are familiar with the divisive relationships between Robert Griffin III and a few of his teammates. At ESPN, we don’t just go on the air without properly vetting our material. Multiple producers and editors at the network, from the one I worked with in Minnesota to our Countdown and SportsCenter producers and news editors in Bristol, were made aware of the report.”

However, Washington beat reporters said the report wasn’t accurate. Deitsch had this rebuttal from the Washington Post’s Jason Reid:

“I don’t take any pleasure in this,” Reid said. “Again, I like Britt. But she’s not out there every day. Screw any competition. If she would have come and asked me, I would have walked her through the whole thing because it doesn’t benefit anyone to have something this potentially explosive out there and be inaccurate.”

There’s much more from both sides. Click on the links.

As for who to believe, well, I guess I am biased. After covering the White Sox and Bears beats in Chicago, I am going to side with the beat writers who are there every day. Again, I stress the every day aspect of simply being there. It enables reporters to better interpret the vibes of the locker room.

The Washington team isn’t covered by a bunch of soft amateurs.  This is the big leagues. If they say McHenry was wrong in her assessment of what happened, then I am inclined to go with their version.


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