Deadspin’s assault on ESPN

Like a lot of you, I’ve been watching the Steve Phillips business from afar. Between the almost complete lack of any real baseball angle whatsoever, and the fact that, unlike a lot of scandalous stories, this one has an innocent wife and children being dragged through it all, I really don’t see the percentage in writing about it. I’ll gawk like the rest of you, but it doesn’t exactly scream out for coverage.

Of greater interest to me is one of the things that has spun out of the Phillips story, and that’s Deadspin’s crazy-even-for-Deadspin assault on ESPN yesterday. If you missed it, Deadspin editor A.J. Daulerio, apparently pissed that he missed out on the Steve Phillips scoop due to ESPN stonewalling him when he sought comment on the affair last month, decided to let loose with multiple rumors he’s been sitting on regarding the sexploits of ESPN employees. He reported on a sexual harassment complaint against radio guy Eric Kuselias, as well as his divorce. He went after Katie Lacey, ESPN’s Executive Vice President for marketing, accusing her of sleeping her way to the top. In his last post he went on about the overall culture of ESPN, about how everyone there allegedly has sex with everyone else and how, somehow, the town of Bristol, Connecticut is to blame. These descriptions do not do it justice. He really pulled no punches.

I read these with my mouth agape, not because of the allegations contained in them, but because of Daulerio’s decision to actually write about them, and Nick Denton’s presumed approval of them to begin with. Yes, the Gawker empire is well known for trafficking in scandal, but this seems above and beyond their usual brand of muck. As AOL’s Clay Travis — lawyer, and, it just so happens, former Deadspin assistant editor — notes, this may not amount to a meritorious defamation suit by ESPN, but it’s certainly closer to the line than Deadspin normally treads. I actually think ESPN would ultimately lose any lawsuit here simply because defamation is so hard to win, but I could see Disney and ESPN making the decision that, after all of the hell Deadspin has caused them, this is a decent enough place to draw the line, file the suit, and cause Nick Denton to have to pay a bunch of money in legal fees. Whether any suit is brought would likely hinge on the cooperation of either Kuselias or Lacey, whose lives would become open books in such a suit, but if one of them were pissed off enough and/or close enough to retirement to say sure, go ahead, it would be game-on.

Maybe there are long odds against that happening, but are they so long that it was worth Daulerio taking such a risk? Moreover, is this really where the original promise of Deadspin and the sports blogosphere in general was meant to lead us? I’m not Buzz Bissinger when it comes to these matters, but as I sit here today and reflect on all of this, I am far from inspired.


Print This Post
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Dan Novick
Guest
Dan Novick

Gotta be honest here…. reading those posts was incredibly entertaining.

rob
Guest
rob

craig—this is actually an interesting discussion given your asking for feedback about whether you should have posted/ blogged about the mo rivera spitball.  in now way as egregious as deadspin’s assult on the wwl, the mo video was more gossip and less substance.  and you my friend should be all about the substance (and you usually are).

Craig Calcaterra
Guest
Craig Calcaterra

Rob—I guess I would say that at least the Rivera thing involved something on a baseball field and dealt with a baseball personality, with baseball being my bailiwick. The sports media in general and ESPN in particular is part of Deadspin’s bailiwick, but are the sex lives of unknown backroom people and production assistants fair game in all of that?

I guess I would liken this to me writing about the extramarital affairs of the ticket takers from Kaufmann Stadium or something.  Seems rather far afield.

ChrisKoz
Guest
ChrisKoz

Craig- I gotta say, the lawsuit angle is not attractive at all for ESPN. The discovery session would be nothing short of apocalyptic for them. Even if they were to win the defamation count, the PR nightmare that they would face would be incredible.

You think people want MLB’s steroid list? Wait until the bloggers get a whiff of Chris Berman’s “Special Hugs” list.

Vin
Guest
Vin
Rob: The two are not analogous. While I do think Craig was perhaps a bit too quick to jump to conclusions on the Mo spitball thing (due to a, in my view understandable and amusing, proclivity towards irritating Yankees and Red Sox fans) that was entirely different because: A) It was related to baseball, and not Mo’s personal life. B) While Craig may have been a tad too eager to imply guilt and break out the snark he was, in the main, simply asking a question. And the question was legitimate. This stuff is totally beyond the pale. I haven’t… Read more »
Wooden U. Lykteneau
Guest
Wooden U. Lykteneau
This is what’s always been so freakin’ amusing about the so-called Deadspin-Blogger relationship. Simply put, no website that has national advertising and corporate funding can possibly be called a blog. **IT’S A WEBSITE** Buzzy Bissinger, et al have never quite comprehended that Deadspin, et al are the Internet equivalent of the Weekly World News. Or the National Enquirer. Or Fox News, Or the N.Y. Post—they all make money, but none of them practice Journalism. ESPN—as much as I detest it because it’s about style 1st and substance 41st—is right to ignore these charges and let them die their quick little… Read more »
Jeff
Guest
Jeff
I couldn’t disagree more with Dan or Rob.  I’ve never spent much time over at Deadspin, don’t have the time, but when I went over there to read the dreck I was blown away.  Alot of the corporate culture stuff is pretty much common knowledge in CT, but the assigning of names and the extremely angry tone of the entire pieces were not something I seek out on the Internet.  Definitely have no desire to head over to Deadspin in the future! As for Craig’s take on the Rivera thing, I had no issues in the way you handled it. … Read more »
Craig Calcaterra
Guest
Craig Calcaterra
ChrisKoz—I agree with you that ESPN likely doesn’t want any part of that. But if one of the individually named people wanted to sue—say,  Lacey, who was accused of sleeping her way to her current position—she could sue and ESPN’s larger corporate culture wouldn’t be implicated. Granted, she may very well not WANT to sue because her personal life would become an open book, but that’s merely an assumption on our part. The larger issue here is that when I sit down to write something, I do my best not to think of whether I can get away with it… Read more »
G2
Guest
G2

“Deadspin editor A.J. Daulerio, apparently pissed that he missed out on the Steve Phillips scoop due to ESPN stonewalling him when he sought comment on the affair last month”

Really?  What was he expecting?  Isn’t his job as a “reporter” to ask someone other than the ESPN PR department?  Did he want ESPN to send him pictures?  That’s like Cole Hamels being mad at the Dodgers for homering off him.

Michael
Guest
Michael
Is it possible to want to see both fighters kill each other in a match? Because that’s what I want to happen between ESPN and Deadspin. Deadspin was last seen trying to make anybody in the world care about Josh Hamilton supposedly falling off the wagon (result: FAIL). I think they hate ESPN for not picking up THAT story as much as they hate them for any Phillips stonewalling. Deadspin is awesome when they’re simply making snarky comments and finding amusing photos. Trying to be the Gawker of baseball, they’re hideously awful at. If ESPN was any better at being… Read more »
Grant
Guest
Grant
Leitch was no choirboy, of course, but Deadspin has seemed a lot more mean-spirited and a lot less interesting since he left. Also, there’s really nobody left over there who actually seems to like baseball, which is annoying. I still subscribe to their RSS feed, but I mostly skim. I like to read BDD’s stuff, because I’ve always had a soft-spot for foul-mouthed humor. And he and the rest of KSK are doing mean-spirited satire, but it’s obviously satire and not really out to be malicious. Daulerio just seems to be out to hurt people. It seemed the same way… Read more »
Aaron Moreno
Guest
Aaron Moreno

With this much bile spewed forth by Deadspin so quickly, I would imagine ESPN’s best option is to ignore it and quietly bury the problem with transfers and sexual harassment seminars, while Deadspin turns off all but the crankiest readers.

Wells
Guest
Wells

Has Deadspin ever been anything but a lower grade US Weekly for sport-interested guys?

TC
Guest
TC
I will say that, like Grant, Deadspin lost much of its luster when Leitch left.  Daulerio, much as I have hometown-pride reasons to want to like him, has always seemed more interested in handgrenades than writing.  Leitch was occasionally able to invoke his own genuine fandom for a piece, coming off earnest and passionate, rather than shallow and wicked.  I’m not sure whether what Daulerio does there is wrong: I don’t have much interest in judging his work nor anyone else’s as “right” or “wrong”.  I just don’t find it interesting.  Deadspin updates, what, at least a dozen times a… Read more »
Grant
Guest
Grant
TC – I’m with you on ESPN. I only watch live sports on the channel now, and even then I often find myself muting the TV. Meanwhile, on the dot com side I tend to read Simmons (he’s more good than bad during football season), Neyer, Law, and fantasy football stuff if I get bored and run out of other ways to slack off at work. Four years ago ESPN and Deadspin were all I knew. Now I’ve got a Google Reader full of better stuff to do, so I don’t sweat it too much. I’ve outgrown both of them,… Read more »
tbliggins
Guest
tbliggins

TC – do you truly not see a difference between writing about the personal lives of Matt Leinart and Katie Lacey?  One is a heisman winning QB that is just as famous for his night life and the other is… I have no idea.  I guess this could devolve into a discussion about the right to talk about anyone’s personal lives, but at least there is a part of Leinart’s life that is in the spotlight – his job.

Jack Marshall
Guest
Jack Marshall

The fact that an organization’s management is manipulated by sexual misconduct could be newsworthy (Wooden to the contrary, legitimate, professional organizations don’t tolerate this crap,) but Deadspin’s attack is obviously aimed at hurting people for the hell of it, which is plain despicable.

John Willumsen
Guest
John Willumsen
Huh. Weird to find myself on the other side of an issue over here. I have to admit, first off, I am not a regular reader of Deadspin and really, personally, can’t stand the hyper-aggressive tone of the writers and regular commenters. Let me add that I found the style of the Kuselias and Lacey posts to be off-putting and frankly a bit bizarre for what is (nominally at least) a sports site. Not sure why Daulerio would feel the desire, let alone need, to publish those posts. But the final piece, about the overall work environment at ESPN, I… Read more »
Mitch Brannon
Guest
Mitch Brannon

Deadspin is a parody of itself. As another poster pointed out, there used to be real passion there. But now it’s just mean-spirited posts followed by the commenters engaging in a furious race to out one-liner each other, completely devoid of any insight or substance. I used to read it for the comments, now I can’t stand it due to the comments.

dtoddwin
Guest
dtoddwin
I’m with John above.  The reason ESPN will have no interest in bringing the suit is that, most likely, what A.J. wrote is true.  Certainly in Phillips case, most likely in Kasulias’ case and certainly if you drag Berman into it.  Maybe Lacey’s is pure conjecture, but last I checked you aren’t likely to win a defamation suit when what the other side is writing about you is true. We can debate for a long time whether it is journalism or even newsworthy, but suggesting that ESPN has a leg to stand on here seems a bit farfetched.  And I… Read more »
Craig Calcaterra
Guest
Craig Calcaterra
I admitted in the post that I don’t think ESPN has a winnable case. But lots of people file unwinnable cases for reasons other than winning, and that’s something I can’t imagine wouldn’t have crossed Daulerio and Denton’s mind. But that’s kind of beside the point. I’ll grant that ESPN both (a) can’t win; and (b) won’t sue. As for the harm, for selfish reasons I’m ticked at this because I think it harms the blogosphere. How hard have so many bloggers worked to get out of that box the Buzz Bissingers and Bob Costaes of the world have tried… Read more »
John Willumsen
Guest
John Willumsen
“He’s out to score points and to try to embarrass people with this. He has no intent to enlighten.  To the extent he claims a more noble purpose, it’s the equivalent to someone showing you a video of graphic and violent car crashes and claiming that he’s trying to educate you about air bag safety.” Well I think that’s a fair point. I guess as a non-blogger my sense was that I was more pissed about the atmosphere at ESPN than by the self-serving, angry attitude of AJ’s piece. Which is not to say I totally approve of the pieces.… Read more »
Wooden U. Lykteneau
Guest
Wooden U. Lykteneau
Craig – If it’s any consolation, or perhaps by way of explanation, when I was a J-school teaching fellow, I would invariably run into students who confused “watchdog” with “attack dog” and needed to be disabused of the notion that the mission of Journalism was to “get” somebody in the course of chasing down a story. I’m sure there’s an equivalent in law school, because I think archetypes like them are drawn to avenues where they can either preach or satisfy their urge to make a name for themselves at the expense of others.  I don’t think it’s that hard… Read more »
Jack Marshall
Guest
Jack Marshall

No, Wooden, it’s just that I don’t labor under the common misconception that simply because something is popular or common, it must be good and right.

Jack Marshall
Guest
Jack Marshall

Gee, Wooden, I guess I didn’t understand that your blanket statement suggesting such “dalliances” are inevitable was irrelevant to the topic at hand. Because, you know, they aren’t inevitable if responsible professionals are working in a culture that doesn’t let the workplace turn into a dating bar. Sorry.

Wooden U. Lykteneau
Guest
Wooden U. Lykteneau

And YET AGAIN, Jack, I NEVER SAID IT WAS GOOD OR RIGHT. I would appreciate it if you stop implying that I did, and further, please spare us your specious sanctimony. Thank you.

Jack Marshall
Guest
Jack Marshall
As usual, Wooden, you fuzz the point. The question is, or should be, is the office culture of ESPN fair game for inquiry and criticism, particularly if it appears that decisions affecting quality of coverage may be influenced by sexual politics. If your answer isn’t “No, because everybody does it,” as I took it to be, then you need to be more clear. I’d say the answer is “yes,” but that Deadspin doesn’t seem to be motivated by integrity issues, but rather by the desire to cause gratuitous pain to ESPN, and willing to humiliate staffers to do it. Making… Read more »
tadthebad
Guest
tadthebad

“…Or Fox News, Or the N.Y. Post—they all make money, but none of them practice Journalism.”

Fortunately, we have outlets of the utmost journalistic integrity like the NY Times, Boston Globe and CNN!

DonCoburleone
Guest
DonCoburleone
Heres an idea – How about if you’re married DON’T #### OTHER PEOPLE!  Or god forbid a female actually WORKING her way to the top instead of sleeping her way there…  Craig the “there are wives and children involved in this” angle is chicken ####.  How come thats Deadspin’s fault?  Don’t you think it’s 100% Steve Phillips’ or Eric Kuselias’ fault for doing this to their wives/children?  They sure didn’t seem to care about them when they were boinking Cindy the 22 year old intern, so why the hell should Deadspin care?  He doesn’t know who they are.  I just… Read more »
Wooden U. Lykteneau
Guest
Wooden U. Lykteneau

I’d say the answer is “yes,” but that Deadspin doesn’t seem to be motivated by integrity issues, but rather by the desire to cause gratuitous pain to ESPN, and willing to humiliate staffers to do it.

I agree with you on this point, but you’re trying so hard not to see it. I was dismissing Daulerio and Deadspin for acting like this was something other than bottom-feeding sensationalism. Apparently the comparisons to Fox News & The N.Y. Post were too subtle for you (but not tadthebad, thanks) to make that connection.

dtoddwin
Guest
dtoddwin

Yep, Don, you got it.  Let’s stop questioning Deadspins integrity and worrying about whether they are humiliating staffers.  That is a bunch of crap.  IF,and the if qualifies my whole commentary, what they are “reporting” is true, than the integrity that should be questioned is of those involved and the humiliation has been brought upon by their own actions for which they are responsible, in my opinion.

Jack Marshall
Guest
Jack Marshall

That’s odd…I would have said tadthebad caught you in another mistake. Nobody practices journalism any more,and those who call the media outlets that are biased in their favored direction “journalists” are among the reasons the profession is without credibility. Fox and the NY Post are no more or less biased than the NY Times and CNN…no matter what the White House would like us to believe.

DonCoburleone
Guest
DonCoburleone
Sorry won’t curse again, but my main point remains: Why is the first response to these kinds of stories always “Won’t somebody please think of the wife and children!”  Why didn’t Steve “Pimpin’ aint easy” Phillips think of HIS wife and children?  I never understand how that is the fault of the person reporting it or why he should feel compassion for people he doesn’t even know.  The other thing that ALWAYS comes out of these stories is “Well they are co-workers, its only natural!” That is such a cop out it drives me nuts every time I hear it. … Read more »
Wooden U. Lykteneau
Guest
Wooden U. Lykteneau

Jack, what you know about Journalism could fill a small book—especially if all the matches had been used.

TC
Guest
TC

It seems like Jack is talking about fairness and Wooden is talking interest levels…

Jack- are there, in your view, any examples of unbiased journalism? Because I would argue that while both the NYT and Fox show bias, the type and degree of their biases is substantially different in a way that affects value .

Jack Marshall
Guest
Jack Marshall
All journalism is biased, and that’s OK if the bias is controlled and acknowledged, and there is a good faith effort to be objective. I would say the Times’ bias is worse than Fox’s, because the paper denies it. When the Times decided that the misconduct by ACORN employees wasn’t worth mentioning in the paper until after the Senate pulled its funding, that was proof positive (among other incidents) that the judgment of the premiere newspaper in the US couldn’t be trusted to be objective. Essentially, economic pressures have shown that journalistic ethics were a sham, because the media now… Read more »
Wooden U. Lykteneau
Guest
Wooden U. Lykteneau

Gee, Jack, I guess you’re simply ignorant of just how common workplace dating actually is.

Kevin S.
Guest
Kevin S.

I don’t think Deadspin’s attack is aimed at the individuals so much as it treats them like collateral damage in the war with ESPN, which is probably just as bad.

Emma
Guest
Emma
My real problem with what Deadspin did yesterday is that as the site has gotten bigger and bigger, their targets have gotten smaller. I enjoyed Deadspin going after ESPN in its early years – ESPN is a huge and fair target, a monopoly in many ways, and there was a very David-Goliath quality to those posts. Now, though, Deadspin is a big entity in its own right, and it’s going after the (non-criminal) personal lives of Bristol Marketing VPs. In other words, Deadspin has turned into Goliath in this scenario, and that makes yesterday’s posts very offputting and, to me,… Read more »
Jack Marshall
Guest
Jack Marshall

You’re right, Kevin, it is worse. The individuals are just cannon fodder for Deadspin, and that’s as wrong as it gets.

But please,Emma et al., can we stop calling workplace sex that affects organizational dynamics, relationships, effectiveness, reputation and management “personal”? If it happens in the workplace, during the work day or affects the workplace, it’s not personal, it’s professional, and is workplace misconduct.

Wooden U. Lykteneau
Guest
Wooden U. Lykteneau

(Wooden[sic] to the contrary, legitimate,
professional organizations don’t tolerate this crap,)[sic]

Never said they did, Jack. Read (and type) more carefully before mischaracterizing my post. Thanks.

TC
Guest
TC

tbliggins: As you alluded to, I don’t see the difference because I don’t understand why anything Leinart does on his own time is my business.  I don’t care for Lacey’s personal life, I don’t care for yours, I don’t care for Chase Utley’s.  Even if Utley does love puppies. 

To me, publicly attacking someone’s private indiscretions is a lousy thing to do, regardless of who that person is.  Deadspin has never shown any regard for personal privacy before, so, to me, it’s not shocking that they would continue to show that lack of respect.

tadthebad
Guest
tadthebad

I do happen to agree with Jack on the media bias issue…they all have their inherent bias, and it always comes through in their “reporting.”  Subtle bias is often worse, in my opinion, because it can be cloaked by a facade of objectivity.

Peter Earl
Guest
Peter Earl

The only person that receives a paycheck from ESPN that is worth a crap is Dan Le Batard.  As far as the rest of them…fry them.

Seriously, what obligation does Deadspin have to ESPN?  They should cover up the misogyny that apparently is so prevalent?

Jack Marshall
Guest
Jack Marshall

The AP is now giving Deadspin credit for shaming ESPN into dumping Phillips. That is certain to encourage the website, and it is unwarranted. ESPN has gotten rid of high-profile sexual harassment-types before (see: Harold Reynolds), and was almost certainly going to can Phillips when things quieted down. Deadspin made it clear that it wouldn’t let things quiet down. I wish ESPN had waited. This is like negotiating with terrorists.

wpDiscuz