Young: ESPN’s Adam Schefter, UM alum, sees ethics questioned after emailing NFL source for approval
The drip-drip of the hundreds of thousands of Washington Football Team emails into the public eye continued Tuesday night. Redacted parts of the Jon Gruden emails had apparently been sitting there in federal court for months, according to the Los Angeles Times.
And the latest ESPN personality to get infected by casually entering Bruce Allen’s inbox is University of Michigan alumnus Adam Schefter.
The ethically compromised NFL insider emailed an entire story before publication to Allen, then the team president in Washington.
“Please let me know if you see anything that should be added, changed, tweaked,” Schefter wrote to Allen, according to the LA Times. “Thanks, Mr. Editor, for that and the trust. Plan to file this to espn about 6 am ….”
Schefter and ESPN have insisted he did nothing wrong. “Without sharing all the specifics of the reporter’s process for a story from 10 years ago during the NFL lockout, we believe that nothing is more important to Adam and ESPN than providing fans the most accurate, fair and complete story,” ESPN said in a statement.
On Wednesday morning, Schefter did a radio hit in Philadelphia. “I’ve learned for a long time in this business not to discuss sources, or the process, or how stories are done,” he said on 97.5 The Fanatic. “But I would just say that it’s a common practice to run information past sources.”
Schefter backed off later Wednesday after a day of criticism. “In this case, I took the rare step of sending the full story in advance because of the complex nature of the collective bargaining talks,” he said in an ESPN statement. “It was a step too far and, looking back, I shouldn’t have done it. The criticism being levied is fair.” He also denied ever giving Allen or any other source “editorial control” or “final say” over a story.
It is absolutely a common and often beneficial practice to “run information past sources” before publishing a story. And while the obsequious tone of the email is off-putting, some of it is clearly joking, and the rest can be chalked up to source-building. But sending a full draft to a source before your employer, and framing it all as fair game? That is far beyond normal practice, and a revealing look at how NFL scoops are driven by front offices.
The emails were part of Washington Football Team owner Dan Snyder’s barrage of legal actions against a website in India. The website published two articles without evidence tying Snyder to wealthy pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. (The articles have since been deleted.) Snyder has gone after former WFT employees, claiming they were the sources for these and other stories about him.
The Schefter-Allen emails made it into this suit because of Snyder’s claim that Allen “has specific knowledge of the creation and distribution of the MEAWW articles,” according to the LA Times. Allen had defended himself by claiming (apparently falsely) that he had “never served as an anonymous source for any news or media reports.”
The Gruden and Schefter emails are still just a tiny portion of the 650,000 emails the NFL has from its investigation into sexual harassment in Washington. But the league has said that beyond the bigoted Gruden emails, no other emails are coming out, and no one else is being investigated.
Several organizations have called for the full publication of the emails and/or the NFL’s investigation into the WFT, which to date has only produced an oral report to the league and a $10 million fine for Snyder.
Lawyers representing dozens of former Washington employees said the league should publish the emails and create a written report on the team. “It is truly outrageous that after the NFL’s 10-month long investigation involving hundreds of witnesses and 650,000 documents related to the longtime culture of harassment and abuse at the Washington Football Team, the only person to be held accountable and lose their job is the coach of the Las Vegas Raiders,” Lisa Banks and Debra Katz said in a statement.
And the NFL players’ union – led by DeMaurice Smith, who was the subject of a racist Gruden email – says it plans on asking the league to release the rest of the emails.
The tiny bit of Bruce Allen’s inbox that we’ve seen is what the league and courts have deemed safe for the public to look at, like looking at an eclipse through special glasses. Get the enormous object out of the way, and the view of how NFL power circles truly operate would be blinding.