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Chris Richardson
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Chris Richardson

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ESPN in Bed With NFL


Do you hear that sound? It's the sound of silence. More to the point, it's sound of ESPN -- you know, the Worldwide Leader in Sports -- and their astonishing lack of coverage of the Ben Roethlisberger situation.

Sure, on Big Ben's ESPN player card, there's a Topix link to an article discussing the story in question, but that's about all you see. When you consider the source, coupled with the growing veracity of the Roethlisberger story, the description changes from "astonishing" to "appalling." Keep in mind, this is the same company that essentially dictates talking points, opinions, as well as the tone these topics are discussed with. If you doubt that, reflect back to the summer of Terrell Owens. Or last summer, otherwise known as the summer of Brett Favre.

ESPN spearheaded the never-ending, well, blabber that surrounded these two. Remember T.O. doing sit-ups in his driveway? How many times did you see that on SportsCenter? As for Favre, God only knows how much minutiae we were exposed to during his transition from Green Bay Packer to retiree to New York Jet. I'm willing to bet it was borderline toxic amounts.

With that in mind, ESPN's lack of Roethlisberger coverage stinks of an "ignore it and it will go away" attitude, while coming across as very self-serving. From the looks of it, ESPN is trying to protect their relationship with the NFL, as well as Roethlisomething's (way to go, Cowhah) reputation. In case you forgot, he is the reigning Super Bowl-winning quarterback. If they gave the appearance of jumping the gun on reporting the story, it could upset Roger Goodell and company. Considering the way ESPN has hitched their wagon to the NFL and Monday Night Football, as well as their utter silence thus far, these conclusions are no longer jumping points.

Mind you, this isn't about whether Roethlisberger is guilty or not. That's another story for another day. It's about ESPN and their responsibility as a self-proclaimed leader of the sports industry, and their blind-eye concerning a very legitimate sports story, something the AP, CBS Sports, Fox Sports and the WaPo, et al, did not to do.

Newsflash, ESPN: If you want to be the leader in sports, you can't ignore stories just because you don't like their mood. I'm sorry if the Roethlisberger situation is considered "bad news." It doesn't release you from your responsibility as an unbiased (yeah, right) news source.

Oh, and can we please save the excuses? Saying you don't report on civil suits without criminal charges is a ton of horse manure. Don't believe me? Ask Tony Zendejas.

On a personal note, there's one thing covering this story has provided me -- the ability to spell "Roethlisberger" without error. Before today, I wasn't exactly sure if his last name had an "e" in it or not. Now there's absolutely no question in mind. Thanks, Ben.

By Chris Richardson  |  July 22, 2009; 10:02 AM ET  | Category:  Crime , Pittsburgh Steelers Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

ESPN isn't in bed with the NFL. ESPN is in bed with white people. Big Ben is white. White people sometimes get treated more graciously by the media in this country.

That, unlike rape charges, isn't exactly news.

Posted by: AndCounting | July 22, 2009 1:59 PM

Because they were so forgiving to Matt Jones and his cocaine incident.

Posted by: IFChris | July 22, 2009 2:35 PM

If that was Donavan Mcnabb or one of the other handful of Black QB's there would be grill marks on his a$$ from the coverage thats a fact.

Posted by: cooperbj411 | July 23, 2009 1:33 AM

omg, i watch JRIB and PTI like every day and I've heard nothing of this!

Posted by: hokiematt10 | July 23, 2009 7:57 AM

Personally, I don't think ESPN is the forum for these types of stories. Since there doesn't appear to be a criminal case, it is a civil case, and whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? The only thing interesting to me about this story is the fact that there is no criminal a woman, I would want the police involved if I were assaulted. I'm just saying....I watch ESPN to watch sports. How much of the antics of these guys should fall into a news category I guess depends on the people who think it is......I find there to be more important things happening in the world.

Posted by: SYWanda | July 23, 2009 8:37 AM

"Now, I ain't sayin' she's a gold digger,

But she ain't after no broke quarterbacks!"

Posted by: bs2004 | July 23, 2009 9:01 AM

Dear Chris

As opposed to "being in bed with the NFL" consider these 2 words as an alternative reason why ESPN may not be going with 24/7 coverage of the allegations against Roethlisberger - Duke lacrosse

Posted by: Duke76 | July 23, 2009 9:20 AM

As President Obama opinied during his news conference last night (7/22)race still matters in the United States. I remember a lot of coverage of black athletes for less serious crimes being covered over and over.

The coverage was endless on Kobe's "alleged" sexual assualt - yet nothing on Ben. Let's see what's the difference - Oh my the only difference is --- surprise color.

Posted by: rlj1 | July 23, 2009 9:22 AM

Racism may be dead but sexism is still alive and thriving.

Posted by: kellyanna7 | July 23, 2009 10:22 AM

Wow, lots of comments to get to. I'll do this in one big response post.


Rome covered it on his radio show extensively.


How so? No one attacked Ben's accuser.


Good point. I doubt they want to make the same mistake again.


As a self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader in sports (and sports news), you can't pick and choose these stories. I makes you look complicit -- at least where your NFL interests are concerned.


ESPN didn't say anything when those pics of McNabb sitting by the poolside with pornstars leaked.


The difference is, Kobe was questioned by police -- meaning his case was a criminal investigation, not a civil one. Further, Kobe was actually in court defending himself while trying to play basketball. If Ben goes to trial, you can bet Rachel Nichols will be right there with Roger Cossack.

Posted by: IFChris | July 23, 2009 12:25 PM


Did you forget the Mark Chmura incident? A white guy who was actually charged with a sexual offense? Of course not. You don't remember when white guys are charged, only black folks. This is called selective memory. So your rights to comment in this space are hereby revoked.

Posted by: chopin224 | July 23, 2009 12:25 PM

Hello Chris;

I think you are wrong. ESPN is not in bed with the NFL. For once they are showing maturity and I wish all other networks would do the same.

Here is the thing, this allegation is about something that is supposed to have happened nearly a year ago. This woman now comes forward and brings a suit against Ben. We don't know the "Facts". ESPN does not know the facts either. What useful purposed would be served by having talking heads conjecture as to what might have happened and what the consequences might be.

I believe that it is better to wait until after a trial when the facts become know and then exhonorate or crucify Ben as warranted. To provide analyses without a factual basis is a disservice to all concerned.

Chris, how would you feel if you are a loved one were to be accused of an offence and it is discussed all over the media, including blogs and other Internet sources before you have had your day in court? I am sure that you would not like that one bit.

Then for goodness sake, show Ben the same courtesy as you would want for relatives or friends.

Posted by: lwisaac | July 23, 2009 12:42 PM


If I was accused of something like that, innocent or not, it would make the news. Not because I'm known or popular -- far from it -- but because they report what's out there. Even if it's in the police blotter section, it would still get some kind of coverage.

Hell, it might even make the local news.

I cannot control that portion of the news cycle. Nor would I want to, really. The freedom of the press, whether they are right or wrong, is something I'm a firm believer in.

Please tell why Ben should be allowed courtesies other athletes do NOT get? It has nothing to do with ESPN showing restraint.

Posted by: IFChris | July 23, 2009 12:51 PM


And you are massively guilty of "selective reading." I never said crimes committed by white men aren't reported. I said that sometimes white people get treated more graciously by the media.

I really don't understand this idea that civil cases aren't news. Ben's being accused of sexual assault. Civil charge or criminal charge, that's news. Doesn't mean he's a rapist. Doesn't mean he's scum. But it's a story.

The fact is, he's been charged, and the impact of the civil case against him could affect his ability to play for the Steelers, just like his motorcycle accident did.

Sorry, but if you don't think race affects the way stories get covered, you're not really paying attention.

Posted by: AndCounting | July 23, 2009 1:04 PM


I agree race affects the way stories are reported in the media, to the detriment of all. But I think the larger reason these stories get reported is that all of these guys are celebrities. I have never liked the double standards applied to black folks. I am a 61 year old white guy who marched in the 60's to protest racism and the war. But what Ben is being subjected to and the cases of others are separate issues. For example, the media jumped right on the case of Mr. Gates of Harvard as they should have because it is another example of the rampant racism in the Boston area. In this case, the comments from less than open minded white folks decried that fact that every allegation of racism towards a well known black person is made a big deal of in the media. So clearly the media can not win no matter what it does in these situations. Where the media really dropped the ball is their failure to question the Bush admin about going to war as the media did in the 60's. The were given free ride. That's when I would have appreciated a media jumps on everything.

Posted by: chopin224 | July 23, 2009 1:31 PM

Read the link... Sounds just like Kobe Bryant's situation... without all of the cameras!!

Posted by: forgetthis | July 23, 2009 3:58 PM

It's a lawsuit, not a criminal complaint.

She's likely going to lose because she didn't file a police report. Not much news here.

Posted by: bug45 | July 23, 2009 4:23 PM

ESPN is simply not a credible news source. It is just an entertainment outlet. I don't think anyone thinks of them as independent, nor do they employ journalists or have any responsibility to report sports news (huh?) in an unbiased way. They have simply chosen a news model because it is entertaining and useful for marketing, selling ads, and all the other things this Disney profit-engine was born to do.

Posted by: codfish_27 | July 23, 2009 5:18 PM

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