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Can A Sports Reporter be Bought?
By Richard Lee King   

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This is an article I recently wrote after watching The Sports Reporters on ESPN. I'm not pointing fingers at anyone, or making any accusations. I'm only saying that with the bazillions of dollars tossed around in the sports world, the possibility exists, that a sports reporter could be paid to express a certain opinion. More than possible, I think it's probable.


William C. Rhoden is a sports reporter. He is seen from time to time on the ESPN program THE SPORTS REPORTERS where his “credits” show him as a reporter of the New York Times. I don’t wish to cast a shadow on his integrity.  However, on a recent Sports Reporters program this guy came across as though he had been hired by the PR department of the Philadelphia Eagles, or possibly as the personal press agent for Michael Vick himself. I don’t believe I’ve ever witnessed such a showing of partiality toward any other athlete by any other sports reporter. I swear this seemed so slanted toward his preference for Vick that it caused me to think, for the very first time ever, that maybe these guys can be bought. Maybe Michael Vick’s people could somehow put a bug into a reporter that there could be something good for them down the road, if they could only help out a brother.  
I’m sorry if that comes out sounding prejudicial. That was purely unintentional….  I’m referring to an NFL brother…. I don’t think it would make a difference if Michael Vick were black or white.  Nor if William C Rhoden were black or white. Nor if they were Hispanic, or any other nationality.  I’m talking about any athlete who could go through something like what Vick has gone through, then come back and face all the adversity that he faced. To perform the way he performed and to accomplish what he has, at this point in his comeback, lets face it, there had to be one hell of an advisory group calling the shots as best they could….  Just to allow him that opportunity….  
It seems likely that any means of getting positive comments out there would most likely be considered “fair game.”  Isn’t it at least remotely possible that, given that scenario, some member of the advisory group might have, at least considered, approaching a member of the media to “spread some goodwill.”

So, as I said, I wasn’t trying to be prejudicial, what I was referring to with the comment about “helping out a brother” was an NFL BROTHER… Sports reporters owe their loyalties to the good of the sport, to some degree, just like the athletes do. Just like the owners do. If the NFL folds, so do a lot of sports related employment opportunities, as well as sports reporting opportunities. The NFL Rules! It’s relevant! It’s important! If only because it’s such a cash cow in so many ways totally unrelated to helmets, pads, footballs and white lines measuring out a patch of ground. And the constituency affected by that cash is as much white any other nationality.
Nor was I saying that Rhoden is on the take. It just seemed to me that he was overly supportive of Michael Vick. He brought him back into play even after they had moved on to another topic and when he brought him up a second time, it seemed to be in reference to a comment that didn’t even seem to lend its self to the point he was trying to make. To me, at that very moment, a sports reporter spoke so emphatically in favor of one particular athlete, that it made me question that possibility…. for the very first time… I don’t recall ever thinking there was even a remote possibility of such a thing, prior to that very moment. 
Think about it. Sports reporters aren’t licensed. They aren’t like Doctors who are sworn to a standard of performance by the Hippocratic Oath. THEY ARE SPORTS REPORTERS!!! Any goof ball who grows up loving sports can become a sports reporter. If he’s blessed with a sharp mind and an ability to talk, or write and he’s a sports fan, he can become a sports reporter. (and there’s an abundance of evidence that those requirements are often waived)  It’s a very attractive way to earn a very satisfying and comfortable living. AND,,,,, to my knowledge, he doesn’t even get sworn in as a member of an “I’ll never tell a lie” society. He takes no oath to be fair. He takes no oath of loyalty, no oath of impartiality.  I therefore believe there is a natural tendency to be a little skeptical of the “sense of honor” that these guys must feel.   I have no reason to believe that Rhoden didn’t fully believed every word he was saying.  As a matter of fact, I happen to believe most of it too. Vick is one hell of an athlete. But, that isn’t what got him his second chance.
His second chance came at the hands of the NFL Commissioner, who by the way answers to the owners and to some degree, to the players as well. He’s charged with the responsibility of looking after the welfare of Professional Football. More specifically, the National Football League. 
The owners are looking out for themselves.  The players are looking out for themselves.  Any one of them could just happen to find some little secret way to make a fortune off from his football connections. Lets say it might not cause the entire league to fail, but lets say that it makes him millions of dollars,,,,, but it really isn’t in the best interests of the long term NFL.   An owner, or a player might do something like that, but not the Commissioner. He isn’t an owner and he isn’t a player and his primary goal, his only goal, is to be a guardian of the league, or maybe, a guardian of the game.
Before he could allow Michael Vick a second chance, he had to first consider the good of the league, all the negatives, the consequences and finally the benefits to both the league and to Vick. Probably most importantly, he had to relate everything to the long term affect on the National Football League.
His second chance was also directly related to the way he responded to the situation. Sharp advisors got him headed in the right direction. Someone got into his head and straightened him out, or at least his thinking. They got him to realize that coming back was not a given. That, at the very least, he was going to have to appear to be reformed….. He needed to show concern for animals and animal cruelty… show repentance, show remorse….. and if you do it believably, you just might be able to get back into the league….. 
In addition, somehow they must have motivated him to stay in good shape, keep working at keeping his body in shape and in great condition. Someone did an excellent job, by the way.  Vick has made all the right moves, or has been very lucky, every step of the way, with one possible exception. And that exception he was able to overcome (most likely, again) through the assistance of his PR team.  He was at a party where there was a disturbance, gun fire, as I recall. Not the sort of incident that he needed at that point in his efforts to come back, but one that some how got smoothed over enough that it didn’t derail all the positive efforts to that point.
To my way of thinking, it’s not too far of a stretch to believe that some of his advisors might have devised a plan to purchase all of the good publicity that they possibly could. It’s also very probable that, if there were such a plan, it wouldn’t be a part of any documentation detailing their master plan. 
Good pub can come from many sources… The advisors most likely worked with all the family members to tell them how their reactions could impact the public and the professional perception of Vick, likewise, with all the close friends that they could bring into the circle.
Is it possible that they might have spent some cash, or offered some other type of inducements to any of the thousands of people in, or that impact that end of the sports world? Sure it’s possible. Did they? I don’t have a clue. Not one. I haven’t even looked into those possibilities. I’m just saying that the possibility does exist and it’s not that far of a stretch. 
To say the least, Rhoden’s comments certainly were emphatic enough to justify my sudden skepticism. The odds are 99% that he is totally innocent of anything of the sort. The same is true of 99% of the working sports reporters. But, there are more than 100 of them. Way more. And if there is even a 1% chance that just 1% of them are capable of the things I’m thinking, then you can bet your last dollar that it has happened. Somewhere, at sometime along the way it has happened.  There is too much money at stake for that not to be a consideration.
Tiger Woods, Brett Farve, Ray Lewis, just a few of the names of sports figures who might be able to avail themselves of a REPUTATION LAUNDERING. They are just the tip of the iceberg.  Armstrong, Bonds, McGwire, Marion Jones and on and on the list goes. There are hundreds, if not thousands of extremely wealthy professional athletes, some of whom have gone astray at one time or another. And that’s when a good PR man really earns his money…..  It’s also most likely the time when spreading some cash around can be most beneficial.
Copyright 2011  Richard Lee King

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