ESPN’s Top 5 Plagiarism Scandals
By now, you’re probably aware of a controversy involving ESPN’s NBA insider Chris Broussard. Tuesday evening was not a very good one for him. First, moments after Nets point guard Deron Williams tweeted that he has decided to remain with the franchise as it prepares to embark on its first season in Brooklyn, Broussard tweeted that per a “source: Deron Williams tells Nets he’s staying in Brooklyn.”
But wait, there’s more. Hours later, shooting guard Eric Gordon agreed to leave the Hornets and join the Suns. And in a trio of tweets announcing this, he appeared to have lifted quotes from an article posted by the Arizona Republic moments earlier. And to top it off, he prefaces Gordon’s quote, given to the Republic’s Paul Coro, with, “Gordon told me this.”
It was obvious that Broussard was more preoccupied on Tuesday night with packing for his Caribbean vacation than keeping his finger on the pulse of the NBA wire. And he was clearly befuddled by all of the negative feedback he received over the two-fer-Tuesday debacle that he sent a lovely message to any of the “haters” that happen to coexist amongst his nearly half-million Twitter follower total. “I got a life beyond the NBA,” he tweeted early this morning, adding: “While [you] wasting energy hating on me, I’m enjoying time with me family. [Me: An Irish family?] If I can’t relate to that, I feel sorry for [you].”
U mad, Chris?
Apparently, his flight must have been delayed because he parroted a scoop from ESPN colleague Marc Stein (with credit given) that guard Kyle Lowry would be traded from the Rockets to the Raptors.
As the Chris Broussard fiasco awaits its epilogue, now would be a great time to look back – in true ESPN fashion – at the top five plagiarism controversies involving the Worldwide Leader:
5. Sarah Phillips. This is the “pretty” and “quick witted” lady that ESPN hired and eventually appointed her as a featured writer at ESPN.com’s now-defunct “Page 2″ section. ESPN would fire her within ninety minutes of this Deadspin expose being posted, with vivid details about several conspiracy theories regarding her – one of which was her hijacking the “NBA Memes” Facebook page. The creator of the page had invited Phillips to be a contributor, and eventually after concerns about content posted on it, added her as an administrator of the page – only to find out a few days later that he himself was removed as an administrator of his own page, which would serve as a precursor to a new page Phillips would be involved with. (You’ll be happy to know that, upon Phillips’ termination, the creator of the NBA Memes Facebook page has retained control of it once again.) While not necessarily an instance of lifting something from another journalist, Phillips’ takeover of a popular Facebook page with content similar to one she was maintaining is an extreme example of “lifting from a source.”
4. John Carroll. Just weeks after ESPN gave Phillips the boot, the Worldwide Leader experienced another credibility issue earlier this year, involving the former NCAA hoops head coach and NBA assistant head coach, who currently provides scouting reports for the NBA via the premium “Insider” section on ESPN.com. One day, when one die-hard Spurs fan perused a San Antonio Spurs message board (of which local sports radio host Mike Taylor is a member – actually, he had to sign up to tell somebody off) and then pulled up Carroll’s “Insider” column and experienced deja vu, he or she tipped someone off. It led to ESPN yanking Carroll’s allegedly-lifted “Insider” post “while we review the situation.” No word if Carroll had received any suspension, and I’d confirm if he was still writing for ESPN.com – but alas, I am not an “Insider.”
3. Woody Paige. The resident “Around The Horn” contributor has seen his own share of criticism – he and colleague Jay Crawford were named in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a makeup artist which was eventually dismissed - but he was put under scrutiny last June when Sports Business Journal reporter John Ourand called out Paige for alleged plagiarism at his day job with The Denver Post, accusing him of writing musings about the early history of ESPN “identical” to those that appeared in a piece on the same subject penned by Ourand in SBJ. “Hey [Woody], did you really talk to [broadcasting journalist] Paul Maxwell? Or did you lift that quote from SBJ,” asked Ourand in a public tweet. “Bad form not to list source.” The Post post was eventually updated to include attribution to SBJ as the source of a Maxwell quote. Paige was never reprimanded for initially stiffing Ourand in his piece, and remains on the ESPN payroll.
2. “ESPN.com Staff.” The victim this time around: ProFootballTalk.com. This incident happened in the fall of 2009, just months after PFT became a part of NBC Sports Group. In anticipation of an upcoming matchup between AFC East rivals New England and Miami, Joey Porter, who was a linebacker with the Dolphins at the time, had told NFL Network’s Rich Eisen that he thinks Patriots quarterback Tom Brady goes by his own set of rules. PFT staffer Michael David Smith had posted an item about the exchange, which was retweeted by Eisen himself. “Several hours later,” recounted Gregg Rosenthal – who, ironically, is now a colleague of Eisen’s at NFL Network – “someone from ‘ESPN.com staff’ posted the first five paragraphs of the MDS story – word for freaking word.” In as much time as it took for ESPN to dismiss Sarah Phillips, the Worldwide Leader once again acted swiftly, replacing virtually the entire item, which had appeared on the ESPNBoston.com website, with a message “from the editors of ESPNBoston.com” informing of text previously existing in that space that “should have been attributed to ProFootballTalk.com.” (And if you access the link today, the post has been deleted altogether.) And while the offender was never identified, we can only wonder if he or she is currently toiling at another sports website, perhaps having learned their lesson and no longer reproducing another peer’s work. “Word. For freaking word.”
1. Will Selva. It’s quite ironic that the culprit at the top of our list of the worst ESPN plagiarists has shown having a hard time not to depend exclusively on him-”selva” for content. On December 26, 2010 – one day after the Heat torched the Lakers in their annual Christmas Day game – Orange County Register sports columnist Kevin Ding started his thoughts like this: “Christmas isn’t over yet, Lakers fans. The big game, it turns out, will be the game after the supposed Game Of The Year. In San Antonio on Tuesday night, the Lakers will be out to give themselves and their fans the much-needed gift of hope.” Fast-forward to that very Tuesday night, December 28, 2010, when Selva, anchoring the 11 PM edition of ESPNews’ “Highlight Express,” led off with a recap of the Spurs’ home matchup with the Lakers, starting his thoughts like this: “Christmas isn’t over yet, Lakers fans. The big game, it turns out, will be the game after the supposed Game Of The Year. In San Antonio on Tuesday night, the Lakers will be out to give themselves and their fans the much-needed gift of hope.” Mind you, at this point, we were three full days away from the Christmas holiday. Usually, after December 26, the next time the public breaks out mass Christmas cliches is Thanksgiving, if not earlier. This certainly was no coincidence. Ding, who attended the Lakers/Spurs game in San Antonio – which the Lakers also lost, by the way – recalled heading back to his hotel room and experiencing a serious case of deja vu upon turning on ESPNews. “Imagine my shock when anchor Will Selva proceeded to use the first several paragraphs of my column looking forward to the game as his lead-in to the highlights,” wrote an obviously incensed Ding, after learning that he had become a victim of plagiarism, at the hands of an ESPN anchor who had previously worked at CNN – not to mention a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School Of Journalism, per his resume. According to the Register’s own account of this kerfuffel: “Selva said in a statement… that he copied some of what Ding wrote as he prepared his script but planned to write his own introduction to a highlights package. Instead, he read Ding’s words nearly verbatim.” Selva used an apology as a guise to explain himself: “In this case, I cut and pasted the story with every intention of writing my own. I simply forgot and I completely understand why this is a major problem. I sincerely apologize for my sloppiness, especially to Kevin Ding, viewers and colleagues.” He added in his statement: “I made a horrible mistake and I’m deeply sorry. I did not live up to my high standards or ESPN’s.” Selva was subsequently suspended from ESPN indefinitely. He remains at the Worldwide Leader – at least for now.