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As another sickening allegation regarding a high profile university engaging in sexual misconduct gains momentum I can’t help but feel like the majority, if not all of you, angered and disgusted.

But amidst the obvious outrage of the allegations that Syracuse men’s basketball coach Bernie Fine sexually abused players and students over his long tenure at Syracuse University is another case, like Penn State, where people in a position to stop the abuse did nothing.

And while many people can defend Joe Paterno or even raise questions about how much Paterno did do or how much he knew in regards to the scandal at Penn State, in this case I find no area of defense.

But most of you may have not heard about this, which further illustrates just how low this party is and it’s an entity that we all know by heart. ESPN, the self-proclaimed “worldwide leader in sports”.

In an “Outside the Lines” piece that aired this past Sunday on ESPN, ESPN revealed a taped phone conversation between a former Syracuse student and team “ball boy,” Bobby Davis, and the wife of long-time assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine. Fine is now on administrative leave as allegations that he sexually molested at least three accusers (including Davis)

But while the audio on the tape is undoubtedly disturbing, what is swept almost nonchalantly under the rug is the simple fact that this tape was recorded in 2002 allowing a major media outlet such as ESPN over 8 years to bring it to the public light.

Aside from that the media outlet didn’t even bring it to the police or even make mention of it until this past Sunday. They clearly ignored their responsibility to report a crime they knew was happening and even had evidence proving that something was at least worth having investigators look into.

Beyond the obvious outrage and backlash at these actions, I personally asked the following questions to myself:

  • If ESPN had reported it, could it have stopped any ongoing sexual abuse or prevented any future abuse/misconduct from happening?
  • Why wait over 8 years to mention anything?
  • What gives you the right?

For the first question I would say a firm YES. Of course this would have not only stopped this from happening, but undoubtedly removed Bernie Fine from Syracuse where he would be unable to sexual abuse any other students or athletes.

Regarding the 2nd question I can only merely speculate. So take my opinion on the topic, merely as that, an opinion, but it’s hard to ignore the points I raise:

  • ESPN Couldn’t “Cash In”: What this means is that well, ESPN wouldn’t be breaking a story that merited their extensive reporting or coverage.

    ESPN’s Response: Asked by his own PR staff about the decision to hold back the audio tape for more than a week after the original report, ESPN Senior Vice President & Director of News Vince Doria cited the need to confirm that the female voice on the tape belonged to Laurie Fine.

    “When we had the audio in the past we had never been able to confirm that it was Laurie Fine. Part of it was we had no independent video of her and her voice – something we could look at and say, “Yes, that’s her and yes, that appears to be her voice.” This time around when we re-engaged on the story we did in fact have a video we found on-line of her serving a meal to Bernie and a number of young men who may or may not have been Syracuse players. In this video you could clearly hear her. This allowed us to submit the audio to a voice recognition expert, which we did last week.”

    As Doria explains it, the key to identifying the voice of Fine’s wife was the discovery of “a video we found on-line of her serving a meal to Bernie.”

    Anyone else smell bullshit? ESPN couldn’t do a bit more digging to confirm the audio as being Fine’s wife? Really? But you can certainly do everything in your power to create a media circus on the Penn State Campus right?

  • Syracuse Basketball was more important than Reporting a Crime: In 2002-2003 the Orangemen put a team on the court that consisted of Gerry McNamara and future NBA stars Hakim Warrick and superstar Carmelo Anthony and the team who was unranked in the preseason led an incredible run to the NCAA Championship.

    So for a sports media outlet this would be a far more “buzzworthy” and “lucrative” story to cover.

    On top of that, guess who was airing the majority of these games and the Tournament? ESPN. Guess who had a ton of shows and reporters on the story? ESPN.

    So did ESPN protect Syracuse for the sake of reporting an incredible feat in college basketball? You be the judge

    In comparison, here is what ESPN had felt merited a ton of TV time over the years on their Network:

    1.  Lebron James’ Decision: A whole television broadcast and special on a basketball players free agency decision.
    2. Brett Favre Watch: Not once, Not twice, but three times we were plastered with
    3. Brett Favre’s Ranch: The above also included ESPN reporters camping out at Favre’s ranch and also a non-stop camera outside the Vikings facility to record Favre arriving to the complex (watch below)

      So there are three instances in which ESPN decided to put all of their reporting manpower behind what they deemed as “news” but ignored blowing the whistle on a crime.

  • What’s Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander: While I did question the coverage of Penn State by ESPN, it still leaves me with another question; Why so much on drilling the Penn State scandal to death, helping to fuel a media circus on campus and extensive digging but fail to even do the same in the Syracuse case?

    Furthermore why wouldn’t you use this opportunity to bring the tape and allegations to light?!

    Aside from that didn’t ESPN produce long stories (some on 20/20) about the scandals/issues at Miami University, Michigan and Ohio State? So why not Syracuse? In comparison the Syracuse allegations are far more disgusting and actual crimes against humanity. So what’s the reasoning?

  • Ignoring a Responsibility: Every journalist, reporter and media person has an obligation to report a crime if they see it happening. They obviously believe they are above this.
  • What Gives You the Right?: Seriously, what gives ESPN the right to bury people such as Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary for not doing more in reporting he saw Gary Sandusky sexually abusing a 10 year old boy in the showers, but fail to do so themselves? Isn’t it kind of the same thing?
  • ESPN is known for their own sexual misconduct: Take a look at my article I wrote in regards to their reporting of the Penn State scandal, I site numerous incidents where ESPN personnel were accused and involved in sexual misconduct incidents: Read the article here

In conclusion and in my personal opinion ESPN needs to be held accountable here. If you go to their website there is no explanation or report of their own possession of this tape (selective reporting) nor any apology issued for their obvious mishandling.

But what can really be done? Well, I spoke to a representative from the United States Governments website who said you can petition the Attorney General to look into the matter and if enough complaints come in, they may pursue it.

I may at some point launch a petition, but for now, I’d like your opinions on the matter. Of course you are more than welcome to share your thoughts about ESPN’s actions to the Attorney General yourselves:

The Attorney General is Eric H. Holder Jr.

You may wish to contact the Attorney General’s Office by e-mail at or by phone or mail at:

Public Comment Line: 1.202.353.1555
Phone: 1.202.514.2001
U.S. Department of Justice
Attention: Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington DC 20530

About The Author

Anthony DiMoro is the creator of Sports Rants and the CEO of Elite Rank Media. Anthony DiMoro is a Contributor for 'Forbes' where he talks Sports, SEO, Social Media and Internet Marketing. Anthony also hosts the 'Forbes SportsMoney Podcast' and is a Contributor to the Huffington Post where he covers sports

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7 Responses

  1. Dave Brown

    Interesting story. I had heard of this one earlier. There are several edges on this blade, and they are all sharp.
    The first thing I would say, and ESPN can also probably claim, is that legal and moral obligation are two different things. The people involved at Penn State were required by law to report such sexual misconduct. If one could show ESPN had a legal obligation to report the audio tape to the authorities, one would also have to show that the audio tape was proof of sexual misconduct. According to ESPN, the angle we are not thinking about is simple, the audio tape may have been a prank or a staged recording. There will be no way to show ESPN was withholding evidence.

    Another sharp edge: If ESPN brings this tape to the authorities when they got it, I would be ok with that. Let the authorities decide on the authenticity of the tape. If ESPN decides to air that tape without confirmation, lawsuits fly. Again, they can show a reason for sitting on the tape, and even if the law requires evidence of sexual abuse to be reported, ESPN can show the authenticity of the tape as in question, until now.

    • yo

      You can go ahead with your legal vs. moral obligation. But you fail to understand ESPN themselves used that argument AGAINST Joe Paterno with all of their analysts saying “Joe Paterno failed to uphold his moral obligation to do more”. So in essence, if you are trying to defend ESPN, you are using an argument that is damning to them just as much as it was damning to Joe Paterno. Let’s not forget Joe lost his job despite fulfilling his LEGAL obligation. There was a lot of pressure on the Board of Trustees to fire Joe Paterno, a whole lot from media such as ESPN, for not fulfilling his “moral obligation.” Using that exact same argument and maintaining a level playing field, those at ESPN with carnal knowledge of the taped evidence who did NOT fulfill their “moral obligation” under the same pretences should lose their jobs as well.

      • yo

        Going into further detail, ESPN has clearly shown to go ahead and report items not necessarily confirmed by other sources. They have breaking news based on someone’s Twitter accounts nowadays! They also report another company reports news. I’ve heard them say, “ reports that…” and they use that as news. Their defense that they needed corroborating evidence before they can air the story is actually completely irrelevent to the “moral obligation” they had. ESPN was hand delivered by the victim this tape. Now, could it be counterfeit? you bet! But ESPN has all kinds of resources at their disposal to authenticate the voices in the tape. OR, they could have done old-fashioned journalism and asked Bernie Fine’s wife back in 2002/3 if it was her on the other end. There is no proof they did this. But that’s ok too. They didn’t have to do that. They could have/should have turned it over to police immediately. I’m sorry but to use the reason that they lose the right to the story does not satisfy me in terms of witholding evidence to sexual abuse to minors. In fact, my interpretation of it is that they were waiting for MORE sexual abuse to occur so they could verify their story. That’s much worse than anything Joe Paterno did, or didn’t do.

  2. Anthony DiMoro

    Great points Dave and I’ve considered them as well. Dan Patrick raised some good questions about this, particularly about ESPN not initially reporting it.

    – If the audio authenticity is in question, don’t you look into it? ESPN spends so much time digging dirt on lesser matters and the investigation to find the answer wouldn’t have been too overwhelming.

    – If ESPN handed it over to police, than they lose “exclusivity” to the story. Meaning, they wouldn’t be the ones to break it….

    Just some thoughts to share that I personally felt Dan Patrick hit the nail right on the head on.

  3. Sieb

    ESPN is a joke… Would rather have negative stories as the headline than “Big Ten Coach of the Year” yes, I am biased, or ANYthing positive.
    In this case, what… couldn’t make a phone call to the Fine’s residence to match a voice? No phones at HQ?? If I were ESPN, I would shut up about all this, because THEY KNEW…. 8 years ago, and did NOTHING?? Those people are just as guilty as Joe Paterno…. sheeeesh

  4. Dave Brown

    I said it earlier, I do not know what happened when ESPN received the tape, but ESPN should have handed it over to the authorities. Thing is, the allegations have been under investigation before. Was this tape part of that earlier investigation by the authorities? I just don’t see that being the case, and the tape isn’t admissible until it is confirmed, so the authorities should have had the tape to confirm. The entire premisis of this article is sound, as ESPN does seem to have sat on that tape. I don’t think anything can be done about such negligent reporting, unless that tape could be considered relevant to the earlier case, ESPN then would have been withholding evidence. That probably isn’t going to happen.