ESPN is so afraid of the Twitter mob that the Worldwide Leader in Sports won't put a byline on its stories covering the arrest of NFL star Richard Sherman.
This is significant. It underscores the power of Twitter to manipulate basic journalism and force a two-tiered, racial standard of journalism equity.
ESPN.com has published four stories related to Sherman's domestic-disturbance, drunk-driving arrest. All of the stories are bylined "ESPN News Services." Here are links, links, links, and links to the stories.
Fear — not a search for truth or desire to inform the public — is driving ESPN's coverage of Richard Sherman. ESPN does not want to subject one of its black or white reporters to the racist bile popular with "Black Twitter." So, the network's stories about Sherman post without a byline and are written in a manner sympathetic to Sherman.
ESPN has yet to report that the uncle of Sherman's wife called 911 and stated that Sherman threatened his wife with violence. Yes, it's just an allegation. However, it's no different from Sherman's wife calling 911 and reporting that Sherman threatened suicide, drank two bottles of whiskey, and told his wife he would fight with police if they tried to arrest him.
Furthermore, since the 1994 OJ Simpson-Nicole Simpson tragedy, we've been educated on identifying the early signs of men who cannot control their violent tempers with spouses. I'm not analogizing Sherman to OJ. I'm saying there's a reason the King County Sheriff's office sought an order in February that barred Sherman from possessing a fireman. Sherman is a threat to himself and others.
ESPN is fearful of painting an accurate picture of Sherman. I'm sure some of its restraint is well-intentioned and based in fairness.
But would fear and fairness drive ESPN's coverage of a white athlete in trouble with law enforcement?
Let's take a look at ESPN's coverage of Chad Wheeler.
Police arrested Wheeler, a former backup offensive lineman for the Seahawks, on Saturday, January 23rd for domestic violence. Wheeler appeared in just five games in 2020. It took the news media several days to take notice of his arrest.
Notice the byline on the ESPN story, Brady Henderson. He covers the Seahawks for ESPN. Henderson is a fine sports writer. In no way am I attempting to cast Henderson in a negative light. He's a victim of Twitter's negative impact on journalism.
Henderson has tweeted about Sherman's arrest. He's even tweeted a link to the ESPN story about Sherman's court proceedings. Henderson and ESPN justifiably recognize the racially radioactive nature of the Sherman story. ESPN is shielding Henderson from the Twitter storm, and shielding itself by sharing a narrative favorable to Sherman.
There's no risk for a reporter attaching his name to a story examining Wheeler's alleged criminal activity.
Wheeler's criminal case became a bit of a social media cause celebre. Wheeler is white. His alleged victim is black and female. Shortly after his arrest was reported, a Twitter mob formed and began pushing the narrative that ESPN television downplayed and/or ignored the Wheeler case because of white supremacy, white privilege, systemic racism, fear of the Proud Boys, Charlottesville, Trump supporters, and Rachel Nichols' private conversations.
The fact that no one outside of Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and a handful of Seattle players had ever heard of Chad Wheeler had little impact on ESPN's sparse coverage.
"No, ESPN was racist. The network covered Super Bowl champ, three-time Pro Bowler, two-time all-pro Ray Rice's 2014 domestic violence case because he was black," shouted the angry social media mob.
This column is not intended to take cheap shots at ESPN. Its purpose is to further expose just how corrosive Twitter is to fair, honest journalism. Twitter and Facebook are the primary drivers of two forms of separate-and-unequal corporate journalism — one standard for whites, one standard for blacks.
The social media apps are driving a wedge between black and white Americans. Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg are not journalists. They have installed themselves as the editor-in-chiefs of the news media. They're more toxic and destructive than Roger Ailes, Jeff Zucker, and Phil Griffin.
Politicians love Dorsey and Zuckerberg because of their naïveté, journalistic incompetence, malleability, and willingness to make it financially rain in protection of power.
We're living in the era of mob journalism. Black Twitter's control of the mob won't last forever, or even much longer. Soon, the mob will come for the very people who foolishly delighted in its existence.