Hypocrisy at ESPN Must Be Recognized in Bernie Fine Scandal

From Wikipedia:

“Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, commonly known as ESPN, is an American global cable television network focusing on sports-related programming including live and pre-taped event telecasts, sports talk shows, and other original programming.”

In the past few days, we have learned what the “American global cable television network” does not focus on: the concept of morals, at least when applied to its own.

By now, we are all familiar with the happenings at The Pennsylvania State University, the allegations against former Penn State football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky and the university’s Board of Trustees’ “cleaning house,” most notably the termination of former head coach Joe Paterno.

In the past week, a similar event has occurred at Syracuse University, involving now-former assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine. Two former Syracuse ballboys have accused Fine of molesting them “from the late 1970s to the 1990s.” There are now reports that two more victims have come forward with allegations.

Fine has denied the charges, and Syracuse head basketball coach Jim Boeheim has even gone so far as saying the victims’ stories are “a bunch of a thousand lies,” and that he believes “they are looking for money.”

This article isn’t about that, though. It’s not about the handling of the situation by Syracuse University or how much Boeheim or the university knew, or even whether or not the allegations are true.

This article is about the how ESPN, the self-proclaimed “Worldwide Leader in Sports,” has handled the situation.

In 2002, Bobby Davis – one of the victims in the Fine case – taped a phone conversation with Fine’s wife, Laurie, in which the two discuss the abuse.

I have yet to find a video or audio of the call without linking directly to ESPN, which I refuse to do, but take these quotes directly from the conversation:

Laurie Fine: “I know everything that went on, you know… I know everything that went on with him … Bernie has issues, maybe that he’s not aware of, but he has issues … And you trusted somebody you shouldn’t have trusted.”

When Davis asks, “Do you think I’m the only one that he’s ever done that to?” Fine replies, “No…I think there might have been others…”

Davis goes on to tell Laurie about an incident in the late 1990s when he asked her husband for $5,000 to help pay off his student loans. According to Davis in the phone conversation, in return, Fine “wanted to do me. He wanted me to touch him, too. He tried to make me touch him a couple of times. He’d grab my hand, and then I’d pull away, and then he’d put me in your bed, and then you know, put me down, and I’d try to go away, and he’d put his arm on top of my chest. He goes, ‘If you want this money, you’ll stay right here,’ ”

This is where ESPN comes in.

After having unsuccessfully gone to the police, Davis, now 39, took the tapes to ESPN some time in 2003, along with his allegations.

Surely the media network so vocal in the firing of Joe Paterno (ahem, Jemele Hill, Ian O’Connor, Colin Cowherd, Scott Van Pelt, Jay Bilas and essentially every other ESPN analyst besides Lou Holtz and Matt Millen), so quick to condemn Paterno for his “lack of action,” so prevalent in defacing Paterno for his “lack of moral standards,” did the right thing.

Surely ESPN immediately took Davis and the tape to the police, and put Bernie Fine, alleged child molester, behind bars, right? After all, Paterno has more than once on ESPN been called an “enabler” to child abuse for “only” telling his superiors about the alleged eyewitness account one day later, one of whom oversaw the campus police department. I can’t imagine ESPN would want to be placed in the same category as the demonic, hell-sent Paterno.

It would be simply unfathomable for ESPN to do anything but take full action on Fine, considering how ridiculously vocal the network was in telling the world how Paterno was essentially the main contributor in the Sandusky scandal, and how he needed to fired immediately.

Watch the first 40 seconds of this video:


Interesting, then, that the world is finally finding out exactly what ESPN did with the tape and the allegations: nothing.

Interesting that ESPN actually had more credible information about a sexual predator straight from a victim than Paterno received from an alleged witness. Interesting that Paterno did more than ESPN, in relaying the account to university athletic director Tim Curley and senior vice president for finance and business (and supervisor of campus police) Gary Schultz, while ESPN “sat on the tapes” for eight years, because they “don’t see it as our job to go to authorities” when they are made aware of a child molestation.

Interesting that ESPN sat on the tape for eight years “not knowing what to do with it.”

I personally feel ESPN knew what they should have done with the tape, especially after crucifying an 84-year-old icon for not going directly to police only a month ago.

It is simply astonishing that such a large media network could do what it did and say what it said about Paterno, while sitting on and deliberately not taking action on such an incredibly similar accusation.

Joe Paterno did more and acted quicker than anyone at ESPN with less information.

I have a funny feeling ESPN won’t be “cleaning house” in the way it so strongly suggested happen at Penn State.

Follow Troy on Twitter @TroyPfaff

Around the Web

  • mistyeyed61

    ESPN crucified Joe Paterno for not doing more. I realize that all of the facts aren’t out yet as to what more Joe Paterno did, but we DO know, for a fact, that Joe immediately went to his superiors, one of which was the head of the campus Police Dept.! But that didn’t matter, ESPN still demanded for Joe Paterno to be fired anyway. For what, lack of morals? Joe Paterno has more morals in his little finger than all of ESPN! I cannot believe, that DURING all of this, ESPN had hard EVIDENCE, on the alleged Syracuse scandal, and did NOTHING with it for 8 years! It wasn’t ESPN’s responsibility to corroborate the story or to have a voice analysis done, IT WAS THE JOB OF THE POLICE DEPT or the FBI! How dare you withhold evidence against a potential child molester WHILE relentlessly accuse others for lack of morals! Shame on you, ESPN!

  • Hey

    Spot on!

  • carolyn evans

    You fail to mention Mike Tirico and the many others appearing on ESPN shows that are journalists that have graduated from Syracuse – they may be slamming Paterno to divert attention away from their alma mater. I have lost so much respect for the ESPN talking heads – since they rushed to judgment. DO NOT FORGET the Duke Lacrosse team – did they ever get an apology from ESPN?

  • pj field

    ESPN is Culpable. Their lack of inaction is reprehensible. At the very least they should have contacted the authorities when they received the voice recording of Mrs. Fife and Bobby Davis.

    For ESPN to defend themselves under the guise that the information could have been inaccurate and damaging to innocent people is bunk. If they had come forward initially others may have been saved from the abuse.

  • jxp220

    This article is spot on.

  • Dan Singerman

    Fantastic article. To take action to hold ESPN to account, consider joining the Boycott ESPN and Disney Facebook Page. http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/244091312320853/

  • Sei89

    ESPN hypocrisy is unbelievable. I’m no PSU fan, or defending what happened there, but what ESPN did in my opinion is as bad and could be argued as worse than what PSU did AS AN ORGANIZATION. They had an actual victim come to them with evidence and they did nothing cause it wouldn’t be a good story.

    Its funny how this story isn’t getting any mainstream play, though unsurprising. ESPN is basically a tabloid and obviously won’t be running 24/7 coverage on themselves – and other media, well most are probably too worried about their own behinds to speak up…

    I remember hearing people on ESPN arguing about whether or not Penn State should have canceled their season (which never made sense, but hey, its ESPN and they love hyperbole) – so now, should ESPN black out their network for a few weeks? Save us all from these ex-jocks screaming at the top of their lungs and thinking that they’re smart cause they make contrarian arguments?