Sorry “NFL Insider,” Not This Time

We live in a hyper-charged world of media frenzy combined with a lack of privacy. Placed together with an inflammatory story, it can create an explosive situation. I use the word “explosion” with intent, because that is what Jason Pierre-Paul did to his hand with fireworks.

NFL InsiderI am not angry at Jason Pierre-Paul as are some football fans. At this point, his family, his agent, his coaches and teammates are angry at him enough. Of course, the guy who is the angriest, the most disgusted, the most shamed, is Jason Pierre-Paul himself. He made a stupid choice, but it’s done and now he has to live with the consequences.

If I am going to get on my moral high-ground, then I would call for a universal banning of fireworks. I won’t do it, and it won’t happen. The Consumer Product Safety Commission tells us that we should expect about 10,600 hand injuries this year. Jason Pierre-Paul has a lot of company, but here’s what I don’t know about his company: their names. Here’s what I don’t have: their medical records.

The Media and its Frenzy

ESPN has a reporter named Adam Schefter. He bills himself as the “NFL Insider.” Within the confines of professional football, he learns about things and finds out about things that a lot of us who love football are interested in knowing. He also uncovers things that a lot of us probably don’t need to know, and frankly should not know.

The “NFL Insider” decided to get inside the story of Jason Pierre-Paul and in doing so, was able to secure the actual medical records of the patient. Then he published them across the social media. In a case where words such as “explosive” and fireworks are so freely tossed around, the journalist himself has launched an inward explosion; an implosion of sorts. In fact, Schefter has had to defend himself on ethical grounds. What follows are his recent comments to Sports Illustrated:

“This was a public figure and franchise player involved in a widely-speculated accident with potential criminal behavior in which there was a cone of secrecy that surrounded him for five days that not even his own team could crack. This wasn’t as if some player were admitted to the hospital with a secret illness or disease — we’ve seen those cases over the years, as recently as this past year even.

This one was different and unique for a variety of reasons. The extent of his injuries were going to come to light, maybe that day or later that week, but soon. They’re horrific injuries, incredibly unfortunate for the player. But in a day and age in which pictures and videos tell stories and confirm facts, in which sources and their motives are routinely questioned, and in which reporters strive to be as accurate as possible, this was the ultimate supporting proof.”

Let’s start at Jackson Memorial

Before we talk ethics and media frenzy, let’s start with the hospital in Miami. When you are admitted to the hospital and you are treated for any reason, those records are secret. Whether you are a movie star or the guy who cleans the toilets at ESPN.

The hospital is launching an investigation as to how private medical records made it onto the social media. Did the records magically appear in Schefter’s computer? Or was there a journalism-student-orderly, hospital-records-clerk-ex-jock or sports talk wannabe who figured he or she could gain favor in the sports world by breaching patient privacy?

So in my opinion (for all of you in the legal profession), the records were either given to a Schefter representative by someone not authorized to release them or they were purchased by someone in the media who was not authorized. Then someone decided to publish them. To me, that all stinks of lousy ethical behavior. That’s point one.

As to Schefter’s comment that the football player is a “public figure,” and his records are seemingly fair game, I would ask, in whose world? Yours sir? If my state senator (a very public figure) has just had a procedure  on his prostate, should his constituency see his medical records on Twitter to determine if his lesion was malignant? I think not, Mr. NFL Insider.

As to the fact that this was a widely speculated case with possible criminal behavior, my comment: “Isn’t that up to the courts to determine sir?” Yes, exploding fireworks is technically illegal in parts of Florida, but please don’t turn this “crime” into dogfighting, domestic violence or trafficking drugs. The biggest crime committed here, is what Pierre-Paul did to himself. We’ve been over that. I don’t know, but my guess is that he’s sorry.

As to the speculation: while I admit that I didn’t know what he did to his hand, it didn’t take a lot of imagination to arrive at several ugly outcomes. My point is that a day or two delay would have made no difference in my life.

In the time period the “cone of secrecy” as you call it was around the patient; a whole five days, I really didn’t need to know that his physicians decided to amputate a digit. Maybe as an NFL Insider you needed to know, but most of us didn’t.

“Pictures and videos tell stories”

Yes sir, I understand there is a lot of dummying down these days, we like our vids and pix. However, there are still a lot of us who aren’t dummies. It is all about respect. You talk about the “ultimate supporting truth” in releasing the documents to tell a story, sir. I will talk about a lack of decency and journalistic common sense. There is a reason for privacy laws.

You usually do good work. You don’t need me to tell you that, your paycheck does. This time you crossed a line you should not have crossed. I think you know it. I think you feel it down to your journalistic bones.

Admit you screwed up, issue an apology and learn from it.







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