Big Civil Suit Against Big Ben Not a Big Story at ESPN

Posted in Gridiron, Sports Journalism, The Law at 4:29 pm by

There’s no shame in running an article from the Associated Press. It exists for a reason, and while AP copy can be dry — and can be embarrassing when it’s not — that is also 1) by design and 2) usually secondary to the fact that AP stories more often than not get things right on the facts. The right people are called, i’s crossed and t’s dotted, etc. An AP piece is the sort of thing a publication would run if it didn’t have anyone on staff actually reporting the story, and considering how many newspapers and magazines increasingly don’t have anyone on staff, period, AP stories certainly serve their purpose. Especially as regards a detailed story that just broke — such as that of the newly filed civil suit for sexual assault against Ben Roethlisberger (above) by a Lake Tahoe woman — it makes sense that most venues are currently just running the story on the case by the AP’s Scott Sonnen.

Sonnen’s piece covers all the bases and is wrenching and unpleasant in the way that all stories of this sort are — Roethlisberger is friendly, then predatory; the woman filing the suit is scared, then depressed, then treated with the most abject ignorance by employers desperate to cover things up. The suit may turn out to have merit or it might not, but if you want to form your own opinion, you’ll have to look someplace other than the WWL, because ESPN didn’t even pick up the AP copy on this story. This morning, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reported that this was the result of ESPN issuing an internal “Do Not Report Alert” on the story.

More news has come out about the story over the course of the day — the odious TMZ has run the woman’s photos (of course) and PFT ran an oppo-research style backgrounder on the accuser — but not on ESPN, which still has not printed a word about it. As I type this, there is nothing to be found on ESPN’s front page (which does feature a Paul Shirley feature about seeing SunO))) in concert) or even on the NFL front page about the suit. Florio thought that seemed odd, and made a few phone calls. And it turns out that it’s not just odd, but probably at least a little bit dirty.

ESPN spokesman Mac Nwulu has provided us with a statement from the folks in Bristol regarding their decision not to mention the civil sexual assault suit against Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, which to our knowledge has been ignored by every national ESPN platform. “At this point, we are not reporting the allegations against Ben Roethlisberger because no criminal complaint has been filed,” Nwulu said. “As far as we know, this is a civil lawsuit that Roethlisberger has yet to address publicly.”

Actually, Roethlisberger has addressed the lawsuit publicly, via a Monday night statement from lawyer David Cornwell, who has been retained to represent Roethlisberger.

…Besides, we don’t buy for a minute the notion that a civil claim unaccompanied by a criminal complaint makes the situation not newsworthy. Indeed, ESPN posted last night on its NFL page a blurb from the AP regarding the civil suit filed by former NFL kicker Tony Zendejas, in which he claims a violation of his civil rights in connection with, coincidentally, a rape prosecution.

In that case, have the folks who allegedly violated the civil rights of Zendejas been charged criminally? Nope. But that hasn’t kept ESPN from posting the AP item.

Newsday’s Neil Best suggests that ESPN’s close relationship with Ben Roethlisberger may have something to do with their radio silence. This wouldn’t exactly be new for ESPN, which did the same thing on that Reggie Bush payoff story from 2008. But just because it’s not a new low doesn’t mean it isn’t pretty fucking low.

8 responses to “Big Civil Suit Against Big Ben Not a Big Story at ESPN”

  1. WeWanttheFunk says:

    David, I’m not sure what gives you, Mike Florio or anyone else license to treat ESPN as a legitimate news organization. Their role is to compliment the multi-billion dollar a year American sports industry – not to muckrake or report the dirt. Unless, of course, it serves the purpose of creating and maintaining viewership for the leagues and teams that they serve, via themselves as the carrier.
    If there’s a pretense of objectivity, I’m unaware of it.

  2. cerrellout says:


    Im so sick of these pepsi / verizon / whoever else cerrone is blowing these days / logos plastered all over the place. remember when he partnered with SNY and he was all “uuuhhhh i promise this is still matt cerrones metsblog and it wont turn into a big ad-infested waste site”? matt cerrone is a sellout. you had a good thing going, matt… now we have to look at a pepsi logo every time you put a game preview up? A pepsi logo thats bigger than the mets logo???

    its like watching soccer on ESPN… taco bell logos all over the place, you cant even see the ball. Anywhere but the states, you have a screen with nothing on it but the action… once in a while they show the score, never a useless logo… its tacky, its bad design, and its shows that you could give a frick less about what you’re doing. SURE GUYS, THROW LOGOS ALL OVER, WHERE THEY HAVE NO PURPOSE BUT TO CLUTTER THE PAGE AND BRAINWASH MY READERS.


  3. Calvin says:

    Well, it’s not like he’s black or something…no big deal really.

  4. GC says:

    “Im so sick of these pepsi / verizon / whoever else cerrone is blowing these days / logos plastered all over the place.”

    Uh, yeah. As opposed to the Verizon ad on the front page of CSTB. If you’ve got a gripe with the content of Metsblog, fair ’nuff, but I see no point in begrudging him the right to earn a living. It’s not as though ESPN.com, SNY and WFAN aren’t commercial outlets. I’d love to rely on NPR for Mets information, but that’s probably not going to get the job doine.

  5. sam says:

    great work here. without getting too broad, it’s fair to say espn does rely on its journalistic cache — they have a crack investigative team that has broken stories, and the vp (forget his name) has gone on record saying as much in a (long, tedious, self-congratulatory) simmons podcast. we also can’t forget bob ley and his plum 3 pm weekday spot.

    it would be wrong if they’re zippering the better guys, and time will tell if they are. but i don’t work there. without getting too dramatic, or off-course, were big ben found guilty, this was someone’s daughter he assaulted, and not someone’s vicious dog. not to mention his race, etc. it’s awful for about five different reasons

    also, what’s the beef with ads in soccer? or do you try and ignore the jerseys

  6. ben schwartz says:

    What Calvin said.


  7. chris says:

    I’ll bet it has to do with the upcoming ABC series, Shaq vs., with premiere episode starring Ben Roethlisberger. Which ESPN did report on, http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=4341098 including information provided by the Associated Press

  8. Rock says:

    Have not looked yet… has DWil unleashed the fury yet over at SOMM?

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