Newsday’s Ken Berger kicked off a mild shitstorm, a hurricane if you will (sorry) when he quoted NBA Players Association chief Billy Hunter (above, left) threatening to take legal action if the league went ahead with plans to hold the 2008 All-Star Game in New Orleans.
I have a problem when other members of the media make it seem as though I got my quotes from Hunter in a sneaky, unprofessional way. That is what analyst Greg Anthony said on ESPN yesterday, when he presented the following blow-by-blow account of conversations that he most certainly did not witness.
Anthony said Hunter œwas talking with Shaquille O™Neal and a bunch of the Miami Heat about other issues, and they were talking about New Orleans after what just happened in Las Vegas. And there was a reporter there who basically eavesdropped on the conversation and asked a hypothetical.
If Anthony were a real journalist, he would know that eavesdropping is not an acceptable or ethical way to get comments from a public figure and print them in the newspaper. Sure, it would™ve been asking too much to expect Anthony to check out the account he was given to see if it was accurate. But at the very least, he should have divulged the source of his information.
The source was Hunter, and that™s where things get a little murky.
Anthony was one of three media members who spoke with Hunter on Tuesday, when he was in damage-control mode over comments he made in my interview with him about New Orleans™ viability as an All-Star host. Two of them essentially came away with the impression that I overheard Hunter™s conversations with Miami players, casually asked him one question, and then printed his answer as well as the content of his private conversations in the newspaper, thus creating a national controversy.
I did see Hunter in the Heat locker room, and was standing right next to him while he had an interesting chat with Michael Doleac about pension benefits. I never heard him discuss the All-Star Game with anyone, but had previously made a mental note to ask him about the topic the next time I saw him.
When Hunter was finished doing business with the players, I followed him into the hallway and interviewed him for 10 minutes, digital recorder in plain view. The All-Star Game wasn™t even the first topic I asked him about, but it was the one that prompted the most newsworthy responses.
I thought it was a little odd that the Times-Picayune™s front-page story following up the controversy on Wednesday stated mysteriously that Hunter™s comments œshowed up in Newsday. The New Orleans paper wrote: œNewsday quoted Billy Hunter from a Madison Square Garden locker room, where he was conversing with players about the recent Las Vegas All-Star weekend.
Hunter, through an intermediary, claimed that his account of what happened was misinterpreted by Anthony and the New Orleans writer. This made him perhaps the first person ever to be misquoted about being misquoted.
Unless James Dolan has piped hallucinogens through the air ducts at Madison Square Garden “ which, come to think of it, is not beyond the realm of possibility “ there was no ambiguity about how I got Hunter™s quotes. I got them by interviewing him with a recorder, face-to-face, for 10 minutes outside the locker room.