@John at MrSEC You've got to quit using the words "Johnny Manziel" on your site. It's like throwing rocks at a hornets nest!!! "Sen-si-tive" (read that in Major Payne voice).
ESPN’s coverage of the NCAA’s look-see into Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and his autograph habits isn’t sitting well most Aggies. In fact, ESPN reporter Darren Rovell specifically has drawn the ire of Texas A&M chancellor John Sharp.
In an email sent to “Aggie community and business leaders,” Sharp took aim at Rovell and other “members of the media (who) have chosen to declare #2 guilty with no evidence whatsoever.” He then linked to a correction Rovell once issued while working for CNBC and wrote that “Rovell… has been duped before.”
That wasn’t all. Sharp also knocked ESPN and one of its sources saying the autograph broker Drew Tieman “was reportedly booked twice for possession of marijuana and placed on four years probation.” (Oh, well in that case he must be lying about Manziel receiving a five-figure deal to sign autographs. The guy has smoked marijuana. Damn hippie.) “It is surprising that the nation’s largest sports channel would support publication with this lack of corroboration.”
Here’s what we actually know:
1. The NCAA is investigating whether or not Manziel received or asked for money for his autograph.
2. ESPN broke the story on the NCAA’s investigation and has followed up with multiple claims from autograph brokers and with evidence of thousands of Manziel signatures.
3. There is no three.
To our knowledge, Rovell has not “chosen to declare #2 guilty” as A&M’s chancellor suggests. He’s written about the allegations several autograph brokers have made. He’s written that if Manziel received money he would be in violation of NCAA Bylay 126.96.36.199. But that’s just reporting.
Sharp, and many A&M fans, are doing what fans do anytime a media organization publishes an investigative report — they’re allowing their own passions to cloud what it is they are actually reading.
Would someone at A&M feel like the world is out to get Manziel and that ESPN specifically is claiming his guilt? Of course. Is that what’s actually happening? No. ESPN is reporting on a story and there are a lot of sources — aside from Tieman — who are willing to discuss Manziel’s multiple autograph sessions.
“We don’t have the dollar figures. And we don’t have him actually taking money, someone seeing him take money.
In a lot of these rooms (where the signings took place) there were few people. The first two signings in South Florida, there were much more people in the room, there 15, 20 people in the room. That was easier to nail down. But in that case, we were told that he went into a room with his guy, Nate Fitch, and potentially, it’s assumed he was paid there, but not in front of everyone…
The NCAA is not a court of law. They don’t necessarily have to prove that he got paid beyond a reasonable doubt. If they think there’s enough circumstantial evidence they can go after him and, as we’ve been talking about, the NCAA is certainly at a crossroads right now.”
Sorry, but that’s a simple regurgitation of the facts as presented to ESPN, a network — like all news-gathering bodies — that practices investigative journalism. ESPN didn’t lead the NCAA to investigate Manziel. The NCAA’s investigation into Manziel led ESPN to track down some of the autograph brokers who’ve since claimed to them — but not to the NCAA, as far as we know — that Manziel was paid for signing his name. They’ve also found evidence of more than 4,000 Manziel autographs on the market.
Asked on ESPN’s “Mike & Mike” radio show about the common sense approach — that Manziel had to have been paid for those thousands of autographs — Rovell gave his own opinion:
“The greatest narrative that we have is the signings in South Florida with this guy, Drew Tieman, who he met at the airport on January 6th… Drew knew he was coming in. He was at the airport. Johnny refused to sign for him for free. Six hours later he was at his house signing hundreds and hundreds of autographs; in over two days signed 11-hundred pieces for him. So, again, because the change of money hasn’t been seen by the people we’ve talked to there is a leap here, but I’m sure there are people who say that leap is rational.”
A&M fans might not like a reporter giving his opinion on the radio, but Rovell simply gave his view of the issue while stating plainly and clearly that there is no evidence that money changed hands and that he is making “a leap,” even though it appears to be a rational leap.
Aside from saying, “I refuse to give you my opinion,” Rovell did exactly what investigative reporters do. He laid out the facts, gave his view of them, and then made it clear that it was just one viewpoint.
Aggie fans certainly might not like ESPN’s decision to investigate this story (though ignoring an NCAA investigation into an active Heisman Trophy-winner would be the ultimate cover-up). But no one in College Station — not even the school’s chancellor — can say that ESPN has declared Manziel guilty. There’s a difference between saying “the evidence points to this” and “he’s guilty.” That’s why ESPN and Rovell have been pretty buttoned up in pointing out that there is no proof that money ever changed hands.
Again, there’s nothing unnatural about a school and its fans smearing the reputations of networks, reporters and sources involved in an investigative piece focusing on said school. And Rovell and others may indeed be leaping to the wrong conclusion.But Rovell making a correction on one story in what’s been a long career doesn’t make him a poor journalist any more than a single speeding ticket by Sharp would make him a terrible driver. Also, Trieman’s past history with marijuana certainly doesn’t speak to the credibility of the witness, your honor. How marijuana equates to lying is anyone’s guess.
It is our view that the NCAA will eventually find a way to clear Manziel. Until then, Aggie Nation should try to see ESPN’s reporting for what it is — investigative journalism. And if the the four-letter network were targeting a Texas player right now, you’d better believe no one in College Station would be trying to discredit the reports.