After ESPN broadcast, and at the same time, published on Tuesday a massive story alleging widespread cheating by the New England Patriots, another ESPN reporter covering the National Football League published his own story that included some mild criticisms of the “cheating” story.”
Apparently, ESPN wasn’t too happy about that.
As noted by top NFL correspondent Mike Florio of the NBC-owned site Pro Football Talk, the network censored the piece, removing two key points made by ESPNBoston.com correspondent Mike Reiss in his story listing seven “takeaways” from the ESPN report entitled “Spygate to Deflategate: Inside What Split The NFL And Patriots Apart.”
After ESPN finished what its editors described to Florio as a “tighter edit” of the Reiss posting, the article was left with only five “takeaways.”
The original “Spygate to Deflategate” story detailed long-standing rumors that the Patriots under Coach Bill Belichick have engaged in various forms of chicanery such as videotaping opponent’s signals, stealing play sheets, and tampering with electronic communications equipment.
The story, which can be accessed at this link, cited no specific examples or direct evidence to support the allegations, but stated that the rumors were the reason why NFL owners backed NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in his crusade to ban Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for four games over the largely discredited “Deflategate” accusations.
In his “takeaway” article, Reiss refuted the ESPN story’s allegation that “low level” Patriots employees will sneak into opposing locker rooms and steal secret “play sheets.”
“Security’s extremely tight throughout Gillette Stadium,” Reiss wrote, as quoted later by Florio. “Don’t think too many people, if any, are casually walking into the visitors’ locker room. And let’s just say they are, who leaves play sheets around?”
That passage was removed from Reiss’s article by ESPN’s “tighter edit.”
The “tighter edit” also removed the following passage written by Reiss.
“When you’re at the top, everyone likes to bring you down. A longtime sportscaster with a deep history in Boston relayed this thought to me that resonated: ‘They used to say same the stuff about Red Auerbach.'”
The censorship marked the second time in a week that ESPN editors had interfered with a story by Reiss, a longtime Patriots beat reporter formerly employed by the Boston Globe newspaper.
On September 4, after Brady posted on his own Facebook page a statement thanking fans for support throughout the Deflategate ordeal, after his suspension was trashed by a federal judge, a story appeared under Reiss’s byline stating that in the statement Brady was “apologizing for putting the NFL and its fans through the legal saga.”
But on seeing the story, a shocked Reiss then posted on his Twitter account that the story contained material that had been “started independently” by other ESPN staff writers.
“I never wrote those words and my byline never should have been attached to it,” Reiss wrote on Twitter.
Why the ESPN organization felt the need to twice alter stories written by its own widely respected New England Patriots correspondent is left to speculation.
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