SB Nation generated outrage Wednesday by publishing a nearly 12,000-word profile that painted convicted rapist, ex-cop, and one-time football player Daniel Holtzclaw in a favorable light. The piece was later deleted, but the Internet neither forgives nor forgets, and the sympathetic story of Holtzclaw’s failed attempt to make it in the NFL remains available via archived sources.
The Holtzclaw profile was published by Vox Media’s sports website, SB Nation, in its longform vertical. According to Deadspin, SB Nation‘s longform vertical has been praised in the past, but something went wrong in this case.
The longform profile of Holtzclaw’s career as a college football player, and subsequent failure to make it into the NFL, drew harsh criticism upon publication from both journalists and readers.
Striking the right tone is is hard, but important. It’s super important when, say, writing about a serial rapist.
— Kevin Van Valkenburg (@KVanValkenburg) February 17, 2016
@SBNation where on earth is the editorial board to prevent something this stupid from being published?
— ML (@The_Lorax2) February 18, 2016
Holtzclaw, as previously reported by Inquisitr, was convicted on 18 counts of rape last December. He was then sentenced to 263 years in prison last month, to be served consecutively, with little hope of parole barring a successful appeal or retrial.
The rapes that Holtzclaw was convicted of took place while he was an Oklahoma police officer on his beat in a poor Oklahoma City neighborhood, but the SB Nation profile focused on his time as a college football player and floated a number of excuses, explanations, and alternate theories regarding the rape charges.
According to Slate, the SB Nation piece “parrots Holtzclaw’s defense lawers’ talking points” and theorizes that the ex-cop’s crimes, if he is actually guilty of them, could be explained by his failed football career.
The football connection explains how the controversial Holtzclaw profile ended up published in SB Nation’s longform vertical, and the New York Times reports that the author was a freelance sports journalist who had previously written about Holtzclaw during the convicted ex-cop’s time as a football player at Eastern Michigan University.
Deadspin theorized that the profile may have been pitched as a “complex portrait of a villain,” but it clearly went astray at some point.
Although the longform piece did make it through the SB Nation editorial process, and was promoted via Tweets after publication, senior editorial staff at SB Nation agree that something went fundamentally wrong in the publication of the favorable look at a convicted serial rapist.
In a statement released by SB Nation after the article was deleted, the Holtzclaw profile was referred to as “a complete failure.”
“The publication of this story represents a complete breakdown of a part of the editorial process at SB Nation. There were objections by senior editorial staff that went unheeded. It was tone-deaf, insensitive to the victims of sexual assault and rape, and wrongheaded in approach and execution. There is no qualification: it was a complete failure.”
More than just a failure in the SB Nation editorial process, the entire concept of longform content for the sake of longform content has even been called into question.
— Kimberley Porteous (@brontegirl) February 18, 2016
The SB Nation Longform piece was ultimately deleted, but it is still available via archive for anyone who wants to read it.
Holtzclaw’s victims ranged from a grandmother, who ultimately reported him, to a 17-year-old girl who is now afraid to leave her house, but the freelancer responsible for the controversial SB Nation article concluded with this confusing statement about recovery.
“Pending an improbable successful appeal, everything he had worked for was now gone, likely never to be recovered, ever again. Recovery, if there is any, appears to be something deserved only by the victims of a man whose belief in his innocence will apparently be, like the way he once pursued his dream of playing in the NFL, unrelenting, despite all evidence to the contrary.”
Do you think that longform content is overrated, in the wake of SB Nation’s deleted profile on Holtzclaw, or is this just an example of how editorial oversight is especially important in sensitive cases like this one?
[Photo by AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki]