Editor’s note: On June 22nd, I interviewed Brock McGillis. The interview is below.
Happy Father’s Day weekend all!
Things remain steady here in Seattle. We are just now starting to see things opening up and so far the numbers here are steady.
What an interesting week from a media perspective. The baseball talks this week were pretty wild. Various leaks from both sides leading to peaks and valleys of optimism the likes we have not seen since the last MLB labor problem.
The week ended with Corona-mania as teams were having to shut down as unnamed players and personnel were testing positives at New York March like numbers. It was hard to envision any of the leagues playing at any time prior to 2021.
Unfortunately over the years some of the biggest stories we’ve covered here have been about job losses or staff changes. With every new change means a different opportunity for someone else invariable someone is leaving their gig (warranted or not) and aside from their health, one’s occupation is the most personal thing of all.
Having said that, we have heard cries of “homerism” if you will about broadcasters and outlets ever since local teams got acquired by media outlets. Sportnet’s The Fan and some of their talents have been accused of being Blue Jay’s apologists for years. When I lived in Detroit there were two all-sports radio stations. One had the broadcast rights to the pro-teams, and the other one not so much. The one that didn’t used the tag line “the only station in town not bought and paid for by the home team”. So the notion of editorial influence is something we have seen in sports for years.
There are two stories from this week that have been amongst the two most intriguing stories in our history not so much for how they have been covered but for how they have NOT been covered. One of the stories I may have legal reasoning that may to some degree explain certain things, the other is much more mystifying.
Yesterday, Steve Simmons wrote a column across the Postmedia network claiming that Auston Matthews has tested positive for Corona. Immediately after the publication of that story, Simmons appeared on TSN’s Toronto based all-sports radio station TSN 1050 and their number one rated Overdrive show with host Bryan Hayes and guest co-host Dave Feschuck.
Here is the tweet from Simmons on the story:
POSTMEDIA EXCLUSIVE: Auston Matthews has tested positive for COVID-19. My breaking story: https://t.co/oEAABdUlTU
— steve simmons (@simmonssteve) June 19, 2020
During the interview which I happened to be listening to live here in Seattle thanks to Tunein radio, a couple of things were said that I think should be noted:
Both Hayes and Feschuck said that they had heard rumblings about Matthews’s testing positive “over the last couple of days”. Later in the show, in fact, Hayes even said that while others had heard rumors about it, Simmons was the only one to write that Matthews had tested positive.
Later on, Hayes and Feschuck interviewed colleague Andi Petrillo about the story. They compared the story to the previous incident where the Leafs didn’t know about potential charges being laid against Matthews for an incident also in Arizona, opining that the Leafs needed to do a better job getting in front of stories as opposed to having to chase the story as appeared to be the case this time.
Simmons explained that multiple independent sources verified the veracity of the story, no one from the Matthews camp or the Maple Leafs was talking and that Simmons and his story needed to be approved by Postmedia legal department before being published.
Well, here is Simmons’s latest post:
It’s been reported. It’s been verified. Why are so many members of the hockey media closing their eyes and pretending the Auston Matthews story didn’t happen.
It happened. Much like it happened to Ezekiel Elliott. And nobody ignored that story. Privacy for one and not the other?
— steve simmons (@simmonssteve) June 20, 2020
Few in the usual flooded Toronto Sports media world or the hockey world for that matter is mentioning the story. TSN 1050 has gone so far as pulling the Simmons interview from their online sites. The Maple Leafs issued a statement in essence that they would be following the NHL policy of not disclosing specific player positive Corona tests.
Here is the Leafs statement via Chris Johnston:
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) June 19, 2020
Kevin McGran at the star had an article:
“The Leafs and NHL had no comment on a Postmedia story that cited sources saying Matthews had tested positive in Arizona, where new cases have been spiking this week.The story, which was confirmed by the Star, said his pandemic roommate, Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen, had not. Andersen had joined Matthews in his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., shortly after the league paused the season on March 12. Andersen is not with Matthews at the moment, the report said.”
Bruce Arthur took note too:
Hell of a scoop from Steve, and I would only add this about today’s wave of athletes testing positive: we are in a global pandemic, and America is one of the worst-managed countries on earth. https://t.co/4YF7iPNLzS
— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) June 19, 2020
So too did Michael Traikos:
This is huge. https://t.co/H4ak3ElU8C
— Michael Traikos (@Michael_Traikos) June 19, 2020
Earlier in the day, the Tampa Bay Lightning issued a statement that unknown players had tested positive for Corona, but did not mention names.
In the NFL, several days back reports originally broke that Dallas Cowboy players tested positive for Corona initially and it wasn’t until later that the names of players came out, with the players confirming along with agents and teams.
Even in the NBA positive tests have been confirmed.
The #1 insider in the NBA tweeted this way back in March:
Jazz star Donovan Mitchell has tested positive for the coronavirus, league sources tell ESPN. Jazz players privately say that Rudy Gobert had been careless in the locker room touching other players and their belongings. Now a Jazz teammate has tested positive.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 12, 2020
In other words, there is precedent in other leagues for other outlets to cover players testing positive.
So why the silence here and now?
One scribe has a thought…
Nobody ignored Ezekiel Elliott because it was confirmed, on the record, by his agent to multiple media outlets. It was only then that his name was used in reports. https://t.co/8OU5DMSIDm
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) June 20, 2020
So one theory going around is that the Toronto Maple Leafs who employ the player in question is forbidden from discussing an employee’s health situation under health laws. In the USA it’s Hipaa and in Canada Pipeda.
In the USA Hipaa, I am told applies to doctors and medical professionals accountable for patient privacy. Employers are bound under an employee’s personal rights or privacy. Pipeda deals specifically with issues of privacy.
Is it possible that both Rogers and Bell are of the belief that they and their outlets are bound by their employee’s privacy rights and therefore are preventing any of their reporters from writing, tweeting or even speaking about the Matthews story?
Simmons did say that he had to get legal approval to run the story. What about the countless employees and outlets that Rogers and or Bell don’t own? Why have they remained silent?
Multiple former NHL GM’s and executives told me that they would be precluded from verifying the information if a player tested positive officially but they would do so off the record if it were true depending on the relationship they had with and reputation of the reporter asking the question.
Is this a case of the media wanting to play it safe or in the alternative the media not wanting to piss of MLSE, the Leafs, or the player in question?
Do you remember Jason Pierre-Paul and his lawsuit against ESPN and reporter Adam Schefter?
Pierre-Paul sued Shefter after he lost a part of his hand in a July 4th accident that resulted in the amputation of his right index finger. Schefter tweeted the medical chart showing the amputation to almost 4 million followers.
The parties settled out of court and I am led to believe that those in the business believe Pierre-Paul walked away with a 6-7 figure settlement.
In that case, one element of importance to note was that Shefter obtained the report improperly. So, perhaps one relevant question could be as to how Simmons got his information.
The point is, it’s beyond grey. Simmons and a few others have pointed out that several public figures have had their positive test results publicized. This is not the first one. It won’t be the last.
So why did TSN pull the interview and why are no other outlets covering it the way other outlets are covering players testing positive?
EDIT by Mike: You can listen to the interview here and decide for yourself if there is anything in it that would explain why TSN chose to take it down after putting Simmons on the air. I don’t hear anything problematic and found it to be a well conducted discussion by all three. Worth noting that Hayes refers to Simmons as working for both Postmedia and TSN when touting the big scoop.
EDIT #2 – TSN posted Hour 1 from Friday on Monday.
END of EDIT
In the midst of this, one may ask how to ensure one remains on the media equivalent of Robidas Island? To which I present:
— Howard Berger (@Berger_BYTES) June 20, 2020
I guess some never learn…
One longtime media executive I spoke to said “this is what makes you(me) and everyone else scream. There is no reason to have reporters when they are not permitted to do their jobs.”
Another chimed in “Program Directors are F’N @#@!#$#!@.(another name for a cat) They should be telling their people to get the story, get it in and set the news.”
I don’t have the answer for you but there is a lot about this that simply doesn’t feel right. I don’t like issues of health entering the public domain but equally, I don’t like double standards. I don’t like the rush to get a story on the air and then taking it down as if it didn’t happen.
Former Maple Leafs player Mark Fraser chimed in too…
Apparently there’s no such thing as keeping your medical history private when you’re a @MapleLeafs. 1 day after having reconstructive surgery to repair my shattered skull from a gm 4 injury, my CT Scan ended up all over the media… I was given no choice. Strangers mad it for me. https://t.co/iHhf7WfwXA
— Mark Fraser (@MarkFraser02) June 20, 2020
I spoke with a privacy attorney in Ontario today. Basically what he told me was that Pipeda is not relevant at all here. The only statutory obligation MLSE would have is if they were the custodian of the medical reports confirming Matthews’s positive test. What is at play is any contractual obligation the Maple Leafs may have to keep private health matter confidential if any. Where this attorney believes Simmons and the Toronto Sun could be liable is for breach of Matthews’s personal privacy which is protected under Canadian law. In this person’s opinion, the fact that it is Corona (as opposed to say Cancer) is irrelevant. Furthermore, Matthews would maintain his expectation to privacy even though he is a public figure. Under the current circumstances (i.e. no games being played) Matthews, in this attorney’s opinion, has a reasonable expectation that his testing positive is a private matter and should be protected from publication. This, I was told is covered under the common law.
We have never seen a story like this “buried” before.
Until it happened again the day before.
If what Daniel Carcillo and another former junior player are alleging in a class-action lawsuit against the CHL are true, nothing short of a complete overhaul of the junior game in Canada is in order. WARNING: Details may disturb some readers. My blog. https://t.co/O6s8MLaJHY
— Ken Campbell (@THNKenCampbell) June 18, 2020
Ken Campbell dropped a grenade on the entire junior hockey world with his exclusive story about hazing in junior hockey and a recently filed lawsuit. While not proven in court, Campbell added this tweet:
Two of Daniel Carcillo’s teammates corroborated what Carcillo alleged in his hazing/sexual assault class action lawsuit. One of them said the abuse was so bad that it made him suicidal. My blog. https://t.co/GgK3XKqxjB
— Ken Campbell (@THNKenCampbell) June 19, 2020
Numerous former players have commented on twitter on the story.
Yet as of this posting, ONE NHL reporter has written about it, Damian Cox. ONE!
Now, how does that happen????
Simmons touched on it in his Sunday notes column just now “he class-action lawsuit alleging that teenagers “were sexually and physically assaulted, hazed and otherwise abused while away from home and playing for CHL teams” is long overdue. The culture of junior hockey must change. And we’ve been saying that for years.”
This from usually silent ESPN on hockey matters:
“This lawsuit is the latest in a reckoning for hockey, which has been grappling with troubling abuse claims for most of this season. In November, Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters resigned after a former player, Akim Aliu, alleged the coach directed a racial slur while they were in the minors together 10 years ago.
Earlier this week, former Ontario Hockey League forward Eric Guest alleged in an Instagram video that he was forced to do cocaine in a bathroom as a rookie with the Kitchener Rangers in 2016. The OHL has launched an investigation into Guest’s claims.”
Meanwhile, Sportsnet THE NHL provider for hockey in Canada which aspires to be the worldwide leader of all things sports in Canada didn’t bother to have anyone cover the story in “print”! They buried a CP story about 12 folds down.
Kudos to Jeff Blair, Stephen Brunt and Richard Deitsch to interviewing Brock McGillis who labeled the issue not a JR hockey problem but rather a hockey problem and even more he refused to allow the notion that this stuff only happened years ago to exist. Brian Burke and Justin Bourne also were on the station stating that teams now have anti-hazing policies. Brock McGillis said those policies aren’t enough and they aren’t working. The culture of hockey is broken from 7 years old and up. McGillis went so far as to say that the actual issue itself has yet to be fully identified.
Yet, here we are.
Thankfully Rick Westhead continues his journey to seek and tell the truth in sports too:
These allegations are extremely disturbing. I have not included the worst of the claims in our story.
For those who are interested, here is the statement of claim filed in court today:https://t.co/WB3ooqc8vThttps://t.co/s3tSRnUp4e
— Rick Westhead (@rwesthead) June 18, 2020
I have scoured the internet to find stories in Canada about this issue and found three. Damian’s and Steve’s and Michael Traikos.
“The alleged abuses are shocking, but not entirely surprising. Hazing had gone unchecked in major junior hockey for decades. It wasn’t until Akim Aliu came forward with tales of abuse as a 16-year-old while playing for the Windsor Spitfires in 2005, that the league took an active stance against the practice. And yet, it hasn’t completely gone away.”
That from the Traikos story.
If you have more stories and I am missing them link them below.
You have a guy like McGillis say that the culture of the game is beyond broken and no one wants to talk about it. McGillis has called it a systemic problem in the game.
So, I ask you why has this story been buried?
Richard Deitsch said on the air, “if we knew the horrors that existed it is unimaginable to me”. Great. Agreed. Where’s the rest of the coverage.
We get thousands of hours of coverage on the game. Every game is covered. In Canadian markets 10’s of reporters minimum covering practices and yet when something topical comes up?????? Crickets.
Why do you think that is?
Is it acceptable that so many of those who cover sports in this country and more importantly the game that we all love are not talking about such a massively important story?
Is it what Mike calls “the bro” culture?
Is it biting the hand that feeds you? Are media members worried that if they speak out they will lose their relationship with their sources and the guys they need to cover?
I don’t get it.
So many of the talking heads in and around the game have had no issue talking about all sorts of uncomfortable “political” issues of late in and around sports. Yet some (not all) of those same people are dead silent.
Haven’t heard one word from the CHL in response to this — https://t.co/dv5bskCr1N
— Allan Walsh (@walsha) June 19, 2020
It’s not just the CHL that has been silent. Too, too many who like to talk and type have been silent. Why I ask you is that?
Now, as I wrote this, this just appeared:
“But whatever comes next, surely Canadian junior hockey has finally met its day of reckoning. It’s just unfortunate that it took this long, and allegations this outrageous and entirely believable, to finally bring it all to a head.”
This from Carcillo himself a few hours ago:
Notable silence from many prominent figures in the hockey media about the class action lawsuit against @CHLHockey
— Daniel Carcillo (@CarBombBoom13) June 21, 2020
While I think I’d like to believe that, I am not sure I do. Given the almost total radio silence, how can we feel anything else?
I will throw it out there, despite intentions I don’t see any of the major leagues playing this year. No, not because of labor issues. Corona will not allow it.
A good take on this from the NHL perspective is from James Mirtle and Michael Russo at the Athletic:
“The names of the NHL players infected have not been released. The Athletic’s policy is to not identify athletes by name unless the team or player agrees to do so.
One prominent Western Conference player said Friday that the positive tests were further confirmation that the league was moving too fast with its timeline.”
Rumors persist that the future of Tim and Sid is not long for the world. Both TV and radio ratings just don’t warrant the effort (this was before the Corona.)
My money is that they have T&S lead into Blair, Brunt, and Deitsch
A trusted source tells me there have been talks with one Robert McCown but those talks were not fruitful. I’d be shocked if they would bring Bob back. Hey, they did bring Erin back once so…. anything is possible.
Lots more about both these stories as we learn and see more.