Media

ESPN's Top NFL Reporter Carries Water for ESPN's Business Partner, the NFL

Believe it or not, a news organization owned by Disney is up to embarrassing nonsense.

by Laura Wagner
Feb 27 2020, 3:14pm

As the NFL tries to rush players into ratifying a shitty collective bargaining agreement that would, among other things, add an extra game to the already grueling 16-game regular season, ESPN’s lead NFL reporter, Adam Schefter, is busy lugging buckets of the league’s murky water. Yesterday morning, he tweeted:

As pointed out by a New York Times reporter, this is incorrect. Under the terms of a seven-year CBA signed in 2016, NBA players are guaranteed between 49 and 51 percent of revenue. The NHL CBA guarantees players an even 50/50 revenue split. MLB’s CBA doesn’t specify the exact percentage of revenue players are guaranteed, but it has reportedly been between 48.5 and 51.7 in every year since 2006.

Shortly after VICE asked ESPN if Schefter or ESPN would be correcting the false information—or if, perhaps, Schefter was in possession of some previously unknown data about revenue splits between management and labor in the major American sports—Schefter tweeted the following:

An ESPN flack told VICE this was an “update/clarification,” but the word salad doesn’t really clarify anything. Not only are “is now believed” and “per sources” a long walk back from a flat statement that the new NFL deal “would give [players] the highest percentage of revenues of any American professional sport,” it’s unclear where Schefter is getting these numbers. An NHL Players Association source told VICE:

We do not know how the reporter/his source arrived at that number. The NHL CBA does allow for certain deductions (subject to caps in many cases), but so do the NBA and NFL CBAs. Each system is different not only in what expenses can be deducted, but also in which revenues are shared between players and owners. Comparing player compensation percentages in the NFL, NBA, and NHL is truly like comparing apples and oranges.

A reporter for the Disney-owned ESPN effectively doing PR for a network business partner is nothing new. (ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro told reporters in 2018 that he valued a cozy relationship with the NFL and Schefter literally did an ad for an NFL sponsor last year.) Misrepresenting the proposed labor agreement in a way that makes the NFL—which has been busy cheating former players and their families out of money they’re owed from legal settlements—seem groundbreaking and progressive is especially nasty, though.

Several NFL players, including some of the biggest stars in the league, have spoken out against the proposed deal; other players feel the process is “rushed,” per ESPN’s Josina Anderson. (She has 165,000 followers compared to Schefter’s nearly eight million.)

The current NFL CBA doesn’t expire until after the 2020 season, but league owners are eager to secure a new contract. It would guarantee 10 years of labor peace, making it easier to start negotiating lucrative new broadcasting deals with partners like Schefter’s employer.

In other news, Disney-owned ABC suspended reporter David Wright yesterday for offering uncontroversial observations and personal opinions in private.

Follow Laura Wagner on Twitter.

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