The sports media controversy of the weekend was Britt McHenry of ESPN being called out by Redskins head coach Jay Gruden as an “amateur” and a “small time reporter.” Gruden’s anger stemmed from a McHenry report that Robert Griffin III was alienating some people within the Washington locker room.
McHenry’s report created an interesting divide. Local beat reporters seem to back the coach and the franchise and said McHenry’s report was inaccurate. Some national voices though countered by backing McHenry. It’s interesting to note that although McHenry works for a national outlet, she’s based in Washington and came to ESPN from the ABC DC affiliate.
McHenry has now spoken out to defend her reporting on the story in an interview with Sports Illustrated:
“I’m confident enough in my reporting to do it all over again,” McHenry said. “I spoke with multiple sources within the organization and even talked to players around the league who are familiar with the divisive relationships between Robert Griffin III and a few of his teammates. At ESPN, we don’t just go on the air without properly vetting our material. Multiple producers and editors at the network, from the one I worked with in Minnesota to our Countdown and SportsCenter producers and news editors in Bristol, were made aware of the report.”
While McHenry is standing by her work and the ESPN report, Jason Reid of the Washington Post also goes on the record in greater detail to SI to offer his perspective on why McHenry’s report was not accurate:
“The report was not accurate,” Reid said. “I like Britt. Obviously whether I like I her or not is not relevant to whether the report is accurate but I want to say that up front. I didn’t take any pleasure in tweeting what I did but I had people coming at me on Twitter and texts and emails about this so I thought it was something I could not ignore. This was not taking a shot at a fellow reporter.
“There were two components to that report. The first component was that Robert had alienated some of his teammates. The second component was that the level of hostility because he has alienated his teammates rose to such a level that his teammates shouted him out of the locker room, essentially because they do not respect him. Had Britt stopped with Robert had alienated some of his teammates, that report I would not have had a problem with … It would be shocking with all the stuff that has happened over the past two years if Robert had not alienated some of his teammates. If she had reported there was a scene in the locker room when Robert was conducting his first interview since coming back and the interview had to be moved out of the locker room because players were making a bunch of noise, that would have been fine. What was not fine and what was inaccurate was this link that there is such hostility toward Robert because of the way he had alienated the team.”
Everyone agrees that fellow Redskins players were shouting over the media’s attempted interview of RGIII. Additionally, Reid admits that yes, RGIII has alienated some of his teammates in the locker room. Reid’s issues with McHenry’s reporting seems to be with the unprofessional interview scene having to do more with their annoyance towards the media and PR boss Tony Wyllie and not RGIII.
For her part, McHenry tried to further clarify those elements of her report and the media scene in the locker room. She also added that something like what unfolded while Griffin was speaking to the media would never happen to Tom Brady and Peyton Manning:
“To be clear, I never said the locker room was shouting in revolt of Griffin starting on Sunday. Players were making jokes at team personnel, at us, and even chiding Griffin. The volume only escalated when he began speaking. It’s not uncommon to see athletes joke around before a fellow teammate addresses reporters, but it usually stops either immediately or shortly after the interview begins. That didn’t happen. We all had to leave the locker room so that Griffin could speak to us. Here is what I reported: ‘When Robert Griffin III addressed the media on Friday for the first time since injuring himself in Week 2, about 15 players started shouting. It was so loud and distracting, the franchise quarterback — and all the reporters — had to walk outside the locker room where Griffin could speak and be heard.’ That is exactly what happened. The situation was very unprofessional in what should be a professional locker room.”
The difference here between McHenry’s report and the pushback from the local media seems to be the linkage between the two events. Perhaps McHenry’s initial report could have been clearer in identifying the media as the target of the Redskins players’ loud noises and not Griffin. But if Griffin alienating part of the locker room can be agreed upon, then it gives more credence to McHenry. In fairness to McHenry, it does seem like from these details that the personal attacks from Redskins head coach Jay Gruden were well over the top.
In all of this controversy, there’s one thing everyone can agree on – the Redskins are a hideous trainwreck, all the way from their immature locker room to the owner’s box.