The most influential person in the Year in Sports 2014 may not even be a person at all.  An argument can be made that the news, gossip, and stick-cameras-in-people’s-faces-at-airports site TMZ has been the most impactful force in sports this year.  Were it not for TMZ, Donald Sterling would still own the Clippers and Ray Rice would be preparing to return after a two-game suspension.

But before everyone applauds TMZ for their investigative journalism prowess, it’s worth taking a step back and realizing this is an outlet with some serious, serious missteps on their resume.  Just earlier this year they botched a report on Colin Kaepernick being accused of sexual assault.  And there are more than enough mistakes and false reports from the celebrity world to fill a Bleacher Report slideshow.

That’s why when TMZ head honcho Harvey Levin promised some proof relating to holes in the NFL and Roger Goodell’s investigation, it was worth some healthy skepticism.

Because they just can’t help themselves, TMZ’s reckless past is catching up with them.  TMZ’s follow-up reporting has led to more confusion than what existed before.

TMZ’s report early Tuesday morning wasn’t as much of a bombshell as Levin would have hoped.  In fact, it had been written about before on multiple occasions by PFT’s Mike Florio.  The outlet published a report saying the league never went to the casino for a copy of the elevator tape that led to Ray Rice’s release and indefinite suspension:

The NFL NEVER contacted the casino to request video of Ray Rice brutalizing his fiancee … TMZ Sports has learned. Commissioner Rodger Goodell made his disciplinary decision in the dark, which raises the question … Is that the way he wanted it?

Sources connected with the Revel Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City tell TMZ Sports … NO ONE from the NFL ever asked for the video inside the elevator … video that was compelling enough to get Rice instantly fired.

Sources who worked at the casino at the time of the incident tell us … if the NFL had asked for the video, they would have gladly complied.

So TMZ says in their new report that nobody at the NFL contacted the casino to see the video… except a TMZ producer went on Fox Sports Live Monday night and said that someone from the NFL had seen the video.  Executive producer Charles Latibeaudiere told FS1 the following:

“We have spoken to mulitple sources at Revel Casino… we are assured that someone from the NFL, it wasn’t Roger Goodell walking in we know that, but there were people from the NFL who came and saw the video.  So now the question becomes how much of that information got back to Roger Goodell and did he ever see an actual copy of the video.”

“Employees of the NFL were at the casino to see the video.”

Here’s video of the interview from Fox Sports Live that really puts the cat among the pigeons when it comes to TMZ’s reporting:

You don’t have to be Woodward and Bernstein to realize that something is amiss here.  There’s a major, major difference between “no one from the NFL ever asked for the video inside the elevator” and “employees of the NFL were at the casino to see the video.”

Levin foreshadowed the confusion yesterday when he was trying to promote the TMZ bombshell in an interview with Fox 5 in Washington DC and said this:

“I have got conflicting stories on this and we have some people saying they saw this, but I now believe they actually turned a blind eye to it and it’s a shameful story.”

It’s one thing to get conflicting stories, but to allow those conflicting stories to be forwarded publicly is a significant blunder.  To think that Levin and his lieutenants couldn’t get organized and come up with a consistent narrative on what happened with the NFL and the casino tape only produces further questions, not answers.

The details on when or if someone from the NFL actually saw the tape is hugely significant to how the league’s investigation (or lack thereof) played out.  Both scenarios (either not bothering to see the tape, or seeing the tape and doing nothing about it) make the NFL look woefully incompetent and negligent, but it’s important for the league’s credibility to get to the bottom of the truth.  Unfortunately, that seems nearly impossible now.

The fact that TMZ puffed out their chests promising a smoking gun today to only produce more confusion only exacerbates the situation.

This is a hugely important story where TMZ has put themselves on the front line.  To their credit, the release of the elevator video was a gamechanger.  But if TMZ is going to continue to report on this story, that means it’s now more important to get all the details in their reporting correct, not less.  This story is too important for some kind of make-it-up-as-we-go-along journalism.

Not for the first time in their existence, TMZ needs to get their story straight.

About Matt Yoder

Award winning sportswriter at The Comeback and Awful Announcing. The biggest cat in the whole wide world.

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