When a weekly WWE recap segment debuted on SportsCenter in October, it wasn’t just The Rock who was raising eyebrows.
ESPN doubled-down with the connection when they started breaking injury news in the pro wrestling federation as well. However, ESPN’s coverage of certain stories and ignorance of others has raised questions about how the sports network is covering WWE and whether or not they’re being paid to only cover specific stories that benefit the wrestling company.
There have been plenty of wrestler injuries in the weeks since Seth Rollins went down. Why have none of them warranted coverage while that one did? With sagging ratings and apparent financial issues, it stands to reason that ESPN cut some kind of deal in order to bring in revenue.
SI’s Richard Deitsch, one who concerns himself with such matters, says that’s not the case:
For those who asked: ESPN says on the record they receive no payment from the WWE for coverage of the WWE.
— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) December 15, 2015
Now, while money might not be changing hands, that doesn’t mean there isn’t some other kind of financial arrangement at play here. There could be advertising or promotional trade-offs in the works that don’t require either company to hand over payments. It wouldn’t be the first time someone used semantics to make something sound more transparent than it is.
It stands to reason that if ESPN’s intentions were purely news-based, they’d go stronger in either direction. They’d either not cover it at all or they would cover it like they do any other major sport, the good and the bad. That the coverage exists in this positive-leaning middle ground makes it hard to believe this is altruistic and much easier to believe it’s a transaction of some kind.