Ron Harper at the NBA All-Star Game Weekend in 2016. Ron Harper at the NBA All-Star Game Weekend in 2016. (lam_chihang on Wikipedia.)

There’s long been a conflict in sports between reporters trying to get out information as they learn it and leagues, teams, and/or players trying to release that information in particular ways at particular times. The latest case of that becoming a public issue came Wednesday around ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reporting that top men’s basketball recruit Dylan Harper (No. 2 in the ESPN Top 100 for the class of 2024) was heading to Rutgers before Harper announced that in a ceremony at Fanatics headquarters in New York:

But while Wojnarowski used “tells ESPN” there, suggesting that Dylan Harper did specifically tell him this, there was a lot of negative reaction from Harper’s family. That included Dylan’s father, famed former NBA player and coach Ron Harper, calling this “BS” and saying “I will catch up with you oneday I promise….”:

Harper added more on this in a reply to Amp Harris, who has in his bio that he’s a promoter and consultant to professional athletes and entertainers:

And more still in a reply to his son Ron Harper Jr., who played at Rutgers and now plays for the Toronto Raptors:

The anger from the Harper family on having their planned moment spoiled is somewhat understandable. And there are potential impacts to that. While it’s unlikely this impacts Dylan Harper’s Fanatics deal, the event would seemingly have had more value for that company if it had been actually revealing the news of his commitment (which is quite a big deal) rather than confirming the already-reported news.

There is news value in players’ decisions, which is why insiders try to find them out and report them. And that’s why we’ve seen many players (including LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Kobe Bryant) try to get that news out themselves or through their preferred channels. And the particular way Wojnarowski reported this particular news seemed to place blame for it coming out early on Dylan Harper. And the top news value here went to Wojnarowski and ESPN rather than Harper and Fanatics.

But Wojnarowski is also doing his job by reporting news to the public. And while news organizations or individuals sometimes make deals where they only gain news under an embargo agreement to release it at a certain time, we don’t know how Wojnarowski got this news or if he broke any restrictions on it. And if he obtained information without restriction, it’s generally insiders’ job to get that news out there rather than respect athlete or family release plans, even if they sometimes take criticism for that.

Of course, there are exceptions to that where news organizations specifically restrict reporters from revealing information. That often happens around in an effort not to “spoil” their own made-for-TV events, particularly drafts. That’s long been a ESPN-NFL Network agreement on the NFL Draft side.

On the NBA side, Wojnarowski was well-known for reporting picks before they were officially announced while he was at Yahoo. At ESPN, he kept doing so for a while despite NBA pushback (a bigger deal at a league rights partner), but had to use some creative language. But he went away from that this year, saying it was more worth his time to focus on other aspects (including trades) for the network’s live draft show. So that’s not necessarily backing off over league pushback, but rather a focus shift.

In any case, it’s notable to see Ron Harper so incensed by this. There isn’t enough information out there to indicate that he has a case, though. If Wojnarowski agreed to getting this information under condition of holding until the announcement, then yes, Harper’s criticisms would have a point. But if Wojnarowski obtained this information without release conditions, he’s doing his job by getting it out there. Even if it’s not how the family would have preferred to see that break.

[Ron Harper on Twitter]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.