Credit: USA Today Images

NBA insider Shams Charania spent the day of the 2023 NBA Draft tweeting out various reports regarding what might happen that evening. One of those tweets was his report that Scoot Henderson was “gaining serious momentum at No. 2 with the Charlotte Hornets,” which was a bit surprising as the team was presumed to be eyeing Alabama’s Brandon Miller.

After Charania’s tweet, the betting markets around the No. 2 draft pick shifted. The report had a very real-world impact on the way gamblers were laying down bets, which in turn had an impact on sports betting companies such as FanDuel.

The report might not have been noticed except for the fact that not only did Charlotte select Miller, but ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski then tweeted that the Hornets organization had been “all-in” on Miller “all along.”

It would have been fair to assume Shams simply got some bad intel or was doing a solid for Henderson’s agent. However, along with his roles with The Athletic and Stadium, Charania also co-hosts Run It Back on FanDuel TV, which could not be ignored. Furthermore, he had reported this news on The Pat McAfee Show, which was platformed by FanDuel at the time. That his report might move the betting lines was even discussed during the show.

For their part, FanDuel put out a statement saying they are “not privy to any news that Shams breaks on his platforms.”

There was never any proof that Charania purposefully dropped the Henderson report to influence betting lines, but as Dr. Brian Moritz, an associate professor at St. Bonaventure University and the author of Sports Media Guy says, that’s almost beside the point.

“This is all about perception. When you are working for a news organization, there’s a tacit understanding that the news you report is being done so with the primary goal of informing the public,” Moritz told Awful Announcing. “Yes, reporters and news organizations profit from reporting, but indirectly. At the end of the day, when you report a piece of sports news, you are doing so to inform the public, the fans, of what’s going on with the team.

“When you are reporting for a sportsbook or gambling company, it changes that dynamic. Because now it’s not just about informing fans. Now, it raises the question — are you serving the fans or the sportsbook?”

Moritz, who has been covering the intersection between gambling and sports media for a while now, recently penned a prediction for Neiman Lab that a major sports betting journalism scandal could happen in 2024 as gambling companies and the sports media world become even more enmeshed.

“I think the situations that give me pause here are the relationships that news organizations are building with gambling sites and sportsbooks. ESPN Bet is a prime example of this,” said Moritz. “Now, I’ve had conversations with people in ESPN and they stress that there are strict guardrails in place between the gambling site and the news site. I believe them — for all the criticism you can level at ESPN, they do take the journalistic side of things quite seriously. But not every company is going to be that diligent.”

Along with gambling companies advertising heavily during sporting events and on sports networks, we’ve seen a significant push for those companies to employ reporters and sports media members as well. Until recently, Darren Rovell worked for The Action Network, and college football insider Brett McMurphy still does. They might not have McAfee anymore but FanDuel works with Charania, Kay Adams, Michelle Beadle, and Bill Simmons. DraftKings boasts programming with Mike Golic, Sr. & Mike Golic, Jr., Brent Musberger, Dan Le Batard, and more. While ESPN reporters like Adam Schefter are banned from placing bets with ESPN Bet on the sports they cover, Schefter is an investor (alongside New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft) in Boom Entertainment, a maker of sports and casino apps that’s developing “real money gambling products.”

One of the biggest problems facing this crossover between media members and gambling companies is that there don’t appear to be many ethics rules in place to protect journalists or their audience. Creating codes of ethics across journalism organizations and private companies could be an important first step toward preventing a crisis.

“I don’t think you can have a blanket THOU SHALT NOT GAMBLE rule for sports journalists. That’s overly broad and restrictive. A reporter covering preps in Glens Falls, NY, has no insider information on the NFL,” said Moritz. “But I think guidelines saying reporters should not gamble on the teams or sports they regularly cover is a common sense place to start.

“It’s also important to remember that the codes of ethics are voluntary guidelines. They do not have the force of law. They are, in the words of Captain Barbossa, more guidelines than rules. But I do think they are a good place for journalists and news organizations to start.”

One specific way that Moritz thinks news organizations could help cut down on the potential for gambling scandals is to reconsider letting their journalists vote on things like preseason and postseason awards, even going as far as to say that voting for hall of fame inductees poses potential liabilities.

“The fact that you can make prop bets on almost every game now changes things,” Moritz said. “Now you add the ability to gamble on award winners [and] hall of famers, and that adds an extra layer of potential ethical ickiness for reporters to navigate.”

That might be a big ask for many journalists and the media machine that demands those kinds of awards and nominations to drive stories and discussions.

“Insiders” like Schefter, Charania, and Wojnarowski would appear to be the most likely kinds of sports reporters to be susceptible to something unsavory. Their entire reason for existing is to break news, be first, and generate engagement. They have access to incredibly sensitive information before the public does. They wield the ability to make an entire day’s news cycle with one tweet. And when they report something, everyone takes notice.

However, that insatiable desire to be first and be the best is what Moritz thinks would prevent most insiders from even considering bending or breaking that ethical code.

“The big reason is that the competition on the ‘Scoop Scoreboard’ among the elite insiders is so fierce, so strong, so ingrained in how they do their jobs and their industry, that I don’t see legalized sports gambling affecting it at all,” said Moritz. “These journalists live to break news, by seconds if need be, and they’re not going to stop doing that because gambling is legal and accessible.”

That said, he does see a scenario where the incentives could change and an opportunity could present itself.

“Where this could change is if one of the major insiders gets hired by a sportsbook to be a reporter/inside/rainmaker,” he said. “In 2021 and 2022, it was widely assumed by people that I talked to in and around sports media that Adam Schefter was going to leave ESPN for a sportsbook, and so when he re-signed with ESPN, it was a bit of a surprise. An insider working directly for a sportsbook and reporting news for a site that is specifically set up only for gambling would be way different than an insider reporting things on a news website.”

2024 is going to present a lot of unknown challenges for journalists, media companies, and audiences to maneuver as sports gambling companies become fully entrenched in the daily sports media experience (if they haven’t already). We’ve seen these partnerships already create headaches and scandals for players, coaches, and referees. It does feel as though it’s only a matter of time before some sports journalist steps into a gray area, or beyond. It also feels as though we don’t really know what media companies and outlets will do about it until it happens.

[Nieman Lab]

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to