Much of the internet has been yelling at NFL aggregator Dov Kleiman this week for his handling of a tweet on Caleb Williams. On Tuesday, Kleiman tweeted “Report: Caleb Williams wants partial ownership from the NFL team that selects him in the 2024 NFL Draft,” citing a Pro Football Talk report from July:
PFT reported in July that Caleb's representatives had been making it known that Williams wants partial ownership of the team that selects him in… pic.twitter.com/5lLVEMEbOi
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) October 18, 2023
That led to a lot of criticism for Kleiman, as that initial PFT story from Mike Florio in July even reflected that this was not a possibility under a new rule the NFL adopted this summer to prohibit active players or club employees from having ownership stakes. Indeed, it was a story only noting that Williams’ representatives had expressed interest in that, as had Jets’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
But the league rule made that a moot point. And the only point of PFT reporting on it in July was to discuss cases of specific players reportedly trying to gain equity (which hadn’t been widely reported before that, aside from some discussions around Tom Brady and teams he didn’t wind up playing for). So it was curious to bring that up again in October with no real news hook to it.
Kleiman was not the only person to bring this story back up, with some doing so even before he did. And he did link to the original piece and mention that it was from July. But he brought it to a very wide audience of his 250,000 followers, and gave the story much more traction. And many wondered why this was under discussion again, including Florio:
The latter (and, if we could only be so lucky, final) days of Twitter/X have spawned various bot-style accounts that routinely aggregate NFL reports and stories, often with little or no context — and rarely if ever with any analysis or other value added.
Usually, these accounts post their tweets in the minutes or hours after the stories originally appear. Recently, something strange happened with one of our older stories.
…As of Saturday (the same day Williams had a prime-time clunker against Notre Dame), the story acquired a second life, thanks to multiple aggregation accounts that either had not aggregated the story in late July or that, for whatever reason (possibly to put Caleb Williams in a bad light after an unexpectedly bad game), decided to re-aggregate it now.
It’s important to remember that neither Rodgers nor Williams are currently pursuing this strategy. They can’t. The whole point of the July 26 story was to provide concrete examples of players whose desires were completely and conclusively thwarted by the new rule the league adopted. And common sense suggests that the league would not have seen the need to close the door to player equity if no player was trying to get it.
For his part, though, Kleiman thinks he handled this just fine. At least, that’s what he told A.J. Perez of Front Office Sports, as part of a wider story Perez wrote on sports misinformation on Twitter titled “The Spread of Sports Misinformation on X Is Increasingly Apparent“:
Kleiman told Front Office Sports that he didn’t mean to mislead anyone in that post or any others. He noted that his X post included that it came from PFT in July, and he had seen it circulating again recently, in part, because of an Oct. 11 story from The Athletic that reported there “has been scuttlebutt in NFL front offices that Williams could demand equity from the team that selects him.”
“I saw it already in the news so I shared it as well, and linked to the actual report for full context,” Kleiman said. “I did it the right way.”
Many would take issue with that. Yes, as noted above, Kleiman included a link to the July PFT piece, and yes, he included “In July” in the second paragraph of his tweet. But the first paragraph’s framing of “Report” certainly made this sound new and notable. As Florio wrote in his discussion of this Thursday, “It’s an old story. It’s currently a non-story.” This is something specifically prohibited by NFL rules at the moment, and there’s been no reporting of actual efforts to challenge that rule (which would make this potentially notable again).
And the Oct. 11 piece in The Athletic (from Chicago Bears’ writer Dan Pompei) didn’t have anything to add on this beyond that above-quoted part. (And really, Pompei should have been more critical in presenting even that, with this again being something that is not permissible under NFL rules). So that wasn’t a news hook. But Kleiman seems pleased with how he handled this despite the criticism. And yes, he certainly handled it better than accounts that didn’t link the story and only provided a “Per @ProFootballTalk,” as JPAFootball did:
“The representatives of USC quarterback Caleb Williams had been making it known to prospective agents that… pic.twitter.com/mV65v2qAFg
— JPAFootball (@jasrifootball) October 18, 2023
But there are still criticisms that can be levied over bringing up a months-old story about something specifically prohibited by NFL rules (with no indication that those rules will change). And while the debate there is a wider one than just about Kleiman, it’s a fair discussion to have.
And this comes in a larger context of several different criticisms that have been deployed at Kleiman and other aggregators over the years. Not all of those are fair, including Antonio Brown yelling at Kleiman and calling him “a ***** *** reporter” for him relaying a TMZ story and the people who claimed Kleiman was reporting the Aaron Rodgers-Jets deal as done when he was actually relaying of Trey Wingo’s report (without a link to Wingo’s tweet). And the amount of discussion about Kleiman as a “plant for Tom Brady” doesn’t seem substantiated (beyond a single anonymous Boomer and Gio source), and much of the “Who is Dov Kleiman?” talk is also a bit much, especially after Kleiman did largely reveal who he is (a Twitter aggregator and BroBible writer based in Israel) to Ryan Glasspiegel of The New York Post this March. Beyond Kleiman, some of the other criticisms of aggregators also aren’t accurate, such as Jerry Jeudy blasting JPAFootball for shortening a clip (which they did not shorten).
But there are legitimate criticisms of Kleiman and other aggregators for the content they put out and how they frame it. One is seen in the discussion this week around Kleiman’s resurfacing of Florio’s July report and the way he framed it. Another past Kleiman incident in May came from him presenting an Andrew Marchand quote on Tom Brady outside of its full context.
Those are only a few of the aggregator incidents this year alone. Others include JPAFootball going after Kleiman for copying a tweet (with the tweet in question copying Gregg Rosenthal’s rankings), JPAFootball repeating a fake reporter’s tweet about PJ Walker and Nick Bosa, the numerous accounts (not Kleiman or JPAFootball) and websites that misattributed a Bill Maher quote to Aaron Rodgers, and MLFootball inaccurately claiming that former Bears’ DC Alan Williams got his house raided by the FBI (a claim later inaccurately repeated by Pat McAfee) and that intense Chargers’ fan Merrianne Do was a “PAID ACTOR” (with both of those last two tweets still up, still receiving engagement, and still getting MLFootball paid by Twitter).
And an interesting part of this in Perez’s story is how these aggregators don’t want to be lumped together. Both Kleiman and JPAFootball spoke to Perez (MLFootball declined comment), with Kleiman offering the above-referenced defense of his Williams tweet and JPAFootball apologizing for his “huge mistake” on the Bosa tweet. Both of them also said they don’t like how other aggregators’ actions are often linked to them:
Kleiman, however, bristled when asked what it’s like to be grouped together with other aggregator accounts.
“I hate it,” Kleiman said. “It is what it is. And you know the worst part? In some ways I have a worse reputation on Twitter because of them.”
…JPAFootball told FOS “I know I need to be better and I will. [The Bosa tweet] was a failure of due diligence on my part and it will not happen again.
“I don’t want to be associated with other aggregator accounts and I’m planning to make wholesale changes and improvements to my account.”
On some levels, that’s fair. Painting an entire group with a broad brush based on specific actions from specific members is generally problematic: “the media” as a wider group isn’t responsible for everything said by the likes of Skip Bayless or Stephen A. Smith, and even tighter descriptions such as “reporter,” “columnist,” “analyst,” or “pundit” don’t mean everyone in that group is associated with everything one person there does. And we saw a lot of this a decade-plus ago with widespread tarring of “bloggers” based on specific actions from specific individuals.
But it is reasonable to discuss those groups when the topic of discussion is their wider and shared role. And “aggregators” certainly is a notable wider group, especially when it comes to some of these particular NFL personalities; they are generally not reporting anything new, but relaying what they see from others. And while that can be fine (if done with appropriate credit and context), it’s notable that some of these people don’t like that wider label.
Yes, these accounts should each generally be judged on what they individually do. But the push to not be associated with these other accounts is interesting. And it certainly shows at least some of the problems with aggregator accounts in general. Kleimain and JPAFootball shouldn’t be blamed for specific mistakes from other accounts, but they’ve done their own things that have drawn criticism. And they certainly fit within the wider group of aggregators, and discussion of them within that group is reasonable, even if they don’t like it.