Among many analysts who oppose Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit or kneel during the national anthem, Trent Dilfer has stood out. The former NFL quarterback has not only expressed disagreement with Kaepernick’s protest, he has said backup quarterbacks should be seen not heard and reported that Kaep’s stance has caused friction in the 49ers’ locker room.
This has sparked plenty of backlash, not least of all from Kaepernick, who called Dilfer’s position on backup quarterbacks, “one of the most ridiculous comments I’ve heard.” It has also led to allegations from several prominent Bay Area journalists that Dilfer is serving as a mouthpiece for his friend, 49ers general manager Trent Baalke.
Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami listed evidence of Dilfer and Baalke’s friendship and made a pretty compelling case that the analyst’s words are coming from the GM’s mouth.
Well, SI’s Richard Deitsch asked ESPN NFL executive Seth Markman (who has had issues with Dilfer in the past) whether he’s worried that Dilfer is serving as Baalke’s mouthpiece, and Markman minced no words:
“First of all I think it is absolutely insulting,” Markman said of Bay Area writers positing that Dilfer is a mouthpiece for Baalke. “It is insulting to Trent. I think it is insulting to all of us here. This man has been an analyst for nine years now—one of the top analysts in the business. When he speaks, it is from his heart. His opinions are his own. The guy knows his credibility is always going to be on the line. He would never jeopardize that in any kind of a situation. I have always thought he was one of our most direct analysts. He speaks with conviction. I have seen people over the years say things that they don’t necessarily believe themselves, but it’s just for good TV. Trent would never, ever do that. To ever think that he would be a mouthpiece or carry the water for a front office guy on any team is ridiculous.”
On the issue of Dilfer’s relationship with Baalke, Markman said he had no idea what kind of relationship Dilfer has with the executive. “I honestly could not tell you what kind of relationship they have versus his relationship with others in the league but I will tell you criticizing or going after Trent’s integrity is ridiculous,” Markman said. “Even if he had a friendship with someone, it would not stop him from saying what he believed.”
Whether Markman knows it or not, Dilfer clearly has a friendship with Baalke. So when the analyst starts reporting inside info about Baalke’s team, it’s hard not to make assumptions where it’s coming from. It’s impossible to know what Dilfer’s viewpoint on Kaepernick would be if he weren’t buddies with Baalke, but given their relationship, he should certainly be careful not to blindly parrot the 49ers’ company line on ESPN.
Being skeptical of sources’ motivations is a necessary aspect of reporting, and while Dilfer isn’t a reporter, he’s serving as one when he shares scoops about San Francisco’s locker room. And if Dilfer and Baalke are such good friends that the analyst can’t be objective regarding the GM’s information, maybe he should sit this one out.