November 01, 2005

Libeling the Blazers

Hee-larious sports media story out of Sacramento, that led to a newspaper having to apologize for doing what dozens of sportswriters have done over the years: calling the Portland Trail Blazers a bunch of criminals.

It began last week when the Sacramento Bee published a profile, by reporter Joe Davidson, of Bonzi Wells, the former Portland guard who was traded by Memphis to the Sacramento Kings this offseason. In the story, the Bee erroneously reported that Wells, while with Portland, had been arrested for both "marijuana possession" and "domestic abuse," while also being responsible for "locker room tussles." The incorrect language, according to the Bee's ombudsman, was inserted by a copy editor, and not by Davidson himself.

The error, of course, was that the Bee had confused Wells with numerous other Blazers players, many of whom had been arrested for drugs and/or spousal abuse over the years, as well as getting into the occassional locker room scuffle.Wells, however, had never been arrested for either crime, and any locker room discord that took place during his tenure in Portland was apparently not his fault.

So the Bee ran a correction, which rather than clarify that specific Blazers players other than Wells had suffered the arrests and caused the fights, was worded in such a way as to suggest that the entire Portland team, as opposed to individual players, had scuffled, beaten their wives, and taken drugs. Which, contrary to popular belief, is not true either.

So this led to a correction of the correction, clarifying that no, it wasn't the whole team, and yes, they were very, very sorry. So sorry, in fact, that the paper's sports editor, Bill Bradley, drove to the Kings' practice facility to personally deliver a letter of apology to Wells. Wells kept Bradley waiting for nearly 20 minutes, but then refused to meet with him; the team later released a statement that "Wells was too 'furious' to talk and wanted to avoid saying something he might later regret."

So this whole episode may have been difficult for the Kings' PR staff, but shed no tears for them- they also don't have to cover for Mr. and Mrs. Christie anymore.

Posted by Stephen Silver at November 1, 2005 06:44 PM
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