Friday evening, our own Somers Price ripped Stephen A. Smith’s exclusive interview with DeSean Jackson, calling the interview ‘a fluff piece riddled with inaccuracies and oversights’, when Smith had a chance to really get some quality answers out of DeSean Jackson on why exactly he was released by the Eagles after a career-year.
One of the ‘inaccuracies’ that Somers alluded to was when Smith said that the now infamous NJ.com article, which was published less than an hour before the team announced number 10′s release, alleged that Jackson was in a gang. Somers pointed out then, and Eliot Shorr-Parks, who wrote a majority of the NJ.com article, pointed out Saturday, that that wasn’t what was said in the article.
In a piece discussing all of the facts that Stephen A. Smith got wrong in his interview with DeSean Jackson (which aired on a network that continues to refer to itself as ‘The Worldwide Leader in Sports’, mind you), Shorr-Parks addressed the growing speculation that the Eagles might have leaked that information to NJ.com to lesson the public backlash of the impending release of Jackson.
The conspiracy theories surrounding the story are comical. NJ.com uncovered Jackson’s ties to alleged gang members through its own reporting. The Eagles played no part in NJ.com’s investigation. When asked about Jackson’s alleged gang ties, team officials said they were unaware of the ties and would not comment.
The NFLPA says it will look into whether the Eagles engaged in a smear campaign. When a union official contacted NJ.com sports director Kevin Manahan, the official was told the Eagles provided no information on Jackson’s alleged gang ties.
During the ESPN interview, Jackson said he knew about the story a few days before its publication — because NJ.com reached out to his representatives for comment and to speak with Jackson. But Jackson was not made available, and his publicist’s sole comment was to deny Jackson was in a gang, an accusation the story never made.
Let me first establish the difference between the Eagles leaking the story and the sources within the organization helping with the article, that even Shorr-Parks didn’t address. Saying that the Eagles ‘played no part in the investigation’ is just flat out not true. This quote from ‘a source in the organization’ doesn’t exactly mean that Chip Kelly and/or Howie Roseman were directly making phone calls with Shorr-Parks, A.J. Perez (the other writer in the article), or anyone involved with NJ.com, but questioning someone in the organization is certainly part of an investigation.
On Thursday, a source in the organization said current front-office members had been unaware of Jackson’s links to an alleged killer.
While I don’t buy that the Eagles current front-office members didn’t know about his ties to an alleged killer, it doesn’t really matter. The Eagles did play a part in the investigation by even having a team source make any comment that wasn’t a no comment.
That isn’t really what has been in debate by the public and other local media outlets. What has been in debate is whether or not the NJ.com actually held an investigation on there own to obtain these facts, or whether the Eagles had someone in the organization reach out to NJ.com or even Parks and Perez specifically, to give them the information.
Frankly, we are unlikely to ever know the full truth. It’s certainly a realistic possibility that the Eagles higher-ups sent a yes man to give out details NJ.com that, for the most part, were previously uncovered in an effort to smear Jackson.
A second scenario where NJ.com was just the first local media outlet to do a comprehensive reach-out to the LAPD and uncover gang connections and a disturbing the peace (not a Ludacris reference) charges that were dropped as part of a plea deal, is also possibility.
In my opinion (not citing sources or anyone I’ve spoken to), the most likely scenario is that a combination of the two scenarios transpired. Whether or not the Eagles higher-ups actually leaked the story to NJ.com, it’s possible that they discussed a potential smear campaign and someone in the organization leaked their plan to the media outlet. My guess, is that they only told NJ.com of the plan, and that was the spring for NJ.com’s investigation. Even in that scenario, a large part of the story wouldn’t have been made available to the public if Shorr-Parks, Perez, and anyone involved with the investigation from the outlet’s perspective, didn’t make phone calls to the LAPD as part of the investigation. Again, I’m not reporting that as fact, or even as just a report that I’ve gathered by reaching out to the limited sources that I have. I’m simply speculating.
Like I said before, we are unlikely to ever know the full truth. If we do, it is more likely that we hear it from the actual source in the organization (that is going under the assumption that it was leaked, which again, we don’t know), because no one from NJ.com, especially Shorr-Parks or Perez, is going to risk their journalistic integrity by coming out and saying that the team leaked it to them. Even if it is ten years from now, if you do that once, no sources will ever give you any inside information ever again.
That’s how it works in this business, and is the reason why even national reporters like Adam Schefter and Ian Rappoport only refer to the people who give them information as ‘sources’. Not only do the sources most likely not want to put their name on the information they are leaking, but they don’t want to lose their jobs inside the organization, which they would if they allowed reporters to say “John Smith from the Eagles organization called me and informed me that the Eagles are shopping DeSean Jackson” in a tweet, rather than saying “sources within the organization have informed me that the Eagles are shopping DeSean Jackson”. Whether you like it or not, that is how the media-source relationship works, and it will be the closest that we will ever get to knowing what our favorite sports teams are thinking, unless we work our way up throughout the organization and get a job with serious power.
But Shorr-Parks defending his story makes complete sense, even if the Eagles did play any sort of role in tipping him off to this information. While it is unlikely that any team or major sources will come to him with a story of this magnitude again anytime soon, he at least isn’t burning the bridge of that having a chance to happen, with the defense of his article. The same goes for even if the Eagles organization didn’t play any role in this, because he leaves the door open to sources still informing him of huge stories in the future, if he sets the standard of sticking by his story, and potentially, his sources.