Sports | October 13, 2021 10:17 am

Leaked Adam Schefter Emails Aren’t Great, But They Also Aren’t a Surprise

Some of the emails that led to Jon Gruden's downfall include Schefter seeking feedback on an unpublished story from an NFL executive

ESPN analyst Adam Schefter at Lincoln Financial Field in 2019. The ESPN reporter is under fire for leaked emails that suggest he got editorial assistance from an NFL owner.
ESPN analyst Adam Schefter at Lincoln Financial Field in 2019.
Brett Carlsen/Getty

With the NFLPA petitioning the NFL to release all 65,000 emails the league has collected as part of its investigation into the Washington Football Team, we may eventually see more than just what disgraced former NFL coach Jon Gruden had to say to former Washington president Bruce Allen while the former was working for ESPN.

For now, we have to settle on dribs and drabs that are being collected from partially redacted court filings which are being combed through by journalists, including Sam Farmer and Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times.

A piece published by the publication on Tuesday night includes portions of several emails between Allen and journalists from a court filing. In one of them from July 2011, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter asks Allen for feedback on a draft of an unpublished story that was published later the same day.

“Please let me know if you see anything that should be added, changed, tweaked,” Schefter wrote, per the paper. “Thanks, Mr. Editor, for that and the trust. Plan to file this to espn about 6 am ….”

Schefter, who InsideHook has spoken to in the past, asking an executive of the league he covers as a reporter to essentially approve one of his stories is not a good look for obvious reasons and was quickly condemned by other media members from different outlets.

While valid, what those criticisms of Schefter (and by extension ESPN) fail to take into account is that it is a fairly open secret that reports for the network often carry water for the NFL and shape their stories and coverage in order to paint the league in a favorable light. In case you forgot, ESPN has more than 2 billion reasons to remain in the NFL’s good graces as it continues to broadcast Monday Night Football through the end of the 2033 season. And, for what it’s worth, that’s not unique to Schefter or ESPN as CBS, Fox and NBC all have a vested interest in staying on good terms with the entity that provides their top-rated content. As does, ahem, the NFL Network. The inherent bias in the coverage from all these media companies goes against journalistic standards, but it also isn’t a recent development.

ESPN said in a statement in response to Schefter’s correspondence with Allen: “Without sharing all the specifics of the reporter’s process for a story from 10 years ago during the NFL lockout, we believe that nothing is more important to Adam and ESPN than providing fans the most accurate, fair and complete story.”

The complete story of how those stories are crafted and told should include the factoid that the NFL unquestionably has an influence on how news about the league is shared with the masses. It’s isn’t great — but it also isn’t new.