Thursday, July 23, 2009

ESPN Erin Andrews Peephole Video Scandal

Erin Andrews Nude Peephole Video Scandal: Whose fault?

It was a gross, heinous invasion of privacy.

It was not the crime of the century, decade, year, month, week, day or even hour.

The intent of this column is not to minimize the horrible violation of privacy that struck America's favorite sideline Barbie doll, Erin Andrews.

This column will attempt to add context and reasonable perspective — two things generally lacking when a favored white woman is wronged in America — to the debate raging in the sports blogosphere about whether blogs contributed to the crime perpetrated against Ms. Andrews.

Surely by now you've heard. Someone secretly videotaped Erin Andrews while she was nude at a hotel(s) curling her hair and ironing her clothes. TMZ speculated rather persuasively the Zapruder in this fiasco might very well be one of Andrews' co-workers.

The video had been available (and ignored) on the Internet for months, but gained popularity this week when the influential Web site Deadspin wrote a post on the subject and linked to the Web site hosting the Andrews peephole footage.

Deadspin has been the world-wide leader in sexually objectifying Erin Andrews (ESPN actually trails Deadspin in this category) and in invading the privacy of athletes and members of the sports media, so it is not all that surprising that its editor, AJ Daulerio, would throw the match on gasoline poured by a peephole pervert.

Daulerio has since apologized, sort of.

Daulerio's original enabler and co-conspirator, Will Leitch, the former editor of Deadspin, offered his apology on Tuesday.

Of course, Leitch and Daulerio do everything they can to distance themselves from the crime. Leitch rambles on about how every "upright walking normal human being" he has spoken with is "profoundly disturbed" by this crime against white womanhood.

It's all so (freaking) dishonest and biased that I'm embarrassed I read it.

The 'hole story: Who's to blame in the Erin Andrews peephole video scandal? Here's a peek at the unsavory side of celebrity. Till death: The McNair and Gatti tragedies should show athletes how deadly serious marriage is. Sports figures should just stay away from it altogether. Sins of the father: Steve McNair may have been a leader on the field, but off it he neglected the most important thing in life.

In the sports world, Deadspin eliminated the shame of privacy invasion for profit and made it mainstream. When Leitch and Buzz Bissinger had their infamous "Costas Now" confrontation, Leitch said the web site "humanized" its victims.

No, the site exploits private lives for profit, just like Hollywood paparazzi. Sometimes, it's a relatively harmless invasion of privacy. But sometimes it isn't.

I contend — and I'll explain — that Daulerio's invasion of Stuart Scott's and Michelle Beisner's privacy in 2007 is just as gross and heinous as what happened to Erin Andrews.

Everyone celebrated and/or blew off the crime against Scott and Beisner because Scott is not beloved by white men (or people like me who are turned off by his ghetto shtick).

But let me refresh your memory once again regarding Deadspin's original, unpunished sin. At a Super Bowl party Daulerio looked over Stu Scott's shoulder and read a text message that Scott sent to Beisner at 12:30 a.m. The message simply stated, "Lemme know."

Here's how Daulerio interpreted the text:

"Now, obviously, "Lemme know" is pretty non-descript. But at 12:30 a.m., in Miami, well, it means "Are you coming out tonight to f--- me or what?" Especially given who Scott was texting (I literally read the name right off his phone):

"Her name is Michelle Beisner, former Denver Broncos cheerleader and aspiring D-list Hollywood actress-type. Blonde. White Woman. Hey, nobody likes to start rumors about Stuart F---ing Scott, but if Michelle Beisner is his booty call, well, BooYa, my friend. Boo F---ing Ya."

What's the problem?
# ALTTEXT Why is ESPN steamed at the New York Post? Because of this story and the photos. Was ESPN asking for it?

Here's his post so you can read it for yourself.

Read this, this and this to get a sample of how then-Deadspin editor Leitch rejoiced in Daulerio's invasion of privacy.

OK, you might think no one is being videotaped naked in the Scott post. I'd argue that Scott and Beisner would've preferred to be videotaped naked rather than having an influential blog accuse the then-married Scott of adultery and Beisner of being a home-wrecking, booty-call-answering whore.

Why was Beisner unworthy of sympathy? Her privacy was violated. It couldn't be because she committed the felony of Befriending a Black Man While White and Attractive?

Deadspin has rewritten the rulebook when it comes to privacy and fairness as it pertains to athletes and sports media. The site is inherently unfair to minorities and random members of the media it chooses to dislike for whatever reason.

No one objects. The mainstream media have treated Leitch and Daulerio like they're Woodward and Bernstein. Sports Illustrated's magazine and web site served as Leitch's hype man. He was celebrated in a magazine profile. His good friend, Richard Deitsch, regularly broke out the cheerleading uniform at SI, tossing Leitch softball questions or plugging Leitch in monthly media rankings.

Do I believe Deadspin is evil? No. I like to laugh at my own stupidity and the hypocrisy and buffoonery of my peers and athletes. Most days I enjoy Deadspin. But the site, like everything else on this planet, is flawed, and Deadspin is flawed in ways the mainstream media should notice, analyze and criticize.

I've argued for the past two years the site is no different from ESPN, Deadspin's favorite whipping-boy institution.

For two days ESPN ignored the Ben Roethlisberger sexual-assault lawsuit. There has been no official explanation why the civil suit filed against Big (White) Ben is being treated differently from Shannon Brown's or Isiah Thomas' much-discussed sexual-harassment lawsuit or countless other he-said-she-saids.

ESPN plays favorites for a wide variety of reasons. It's unfair.

Invasion of privacy for profit is what we all do to some degree in this day and age of Internet, camera-phone journalism. We're in desperate pursuit of clicks and ratings. There was a time when athletes could visit nightclubs and whatnot without fear of being photographed or videotaped.

We respected their right to a private life even while in public. We judged and analyzed them by what they did on the field. We don't do that now, and the change has little to do with improved journalism. It's all about improved ratings and hits.

I'm just as guilty. The difference is I want us all to play by the same rules, regardless of color, willingness to befriend certain bloggers or business relationships. If we're willing to exploit athletes and their private lives for profit, let's not complain when we are exploited. Again, I just want the exploitation to be equal opportunity.

It's not right now.

The Pacman Jones stripclub video served no journalistic purpose. It was aired on ESPN and everywhere else solely to titillate and entertain. The raw footage didn't help us understand the crime. There was no interaction between Jones, his entourage and the club's bouncers.

There were black asses shaking and black entertainers demonstrating how fools depart from their money. It was a reality version of Spike Lee's underrated movie Bamboozled.

America couldn't get enough of the Pacman video until Erin Andrews was caught dropping it like it was hot in front of a hotel mirror.

ESPN won't cover that story. It's climbed up on some high horse and is passing judgment on the New York Post for running pictures of ESPN's sideline Barbie.

How do you think the world-wide leader in hypocrisy would handle it if Serena Williams, Anna Kournikova or Candace Parker had been videotaped? I bet the network would throw together a two-hour documentary on how the video was made. And Leitch and Daulerio would drop the profoundly-disturbed-and-remorseful act.

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