Tuesday, April 23, 2013

DUI/DWI Only An Allegation If You're Al Michaels

Police in Los Angeles accused Al Michaels of having a blood-alcohol level at or above the legal limit while driving. 

Al Michaels (he's looked better)
According to TMZ (good ole TMZ) Michaels made an illegal u-turn just before a police DUI checkpoint, and could have been nicer during the arrest. There is nothing funny about drunk driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a person dies in a drunk driving crash every 53 minutes. In 2011, 9,878 Americans died as a result of a drunk driver. But you know what is funny? How careful ESPN was with its headline about the Michaels "alleged DUI."

Al Michaels arrested for alleged DUI

Fair is fair right? Here is a partial list of other ESPN.com headlines about athletes busted drinking while driving.

Texas' Kendall Sanders charged with DWI

Yovani Gallardo arrested for DUI

ESPN 4/12

Braylon Edwards charged with DUI

ESPN 9/10

Mark Grace indicted in DUI case

ESPN 10/12

Alec Ogletree arrested for DUI

ESPN 2/13

Todd Helton arrested on DUI charge

ESPN 2/13

Mark Grace
Notice anything different between the Al Michaels ESPN headline and the headlines for the 5 athletes and Mark Grace? Only in the Michaels headline does the word "alleged" appear. Until someone is convicted of a crime, the arrest under suspicion of a crime, and the charging of a crime are only allegations. None of the headlines convey the impression that anyone has been convicted but in Michaels case, the headlines conveys a doubt about the charge. What is implied in the other headlines, that the arrests are allegations, is clearly stated in Michaels headline.
Michaels (looking better)

Having worked in many a newsroom, I can tell you editors are more careful about what is written and/or broadcast regarding people considered to be public figures. (Which is strange considering the media legal has more leeway on public figures) There is also a gentleness regarding the on-air characterization of what WE consider prominent figures. I don't think there can be any question that the use of the word "alleged" in Michaels headline was done to try to protect, as it were, a well-known person and a prominent sports broadcaster reputation. Michaels is the man who uttered the over-rated and hackneyed phrase, "do you believe in miracles? Yes!," when the U.S. defeated Russia in the 1980 Winter Olympic games.
1980 US Olympic Hockey Team
Michaels is the guy who, along with copsey Chris Collinsworth, announces Sunday Night Football. Michaels has done countless Super Bowls, World Series', Triple Crown races, Stanley Cups, and NBA Finals. He's a broadcaster. So when a headline appears about Michaels having an "alleged" DUI and with everyone else there IS no mention of the word alleged, it smacks of a double-standard. Furthermore, because ESPN never (in the stories posted here) includes the word "alleged," with other DUI accusations, its inclusion in the Michaels' story suggests there is something different about the allegation. The word alleged in this headline suggests maybe the police got it wrong. After all, this is Al Michaels!
Michaels, however, isn't the only one receiving "special" coverage of a DUI/DWI arrest. Earlier this month pitcher Yovani Gallardo of the Milwaukee Brewers was arrested on the allegation he was drinking and driving. Following the report, Gallardo got some special headlines:
Yovani Gallardo
The news media went from reporting Gallardo's arrest into making it and him a joke of a person. 

Yovani Gallardo's DUI: Baseball loves a drunk

Sports Nation 4/17

And a cautionary tale worthy of serious reflection.

Gallardo’s DUI raises issue of how MLB should handle these matters 

 SI 4/18
But speaking of jokes, Todd Helton's arrest should have been fodder for late night comedians and at the very least, grizzled baseball writers looking for a break from routine. This fool was got busted when he drank, then got into his vehicle to go to a store to buy lottery tickets. 

That's right, a guy who has made about $156 million in his career, endanger his life and the lives of others because he had to have a lottery ticket. Aren't lottery tickets for people who DON'T have money?

Todd Helton arrested on DUI charge

Denver Post 2/7
Todd Helton

Helton's actions were a clear invitation for comedians from Jon Stewart to Henry Youngman to tee up the circumstance, tap it, and let the thin Colorado air knock this one out of the park. But what did we get instead? Headlines about Helton's contrition.

Todd Helton calls DUI arrest 'monumental' mistake 

                                         USA Today 2/17

Todd Helton disappointed, apologetic about DUI in first public remarks

Denver Post 2/17


Gallardo, Edwards and Ogletree also apologized. ESPN-Wisconsin wrote about Gallardo's mea cupla, not ESPN. Nor did ESPN write about Edwards and Ogletree's apologies. Even though they made sure to cover heir arrests. Edwards apology got digital ink from the LA Times and Washington Post. Pro Football Talk covered Ogletree's apology. That's right, the Pro Football Talk! You know who hasn't apologized? Mr. illegal u-turn, Mr. charged with drunk driving, Al Michaels.
Kenny Britt with Brittany Spears

Even worse than media mismanagement of mere accusations, is their lack of attention to the outcome of some of these cases. Tennessee Titan Kenny Britt was arrested for DUI last last summer on July 19th. That day, Big Lead Sports not only didn't use the word alleged, the USA Today backed blog predicted Britt would be suspended. 

And because, Britt had prior run-ins with the law, Big Lead Sports threw in every horrible association they could find to paint a picture of guilt when, at the time, Britt probably hadn't even been charged. Big Lead compared Britt with Dez Bryant (he got into a bar fight with 'Lil Wayne, but no charges were filed) and implied Britt was what, out of control, for jumping on a stage with Brittany Spears? An ESPN headline asked a more professionally serious question with one of its headlines.

                                       Is Kenny Britt worth it for the Titans?

 ESPN 8/9

Last month, federal magistrate found Britt not guilty of driving under the influence after trying to pass through a security gate at Fort Campbell Army post on the Tennessee-Kentucky state line. ESPN wrote the story from its "news services" (probably paid AP for the info) but ESPN did not follow up this news with a story about how dangerous it is to unfairly and prematurely pass judgment on a public figure. Isn't that what they did to Britt in asking if he was worth it for the Titans? Instead, by saying nothing, ESPN implicitly hides behind the limits of legal news reporting on public figures. But as we see with Al Michaels, how far ESPN goes is mostly up to their judgment of the accused and not what the first amendment allows.  

Here is a list of NFL, NBA and MLB players busted for DUI/DWI in 2012. The list was complied by the Sporting News. They left out DUI's by NHL players even though Riley Sheahan of the Detroit Red Wings (he was in the minors at the time) was pulled over by police last November for wrong-way driving on a one-way street. Sheahan was failing field sobriety tests, after allegedly blowing a .30 at the police station. Sheahan was dressed as Teletubby Inky Winky. And there is video of it!!!


Michael Turner, Falcons, DUI, Sept. 18

Kenny Britt, Titans, DUI, July 19

Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks, DUI, July 14

Robert Quinn, Rams, DUI, July 10

Eric Wright, Bucs, DUI, July 2 (DA later decided not to charge)

Aaron Berry, Lions, DUI, June 23

David Diehl, Giants, DUI, June 10

Justin Blackmon, Jaguars, DUI, June 3

Jerome Felton, Vikings, DUI, June 2

Nick Fairley, Lions, DUI, May 27

Brandon Meriweather, Redskins, DUI, April 26

Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders, DUI, April 7

Ray McDonald, 49ers, warrant (did not complete program from 2010 DUI), Feb. 8

Knowshon Moreno, Broncos, DUI, Feb. 1

Aldon Smith, 49ers, DUI, Jan. 27


Jason Kidd, Knicks, DUI, July 15


Michael Pineda, Yankees, DUI, August 21

Cristhian Martinez, Braves, DUI, April 2

Bobby Jenks, Red Sox, DUI, March 23

Matt Bush, Rays, DUI, March 22

Eric Langill, Mets, DUI, March 11

Alex Wright, Rockies, DUI, March 3

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