Ime Udoka’s ‘Cheating’ Scandal Has Exposed The Shallowness Of Sports Media – The Daily Beast

Ime Udoka's 'Cheating' Scandal Has Exposed The Shallowness Of Sports Media - The Daily Beast

Tthe only thing we know for sure is that Celtics coach Making Udoka received a one-year suspension from the organization for reasons related to a sexual relationship he had with another Celtics employee. We now know that he was broken when the employee’s husband overheard a private conversation on a Ring camera, and we could know who the other person is. Apart from that, there is a lot of speculation, assumptions, spin, and very, very few hard facts about what Udoka did, about how wanted or unwanted his advances were, or about how many people may or may not have been affected by his behavior. While the public salivates for new “information”, some media may be tempted to speculate wildly, for put too much faith in sources with agendasto support hearsay and speculation instead of the kind of verified information that journalists are taught to trust.

In the sports media, it is particularly bad. That’s usually because when you’re reporting on something as insignificant as what’s happening in a game, the stakes are very low. “How does Kevin Durant think of Kyrie Irving?” it’s a benign thing, and observing that matter in a superficial way won’t do that much damage except maybe Durant and Irving, who are well compensated for this kind of crap. But when something like this Udoka affair happens, the sports media is shown to be deeply lacking in the perspective or discipline needed to tell this story in a responsible or informative manner. Because this Udoka thing is a sports story, yes, but it’s also a work story, a relationship story (his long-term partner is the actress Nia Long), and a story about power dynamics inherent in both of those things. And so far, much of the sports-speaking establishment has done a terrible job of framing this in a responsible way.

This story of Udoka was screwed up royally in three key areas.


I recently wrote about the life work of Adrian Wojnarowski and Shams Charania, ESPN and The Athletic’s NBA scoopmasters and two deeply odd men whose role at their respective networks is less “reporter working a beat” and more “information broker serving the needs of sources in exchange for tweetable scoops that drive engagement and keep them fed.” Wojnarowski broke the news that Udoka would be suspended for the year on his Twitter account, as is his custom.

Woj’s tweet was soon followed by a similar tweet from Charania, confirming what Woj had failed to report: that the team had suspended Udoka for a year.

Charania then produced report on the suspension this confirms that Udoka was suspended for having an inappropriate relationship with another Celtics employee. The word “consensual” does not appear anywhere in this report.

It’s easy to read between the lines here: Woj, quickly tweeting an unconfirmed but highly probable event, trusted someone connected to Udoka in some way (probably his agent), who was determined to get the word “agreed” in the report to avoid speculation about the event and create a buffer for Udoka.

The problem with this is that the line of consent becomes easily drawn when you are someone’s boss. In NBA organizations, the coach is one of the most powerful people in the building. This means that Udoka’s petty inter-office cheating adventure might be legitimately above board, but it’s hard to imagine a scenario where it constituted appropriate boss/employee behavior. Woj, of course, doesn’t care about that. He’s all about shuffling, and allowed himself to carry water for Udoka by introducing the word “consensual” into a situation that’s murky at best.


A common refrain in recent days has contrasted the way the sports media has handled the Udoka story with the recent news that former NFL legend Brett Favre was involved in a scheme to defraud the people of Mississippi out of millions of dollars in welfare money meant for the poorest people in the state.. This refrain is catchy on social media, but falls apart on deeper analysis.

First, it is unfair to the sports speakers who have discussed the Favre issue. That’s it My Kimsfor example, shredding him Around the Horn. Second, sports media are in their zone when it comes to the sports themselves. The Udoka story, in addition to being a story about work and power and sex, is a story about what will happen with the Boston Celtics. The team thrived under Udoka’s leadership, making the NBA Finals after being knocked out in the first round the year before, and the team’s output will likely be affected by the diverse crew of assistants who will replace him on the sidelines. And, third, and most important: Why would you ever want Stephen A. Smith to talk about something as serious as charity fraud? He shouldn’t talk about anything that’s important!

When it comes to trivial sports matters, Stephen A. Smith does well. But the second something serious happens, he’s just horrible.

For those who don’t know: Stephen A. Smith is the type of host/taking machine/weird vaudeville entertainer at the heart of First Take, ESPN’s daily news and views shows, which are broadcast daily to every airport lounge and idle open computer in America. He is, by far, the most prominent and famous sports analyst in the country.

Now, calling Stephen A. an analyst or commentator is possible literally true, but it’s like a call Jim Ross “wrestling journalist”. It’s impossible to watch First Take and come away with any new knowledge about the way sports work. Stephen A. doesn’t tear it down as much as he embodies the identifier of the collective sports consciousness—shouting about meaningless shit every day, crying about the Knicks, dunk on Cowboys fans. He spreads wild opinions, defends them against credulous opponentsand generally acts like a total weirdo.

When it comes to trivial sports matters, Stephen A. Smith does well. But the second something serious happens, he’s just horrible. Like the time [see video above] where he couldn’t keep himself from advising women everywhere not to do anything that might “provoke” a man into hitting on them in the wake of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice being caught brutally beating his wife in an elevator in Atlantic City. Or when he said it, for the sake of baseball, Angels pitcher/slugger Shohei Ohtani should speak english when interviewed by American media.

When the Udoka news broke and Stephen A. was asked for his opinion, he didn’t talk about the dynamics at play, or the strangeness of the story, or the giant gaps in information. He instead chose to go on at length about how the Celtics created a miasma of ignorance by suspending Udoka instead of firing him outright. He says that miasma is the cause of wild speculation about who exactly Udoka had an affair and delivers it hot and fresh, like a sports take, about something related to sports and only sports.

Excusing Udoka and hiding their findings would have been the old way of doing it, defaulting to protecting a person in power and hoping no one finds out. It’s what Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver has been doing for years, right until Baxter Holmes exposed him. It is also the kind of thing that no longer works, because Udoka would be sued and discovery would be publicized. Stephen A. seems to broadly endorse this as standard operating procedure for sports teams dealing with inter-office power-imbalance relationships, which is odd at best. On the other hand, firing Udoka and keeping the reason quiet would produce the exact same result, because everyone in the world would be wondering why the hell the Celtics fired a coach who had just gotten them to the Finals and would eventually find out the reason, setting him free. public anger about Udoka and involving the Celts in secret.

But Stephen A. doesn’t care about the real issues here. His whole mind is devoted to sports-as-sports, and to him this whole thing is messy and the best way to deal with something messy is to clean it up until there is as little mess as possible.

When ESPN sideline reporter Malika Andrews called him out on it, he was incredibly rude to her on air, acting like she was Skip Bayless and not a woman discussing an issue that relates to the struggles women face in the workplace day in and year out. a decade

I will not call for Stephen A. Smith’s work because he will not lose it. But I will say that Stephen A. and other sports journalists and speakers, whose careers are built on total disregard for the world outside of sports, on the goodness of organizational order above all else, are completely incapable of dealing with this story. Maybe someday there will be a First Take a host who can be both an entertaining buffoon and self-aware enough not to inadvertently revive the bad-time sexual-harassment corporate playbook. But I wouldn’t count on it.


There is something else going on here. Everyone in the NBA information sphere knows it, and no one is talking about it. Matt Barnes, a retired journeyman NBA forward who hosts a podcast about the league, originally responded to the news with a “I don’t think he should be suspended” type response. Then, the next day, he deleted that reply and posted a video he appears to have filmed while driving, which seems like a bad idea.

Rough translation: I’ve heard some stuff and I can’t tell you, but I don’t want that last take on the record.

Sports reporters are avid gossipers. Stephen A. may claim there was a way to do it in the shadows, to keep everyone out of it, but man, if anyone knows about how rich and stinky the NBA gossip vein is, it’s Stephen A. Smith. The rumors, the stories exchanged via DMs and media feeds, the messed up shit you heard about so-and-so having chlamydia, that’s the fuel of the entire sports-information world—the fascinating but unreportable underworld.

Usually, sports are not that important. But sometimes, sports crash in the outside world. It’s at this point when the impulse to gossip, which subdues every inch of column space and every eyeball glued to ESPN, becomes something strange. After these announcements, there were guys who are so far from knowing that they might not be legally allowed in a room with an NBA player logging onto the Celtics staff page and trying to figure out who Udoka might have cheated on. his wife with. This was terrifying but also predictable. Sports fandom inevitably involves speculation, speculation and supposition. A reputation for being “clutch” is nonsense statistically, but the eye of the fan builds it anyway. We see sports as an object for interpretation – a magnificent Jungian playground for the mind to derive shallow, wild truths. Harnessing that drive is what made the career of Stephen A.

When it’s just a game, then that impulse is fun at best and silly at worst. But when it comes to something more serious, these readings become strange and potentially harmful. Until someone knows something about this Udoka thing, untainted by influence or secrecy, that is the space where it will live in the media and elsewhere.

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