SBD/November 5, 2013/Media

FS1 Handles Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito Bullying Story Appropriately

FS1 execs in the lead-up to the network's launch in August made sure viewers knew they were going to have fun on their studio shows, including "Fox Sports Live," leading critics to wonder how they would cover a serious news story. The net was given such an opportunity last night with the Dolphins' bullying story involving OT Jonathan Martin and G Richie Incognito, and it showed it could provide the appropriate tone considering the subject matter. "Fox Sports Live" first addressed the story about seven minutes into its 11:00pm ET show, following highlights of three NBA games and one NHL game. FS1's Mike Hill introduced the Dolphins report with, "Pretty sure Richie Incognito wishes his last name actually applied to him because he's anything but right now." Hill was measured in his reporting, prefacing comments from coach Joe Philbin, but when an on-screen display showed Incognito's history of bad behavior, Hill said, "Incognito has been involved in so many incidents during his football career that we need two screens here." After reading the numerous incidents, Hill said, "I'm out of breath. Panel, please take over." A panel discussion immediately followed including former pros Gary Payton, Andy Roddick, Ephraim Salaam and Brendon Ayanbadejo. Each panelist discussed the topic of when hazing goes too far, providing anecdotes from their playing careers and what crosses the line in hazing. The tone was serious, with terms like "abuse" and "hazing" being used. Roddick said, "There are four things you cannot do that cross the line: Race, religion, sexual orientation and using someone's money as your own. Crossing the line, you leave that out. That's not hazing, that turns into abuse." Payton called Incognito a "coward" for "taking advantage" of Martin. However, Salaam noted hazing "has gotten better because now the coaches are younger and coaches want to win" ("Fox Sports Live," FS1, 11/4).

TOP O' THE MORNING: The Martin-Incognito controversy in the past 48 hours has become a mainstream news story that is being covered by non-sports outlets. All three network morning shows had thorough coverage of the issue, as ABC's "GMA" and NBC's "Today" aired reports prior to their first commercial breaks. ABC's Robin Roberts said the bullying scandal is "shaking up the NFL." A taped report from ABC's Matt Gutman was aired, followed by ESPN's Adam Schefter appearing live in-studio to discuss the situation. Schefter: "This is not about locker room mentality. This is about harassment in the workplace which is unacceptable" ("GMA," ABC, 11/5). NBC's Kerry Sanders reported live from the Dolphins' team facility in South Florida and said, "Now there are signs this may go beyond bullying." During the taped report, the Miami Herald's Adam Beasley said, "Obviously the league and certain outsiders see this as abuse. However, inside the Dolphins' locker room, they have a different perspective. People I've talked to say they don't really see Incognito as a bully so much as a guy who's trying to toughen up a younger player." Following the report from Sanders, NBC's Savannah Guthrie said, "A lot of soul-searching probably going on in locker rooms right now" ("Today," NBC, 11/5). "CBS This Morning" had a report from Mark Strassmann live from the Dolphins' facility in the second quarter-hour, with "The NFL Today" host James Brown offering analysis live via satellite. Brown said, "There's going to be a lot more to come out about this" ("CBS This Morning," CBS, 11/5).

FROM THE EVENING NEWS: All three national network news programs had a report on the Martin-Incognito situation, with all three teasing the report at the beginning of the broadcasts. ABC's "World News" led its broadcast with the Dolphins report, with anchor Diane Sawyer noting, "We have reported so often on bullying in America, but we never expected that some of the toughest men in the country would say it is happening to them." Gutman reported on the case, saying the "ex-coaches we spoke with say hazing is one thing, but using those racial slurs clearly crosses the line" ("World News," ABC, 11/4). NBC's report aired about 12 minutes into the broadcast, with anchor Brian Williams saying the "idea of being bullied in the context of the NFL was tough for a lot of people to understand at first." Williams: "It's about a young player and fear, intimidation, race and, in part, an ongoing football tradition" ("Nightly News," NBC, 11/4). CBS aired its report about 16 minutes into the "Evening News" broadcast, with anchor Scott Pelley saying, "Hazing has long been part of life in the NFL, but what went on in the Miami Dolphins locker room may have taken bullying to a new extreme." Strassmann reported on the issue, noting that when Martin "first left the team he never complained" about being bullied or harassed "because he wanted his NFL career to continue and he was afraid of retribution." Strassmann: "But when the Dolphins put out a statement saying there had been no player misconduct, Martin's agent complained to the team and that began the bullying investigation" ("Evening News," CBS, 11/4).
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