Bernstein: ESPN Must Explain Itself, Soon

By Dan Bernstein- Senior Columnist

(CBS) Until the facts show differently, we have to go with what we have in front of us: ESPN had actionable evidence that Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine was a child molester, and chose not to call the police.

For eight years they knew, but it didn’t matter to them.

All that mattered was the story, and they didn’t feel they had enough to go with. Therefore, it simply didn’t exist, nor did any larger responsibility to protect people from a predator.

With every day that goes by since it became clear that ESPN preferred to protect Jim Boeheim, Syracuse hoops and their valuable programming property, the purported Worldwide Leader looks worse.

Their own reporter, Mark Schwarz, should be smart enough to know better than to say things like “We don’t see it as our job to go to authorities with evidence we collect,” and “We didn’t know what to do with it.”

More galling are the comments from Vince Doria, ESPN’s VP of Criminal Arrogance.

“It’s not necessarily the journalist’s role to go to the police with potential evidence that, at the time, we didn’t believe was strong enough to report ourselves.”

You catch that? He’s saying that the reporting standards of a massive sports-marketing corporation supersede the investigative standards of actual law enforcement. His company decides what’s real, even if they may choose to let it all slide because they didn’t want to inconvenience a powerful coach of a contending team, or cause Dick Vitale any cognitive dissonance. Can’t threaten “Big Monday.”

“All journalists could be asking themselves this very same question,” Doria told the house organ in a tightly-controlled, antiseptic explanation. “What role should journalists play in providing information that may or may not have been reported? It’s complex, and something we must continue to evaluate.”

He’s trying – unsuccessfully – to globalize a specific issue and shift the question to one of journalism, when this has nothing to do with how a news outlet covers a story. It has to do with trusted people wanting to make sure everything is done to keep children safe. Call the cops, and then figure it out.

This is not some sketchy witch hunt, not when hard evidence like this exists.

So evaluate away, Vince. This is not about “all journalists,” it’s about you.

Eight years. Eight. Years.

Who knows if Bernie Fine struck again, or tried to, during that time from 2003 to now? Not ESPN’s problem, I guess, since they never aired anything about it. No worries.

Every single statement from Bristol, every over-lawyered, mealy-mouthed attempt to weasel out of larger responsibility is digging them in deeper to their myopic position. Is there a single human being there?

Perhaps they worry about the repercussions of admitting that, if it were to happen again, they’d act differently. I’m sure that somewhere in that monolith, in one quiet conversation in a corner office, some white man in a dark suit has said “We probably should have gone to the police.”

Or maybe not.

ESPN is pushing back hard, making a case to prove they didn’t have to do anything more than they did.

OK. They didn’t have to.

Why didn’t they want to?

bernstein 90x130 Bernstein: ESPN Must Explain Itself, Soon
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein’s columns here. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.
Listen to The Boers and Bernstein Show podcasts >>

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  • Sonya

    Wow. That’s really all I can say to this. Yes, ESPN has some ‘splainin’ to do!!

  • Peter

    Dan – I almost threw up in my car driving home yesterday when you were playing those clips with Hub. Just disgusting and I completely agree with your take on this.

  • 8 Point Dog

    I think the booyah clowns sat on this for 8 years because they figured eventually, they’d get their required 2nd source, and they didn’t want the exclusive story to get out. They know that, with a Police investigation comes news coverage, and clearly these poor excuses for human beings could NOT allow some other media outlet to report their precious story. Journalists need to have some detachment from stories, but this is down right inhumane. Didn’t the booyahs spend a decent amount of time roasting paterno for sitting on evidence and not going to the police? Hypocrits.

  • Denver Deadite

    ESPN is looking a lot like PSU’s upper management right about now.

  • zimmer

    ESPN is horrible and has been for quite some time. They’ve managed to really shoot themselves in the foot this time with their shoddy reporting and with any luck it will come back to bite them. They also decided to keep the tape under wraps from the time they first aired the allegations until their next big scoop with the tape the following week.

    Also, the last I checked no one has been arrested yet, there have been no indictments or grand jury hearings on this case so you might want to rethink your stance on the assumption of guilt by the way.

  • Justin

    Dan, after reading your story, I have to believe that ESPN can be civilly liable, and possibly criminally liable as well. Can someone who is knowledgeable in New York criminal law please discuss whether ESPN violated Penal Article 205.50 and 205.65? These statutes make intentionally suppressing evidence by concealment which might aid in the lodging of a criminal charge a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the grade of the underlying criminal charge. Seriously, someone please address the question.

  • Big Papi

    Lester Munson should resign at once. Being one of their on staff Sports Legal Writers,, he clearly had no knowledge of any of this and now that he does—should remove himself from such an immoral, and probably illegal, operation.

    Again, the money is so large these days in the Sports Arena, it is corrupting what were probably once decent human beings. Time for an example to be made. If the NCAA can give a Death Penalty for recruiting violations, so too should the Feds for the withholding of information that has put kids in harms way.

    Supposed on air, high moral types from ESPN should think long and hard about distancing themselves from a sham outfit when it comes to the protection of children. Bet not one of them steps aside or openly condemns it–the Money is just too large to do whats right. Make an example that will rock the Industry.

  • AJ12

    How many of the ESPN staff graduated from Syracuse? And no one is out there to watch over ESPN. It’s sad that rather than do what is by far the right thing/the legal thing, they decided to keep their brand safe and stick their heads in the sand.

    • David Blake

      I’ve seen anywhere from 30-50%, especially in power positions and on-air talent. If that’s the reason, it;s just like Catholics protecting thier pedophile priests after they found out that 4,000+ of them in the U.S. were pedophiles.

  • Fur Unbalanced (By Cracky)

    To be on the safe side, the Score should dump the slow version of the Kars For Kids spot. It sounds like a Man and Boy Seduction Ballad. Creepy is creepy, wherever it appears.

    • michelob lite?

      I thought I was the only one that cringed when this came on.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    Boeheim is a Booyah boy, plain and simple…protected one of their guys.

  • sportsgirl

    They must be terrified of the cilvil liability if a victim comes forward who was attacked after 2003. Just think of the amount of money they could be sued for. The Disney lawyers must be on red alert.

    • Denver Deadite

      Those lawyers are always on red alert: Disney probably gets sued by somebody for some or other just about every day.


    I, barely, watch them for sports. This is a company that went out of its way to divorce itself from hockey. Let’s say, they cut Syracuse loose. Something will fill the void, quickly.
    Is the nation running out of semi-interesting college basketball programs?
    They’ll puff up Butler or Gozanga if they have to. And, knock them down just as quickly.
    Simply put. I don’t like ESPN, and they deserve to take on water over this.

  • Cheekimonk

    Excellent article, Mr. Bernstein, and I think the last sentence is what we might call, “sticking the landing.” That is what it comes down to, ultimately, but the sad fact is that not only might ESPN not have “had to” inform the authorities, they actually didn’t have to “want to” either. And it’s all our fault. Hailing from Alabama I have seen first hand that power can actually corrupt many orders of magnitude greater than would otherwise be possible when the owners of that power are shielded by the public’s own hand. In Alabama that shield is known as “College Football” (those wielding power and who are thus corrupted would be the keepers of the Legacy – big ‘L’ – in either Tuscaloosa or Auburn. ESPN’s shield is simply “Sports.” Consider what ESPN hath wrought in the last 30 years. This is a media giant constructed around “Sports” that also has burrowed itself so deeply into “Sports” itself that it could be reasonably said that it owns the entire “supply AND demand” chain…in this country and, more and more, worldwide. And the public has never raised a hand in objection. Neither have sports journalists outside of ESPN’s influence because, I surmise, one cannot be involved in American sports in any role and be beyond ESPN’s influence. It wasn’t always like that, but we are way past the point of no return. So what exactly happens when a media giant owns a part in constructing, running, broadcasting, merchandising, and – finally – reporting on a field? That media giant becomes immune to criticism or question. Is there any other company in America that can claim openly claim that they are an “entertainment” entity when that suits their needs and that they are a “respected journalistic” entity when that is required? I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that ESPN’s behavior in this matter is just a small sliver off the immovable object that is that company’s arrogance and oligarchy behind the scenes of American sports. And just like Penn State fans indirectly empowered Jerry Sandusky to commit heinous offenses by begging for and helping to erect a wall of immunity around the football program, so we all empowered ESPN to believe that their interest and judgement trumped that of innocent victims – past and present – and law enforcement. We wanted it that way, and the public is not going to want to hear that. ESPN knew, and knows, that all to well.


    Cheekimonk. I agree with you to a point.
    But, ESPN’s biggest contribution to the actual sports broadcasting, in my opinion, was, wholly by accident: And, I’m just assuming at this point that they had one or two of the last baseball games of the regular season.
    I remember that day for what it was. Three (was it more?) baseball games that completely changed the playoff landscape almost in the course of innings.
    Sure, they probably were forcing the Yankees on us at the time, but ESPN still hasn’t managed to get Monday Night Football right (unless, your team is unfortunate enough to have to play on it.) Just back away from them, and see how easy it is.

  • JT Heiser

    Boycott ESPN. Hypocrites!

  • Aimee Russakoff Finkel

    Excellent report. Thanks. ESPN is nothing more than Tabloid news at it’s worst.

  • Cheekimonk

    Actually, I do boycott ESPN. I could tell you some inside stories about their response to CUSA signing a multi-year deal with Fox last year (which is in addition to their deal with CBS). No one at ESPN has any qualms about exacting their revenge on anyone who won’t toe the line.

  • meesohawnee

    so according to the ST.. and yes im embarrassed i even saw that page, Kim Dejesus. is jumpin for joy her hubbbie signed with the cubs “cause im from wheaton”…uhh kim. i doubt being from wheaton has little to do with your joy rather the 15 mil guaranteed pay day someday youll get .Hear that Jay?? Really? but i guess if you go to the former creepy column you are part of the clueless anyway so dont blame her for trying. Good thing WYC is today. .whew.. Oh and Jay. If youve had doubts about a marriage in the past.. theres a reason brotha!

  • Greg V

    I wish that HBO’s Real Sports would have come across this story. Something tells me they would have handled it differently than ESPN did. They are true sports journalists. ESPN’s “reporting” is just promotional material for its programming.

  • Satan

    ESPN is pretty despicable… they have a ridiculous stranglehold on all things sports, though, so it’s hard to avoid them.

  • Ian

    It is not far fetched to think if ESPN would have turned over the tape that an investigation would have started on Fine. Then more evidence would have came out and they would have been able to go with the story. After the Fine story broke then the victims of Sandusky probably would have been more comfortable to come foward sooner about the horrible things happening at Penn State. Eight years of continue abuse when supposley reasonable sane adults did nothing to help childern and could have saved number of childern.

  • Following The Press – Interesting Items… « Something's going on, I'm here to pick at it.

    […] After watching both the football players (labor) and the basketball players (again, labor) buckle down and bend to the will of their respective owners (management), we find out that a couple of stellar, long-time pillars of the college sports world have been proven hollow and ready to collapse: Penn State Football and Syracuse Basketball. While it wasn’t the head coaches who were the guilty parties, they definitely worked hard to shelter the guilty parties until AFTER they were pure poison to the Universities. And what’s worse, in both cases people in the press knew what was going on but decided to sit on the news stories because exposure w…. […]


    Dan, I agree with half of the spin that you offer on a daily basis. You have nailed this one, I agree 100% with your article. ESPN, Mark Schwarz and Vince Doria need to be hauled in front of a grand jury on obstruction of justice and failure to report a felony involving a child. Don’t let this one go, “ride it” until justice is delivered .
    This organization and these individuals involved make me sick.

  • Loren Forney

    great post, thanks

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