ESPN Could Face Major Legal Mess For Falsely Reporting College Baseball Player Took PEDs

Tennessee baseball catcher Evan Russell is available for the team’s matchup with Campbell on Saturday, one day after ESPN reported that Russell tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug and would miss the remainder of the season.

Friday, the ESPN broadcast crew of Lowell Galindo and Troy Eklund announced the Russell  “news” during NCAA Baseball regionals, citing “reports and speculation.”

Watch the segment below:

According to Tennessee athletics, Russell missed the game due to a “sickness” and is feeling better. So Russell did not test positive for PEDs and is not out for the season, as ESPN reported.

The team addressed the situation in a statement:

“Evan Russell’s absence last night had nothing to do with any violation of team, NCAA, or SEC rules. We have been in contact with ESPN and they are aware of the situation regarding last nights comments made on their broadcast. ESPN is handling the situation and we are expecting a public apology from them later today.”

When reached by OutKick, ESPN released the following comment:

“Thank you for reaching out. Troy Eklund apologized on air during today’s regional game from Stillwater. I’ll share a clip of that as soon as I have it. ESPN will have no further comment.”

Here’s Eklund’s apology: 

That apology from ESPN hardly suffices at this point. The MLB Draft is next month and the leading sports brand in the country just portrayed a prospect as a steroid user. ESPN may have sunk his draft stock and thus have cost him millions of dollars.

It’s unclear if a producer on the broadcast gave Galindo and Eklund the greenlight to make this announcement on the broadcast or if the duo made the decision themselves.

Either way, ESPN’s coverage of Russell ought to be taught as what not to do in Journalism 101.

This “reporting” goes beyond the common practice at ESPN of baselessly declaring that millionaire athletes and coaches are beneficiaries of white privilege. This time, ESPN defamed a 23-year-old collegiate athlete by citing unverified reports on-air.

“All time screw up by ESPN,” Clay Travis tweeted of the situation. “This could be a monster legal [matter] for ESPN,” he says in a follow-up tweet.

The scale of this mess-up could turn out unprecedented in sports media. The most obvious case study to reference is a settlement for defamation between the Washington Post and former Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann. Sandmann sued the Post after it grossly misreported the context of his exchange with an elder Native American who harassed him. 

We are glad to hear Evan Russell is okay and not taking PEDs. As for ESPN, this is another nail in the coffin of the credibility of the corporate press. ESPN could have damaged this student’s career and dream. 

ESPN did not have much credibility as a news organization going into the tournament. But we assure you whatever was left is now dwindling.

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack covers media, politics, and sports at OutKick.

3 Comments

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  1. They should be apologizing on every episode of Sportscenter. Not that anyone watches that trash anymore. But a one time apology doesn’t suffice. This is beyond reckless, but what do you expect from a shitty company like Disney. He shouldn’t wait to sue them.

  2. Apparently Eklund was scanning his Twitter feed of his Arkansas alumni trolls and repeated some fake news post from one of those geniuses, you know, like a professional. I also saw the same garbage story posted shortly after on an LSU fan message board called TigerDroppings, so the fake news hit job looked like it was coming from two rival SEC school fan bases. Eklund has no business being on air. You can’t do something that stupid and reckless as a broadcaster. Great week in broadcasting Arkansas, by the way. First the genius Ruscin gets fired for cussing one of their own players on air (who is crushing everything in the regional), now Eklund defames a UT player! Wooooo pig!

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