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Earlier Sunday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski inaccurately wrote that Jacob Blake was unarmed when he was shot by police in 2020. Blake went on record months ago to say, “Yeah, I had a knife,” yet ESPN has said twice in the past month he didn’t. Mark Jones, unsurprisingly, was the first to spread the lie on ESPN airwaves during an NBA game:
OutKick was the only outlet to point out on Sunday afternoon that ESPN was again trying to spread this lie, one that promises to cause more racial division. We also requested an official comment. Moments later, ESPN oddly reworded the story. Instead of lying, ESPN opted to mislead its readers. In the first update, ESPN omitted the line that Blake was unarmed but refused to mention he was armed, which makes it seem as if Blake was not a threat.
ESPN responded to our request by pointing us to the “correction” and said it would not comment on the matter. So, as we always do, we added ESPN’s decision to decline comment into our story. Soon after, ESPN updated Wojnarowski’s story for the second time, finally admitting that it “incorrectly reported that Jacob Blake was unarmed when he was shot seven times by Kenosha, Wisconsin, police.”
In 2021, it takes a lot of work to get an outlet to report the truth or even a portion of it.
ESPN has made several errors in judgment on this and a host of other issues. First, Wojnarowski’s original phrasing is indefensible. No excuse. ESPN was called out once for this, did nothing, and yet did it again. ESPN is a sports outlet, and many of its consumers may be unaware of news stories that aren’t related to sports. Thus, ESPN should go into each of these stories assuming its consumers are unaware of details and are perhaps hearing the story for the first time. ESPN added a correction five hours later, after most of the readers already read the story. The correction will have minimal impact unless Wojnarowski tweets the line was wrong to his five million followers.
Second, how did no one at ESPN catch this “error”? The story got home page treatment for four hours. The original line likely made it past several editors and ESPN.com employees. How many knew but didn’t want to acknowledge it?
Finally, if the executives at ESPN were not such cowards who are petrified of social media backlash and leaks, they would’ve addressed this problem when Mark Jones first stated Blake was unarmed. If ESPN would have done so then, it likely would not have happened again, especially not a few weeks later. I gave ESPN several chances to correct Jones, but the network did nothing. Even a simple “this was incorrect” would’ve sent a message to ESPN employees, but the network wouldn’t even say that.
Many individuals are to blame for Wojnarowski’s story, but those at the top should be first.