ESPN producers have again poked their noses into the escort scandal plaguing the University of Louisville basketball program. And once again the network is stained by the stench, employing amateurish investigative techniques, coming up with no answers while pointing fingers at Rick Pitino.
They had better hope there is some substance to their suppositions or there could be some consequences for their overreach, personally, professionally and financially. Pitino never forgets, and he should hold them accountable.
Not enough for the Outside The Lines producers that UofL has admitted that wrongdoing occurred, not enough that the school has self-imposed a post-season ban on ACC and NCAA tournament participation this season, and not enough that Andre McGee’s career has been shattered.
They prematurely arrive at conclusions suggesting that Pitino knew the sex was going on while implying that the program illegally allocated funds to influence recruits. The segment, which aired Sunday, also suggests that current UofL player Mangok Mathiang may have been a participant in sexual activities, despite an emphatic denial from the prostitute/pimp who wrote a book about the parties.
Not coincidentally, the segment airs on the same day as the NCAA selection announcements, in a style closely resembling a “60 Minutes” approach, with McGee being ambushed by a reporter and a camera man in the back seat of an Uber car in Kansas City, Missouri. They had to be disappointed that Andre remained composed, calmly asking them to get out of the car.
The segment was produced by ESPN’s so-called Enterprise and Investigative Unit, a team created by network in 2003 with “the mission of reporting and producing high-impact investigative stories.” It featured John Barr, a journalism graduate from Indiana University, and an online report gives credit to Caitlyn Stanco for contributing to the report.
Nothing really new or revealing in the segment, which leans on the sexual elements of the case to maintain viewer interest, and heavily relies on the suppositions of “an unnamed source close to the NCAA investigation.” They raise the predictable question about who provided the money to Andre McGee for the parties. ESPN would have viewers believe it is the only one raising the question but the source of funding is undoubtedly receiving a lot of attention from the NCAA and the University of Louisville.
Uninformed viewers can’t help but come away from the segment convinced that Pitino is somehow intimately involved and that he is involved in some kind of coverup — a thinly-veiled insinuation about a lack of honesty and integrity. That may have been a clever ploy by John Barr and the producers but they should be very concerned about the repercussions if no evidence is uncovered tying Pitino to the activities.
Pitino is quite familiar with the justice system, having proven that he is adept at using the legal process to protect his reputation. This latest ESPN segment has unquestionably harmed him professionally and personally, and ESPN could be hard-pressed to defend itself in a civil lawsuit against the damage it has inflicted on Pitino.