The Biggest Lie in Sports Happens Right in Front of You All of the Time
Many people believe you can’t trust the media; they report what they want you to know. This can be true at times, but it doesn’t just happen in the news. A former MLB executive recently went on the radio to discuss lies the sports media tells thanks to deals made with leagues, teams, agents, and players. Here are the nitty-gritty details.
MLB and the players union negotiate through the media
While MLB was shut down during the pandemic, there was a rather volatile — and public — negotiation between the league and union regarding terms of the eventual restart once conditions permitted.
Both sides seemed to be negotiating through the media, leaking their proposals and thoughts on counterproposals to try to sway public perception toward their side and away from the other faction.
So the negotiations between the two sides were about as visible as you can get, which may have ultimately worked to turn fans against both sides with the way they were acting during the pandemic. But this sort of thing happens in sports all the time.
A former Marlins executive speaks out
David Samson was the Marlins’ president from 2002 until he was dismissed via text message in 2017, when Derek Jeter took control of the team after his ownership group purchased the Marlins.
Samson now works in the media, doing podcasts for CBS Sports. He also serves as a commentator for various radio and TV shows, and recently made an interesting revelation on Pat McAfee’s radio show. The former MLB executive told McAfee how the Marlins would use the media to manipulate their fans.
If they were considering signing a free agent, Samson says they “would float it out there to see what sort of reaction we’d get to a certain player” in terms of potential marketing and merchandising. If the Marlins sought to trade a player, they’d leak stories that he was a bad teammate so fans wouldn’t have a negative reaction to him being dealt.
As for this public posturing by the league and players, Samson says part of it is so the other side knows which proposal is coming so they can start discussing it among their constituency — the owners or players — to come up with a decision or counterproposal more quickly.
Other leagues do it too
MLB is far from the only league that lies and leaks information to the media. The Marlins aren’t the only sports team that lies to fans when they’re getting rid of a player. Teams in the NFL, NBA, and NHL do it, too.
When a reporter like Adam Schefter leaks info about a team reportedly expressing interest in acquiring a player via free agency or trade, this info was likely leaked by the player’s agent, who wants to put out a narrative that there is interest in the player, whether that’s true or not.
Scott Boras is notorious for leaking information about a “mystery MLB team” expressing an interest in his free agents. This makes the public think there are more teams after a player than there really are. The leaks come from everywhere — the leagues, teams, agents — when they want to release a certain narrative. And the media, willingly or not, is complicit in helping to get those lies out there.