Media oversteps boundaries as sports coverage increases

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New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul removes the bandage from his damaged hand after the Giants defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 32-18 during an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

John Flanegin

New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul removes the bandage from his damaged hand after the Giants defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 32-18 during an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
From constant 24 hour sports coverage on multiple networks to last month’s Super Bowl totaling an average viewership of over 111.9 million, it’s evident that the lives of today’s athletes both on and off the field is under a more microscopic lens than ever.
Professionals such as Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton receive hours of airtime on radio, TV and internet alike with personalities bickering over whether or not dabbing is killing the sanctity of the National Football League. Talking heads seem to spew out non-issues and controversial topics in an attempt to kill time and boost ratings as “analysts” pitch in their two cents.  And this coverage is beginning even earlier as high profile high school athletes’ faces plaster the likes of ESPN, SEC Network or Fox Sports 1 come National Signing Day.
Modern day athletes of all ages have now reached the spectrum of bona fide celebrities. Paparazzi snap pics of superstars leaving nightclubs, writers camp out at players’ hospital rooms after an injury and highly touted high school football and basketball recruits are barraged by prospective fans on social media. So when is this coverage of athletes’ lives overstepping a boundary and going too far?
When New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul injured his hand, eventually leading to the amputation of his right index finger, while handling fireworks during last year’s 4th of July weekend sports media frenzied. Speculation circled the severity of Pierre-Paul’s injury and had every major outlet swirling to be the first to break the story fans were clamoring for. Writer and television analyst Adam Schefter was the big winner, tweeting out, “ESPN obtained medical charts that show Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul had right index finger amputated today” presenting a picture of the medical record.
Schefter’s tweet spread like wildfire garnering thousands of retweets in a matter of hours, but drew backlash since it seemed apparent he had broken a few federal laws in the process. Since 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act has been around to protect an individual’s private medical information. The act is most present in doctor’s offices and explains why you must stand behind a line when someone else is front of you. All of this means Schefter knowingly obtained Pierre-Paul’s medical information illegally and still tweeted it. Yesterday, nearly eight months since the incident, on Feb. 24 Pierre-Paul sued Schefter in a Miami Dade County civil suit.
While it can be conceded that Schefter was just trying to do his job and help his parent company, ESPN, but the way he went about doing it totally disregarded privacy of Pierre-Paul as well as his family.
The same can be said for golfer Tiger Woods’s family after he fled his house early on the morning of Feb. 25, 2009, proceeding to careen into a curb and hit a fire hydrant before smashing into a tree and unraveling the cheating scandal that has still plagued him to this day.
The media expressed their profound sympathy for Woods’s wife Elin Nordegren and the former couple’s two children, doing so by dispatching brigades of cameramen and reporters to the family’s house. For weeks the collection of media camped outside the home to document their pain and humiliation resulting from the actions of an “immature, thoughtless husband”, forcing them to go through the painful ordeal in public, rather than allowing them to deal with it privately.
While they may drive nice cars, have good-looking partners and make seven or eight figure salaries, today’s sports media must understand the boundaries of reporting and see that athletes and their families should be treated with the same respect as the average citizen.
What’s your opinion on sports media, do you think Schefter crossed the line? Leave your comments below.