The rise of Peter King in the sports media world is a curious one. The 57-year-old King really vaulted into prominence when he began writing the weekly Monday Morning Quarterback column back in the 1990’s. The Internet was still new, and getting this fast overview of the weekend’s football action was a popular idea that took off.

peterkingPrior to this, King had been a fairly ordinary sportswriter, with stints at The Cincinnati Enquirer and Newsday prior to joining Sports Illustrated in 1989, he wrote several books during the 1990’s, but it was Monday Morning Quarterback which really lifted him above his peers in terms of popularity and stature.

He had been a solid reporter, and in addition to the football reporting, people seemed to enjoy his “10 things I think I think” and non-football thoughts of the week, tales of travel woe, as well as updates on his favorite coffee stops, and later, his choice in (inevitably citrusy) beer. The MMQB success made him a sought-after guest on sports radio programs – here in Boston his guest spots on the midday show with Dale Arnold and whomever his current partner was at the time were very popular segments – and also TV shows, such as Inside The NFL, then still on HBO.  When the NFL came to NBC, he was a big part of that, providing in studio reports on Football Night in America.

Then, last year SI, following in the footsteps of Bill Simmons at ESPN, gave King his own website, and team of writers at themmqb.com. He was (and is) at the pinnacle of his career and power.

Yes, power. One of the more annoying things that King has developed over the years is his penchant for the finger-wag at those he feels are deserving of his scorn. He somehow has come to believe that he is a moral arbiter of society, taking people to task for failures in their own lives and professions. In addition to lecturing people inside the league, he’s weighed in on people’s lives outside of football, he’s scolded Red Sox players, and generally acted the part of the ugly American in dealings with any sort of service industry employee. He went to visit troops overseas and gave away details of the location of the camp. These things are all annoying, but mostly harmless.

He has also, like many in the media, gotten close to the subjects he covers and spends a lot of time pumping them up. He was a regular at Brett Favre’s house. Who can forget him eating popcorn in Jerry Jones’s office? Or spending  a week “embedded” with official Gene Steratore and his crew? Or the numerous exclusive sitdowns  (6000 words!) and gushing profiles of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

For some, those columns on Goodell serve to solidify the notion that King is nothing more than a publicity agent in service of the Commissioner. Events of this summer are further disturbing in exposing King’s reporting as being shoddy, incomplete and dishonest.

When the original two-game suspension was handed out, King wrote a column explaining what Goodell’s thinking was in suspending Rice for really only four days – the Ravens played Sunday and play again on Thursday night. The article, complete with bullet-points, was written at the time in which the public had only seen the tape of Rice pulling his fiance of the elevator, seems to be a direct missive from the Commissioner. In fact, King doesn’t say “I think this is what Goodell’s thinking was here.” he says This is why Goodell was softer on Rice than a four-game suspension.

The bullet points, which included he’s never done it before and he does a lot in the community rang hollow to many people who responded back to King in anger. He attempted to defend himself by citing “evidence” that he hadn’t mentioned in the first column.

Note the wording here.

There is one other thing I did not write or refer to, and that is the other videotape the NFL and some Ravens officials have seen, from the security camera inside the elevator at the time of the physical altercation between Rice and his fiancée. I have heard reports of what is on the video, but because I could not confirm them and because of the sensitivity of the case, I never speculated on the video in my writing, because I don’t think it is fair in an incendiary case like this one to use something I cannot confirm with more than one person. I cannot say any more, because I did not see the tape. I saw only the damning tape of Rice pulling his unconscious fiancée out of the elevator.

(Emphasis mine)

So much here. King never explains why he didn’t think it was “fair” to mention the tape on Thursday, but it was OK to mention it four days later. He also definitively states that the video had been viewed by both the NFL and the Ravens. (Later, we learn that he actually did not know this for sure.) He then goes back and forth with a bunch of contrasting phrases I have heard reports/I could not confirm and I never speculated/I cannot confirm.

I’m trying to make sense of this. He states the tape was viewed. He heard reports on its contents, could not confirm so he’s not going to speculate. It’s especially unfair to use information that can’t be confirmed with more than one person – essentially giving us unwashed masses a lesson in the ethic of journalism here.

EXCEPT – he lied. He uses the information in an effort to defend himself, but it was information that he in fact did NOT confirm with more than one person.

You may know this as the John Tomase rule.

King however, wasn’t that humbled by the blowback. He concluded that section by writing:

In retrospect, I would have added a paragraph or two to the story at the end about what I thought, because that is clearly what so many of you expect from me.

Two things – I look at that sentence as just dripping with condescension. Isn’t he admitting right here that the talking points in the original Goodell defense were not his own, but were actually Goodell’s? The original article was written in such as way as to make you think that King is merely observing the whole situation from on high, detached from the situation and saying “This is what Goodell is thinking.” In reality, they were Goodell’s thoughts. and now Peter is distancing himself from them and saying he should’ve offered HIS thoughts too, as they would be very different from Goodell’s. The impatient “clearly what so many of you expect me from me” bit makes me ill.

How do we know he lied? He copped to it yesterday in this curiously titled addendum to the Ray Rice coverage.

He writes:

Earlier this summer a source I trusted told me he assumed the NFL had seen the damaging video that was released by TMZ on Monday morning of Rice slugging his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer, in an Atlantic City elevator. The source said league officials had to have seen it. This source has been impeccable, and I believed the information. So I wrote that the league had seen the tape. I should have called the NFL for a comment, a lapse in reporting on my part. The league says it has not seen the tape, and I cannot refute that with certainty. No one from the league has ever knocked down my report to me, and so I was surprised to see the claim today that league officials have not seen the tape.

I hope when this story is fully vetted, we all get the truth and nothing but the truth.

For King to write within the same paragraph that something had happened and then say “I don’t think it is fair in an incendiary case like this one to use something I cannot confirm with more than one person.” is completely mind-blowing.

His defense is “no one ever told me I was wrong“? (Aside: How tone-deaf does someone have to be to use the phrase “knocked down” in referencing to his own reporting on a case which involved a woman getting knocked unconscious and dragged across a lobby?) This is the guy lecturing on ethics and the importance of multiple sources?

Then the last sentence. Isn’t that YOUR job, Peter? To advance and vet the story?

He continued on the topic with his mailbag today. Many readers were still upset, and King attempted to placate them and apologize – but not really.

I’ve been a reporter for 34 years and I’ve made my share of mistakes. This certainly was one of them. And I realize that a lot of people will not trust what I say on this issue, but I can assure you that it was simply an honest mistake. As far as resigning, if my bosses inside Sports Illustrated and Time Inc. don’t want me to report anymore, they’ll tell me. But I won’t be voluntarily quitting. I’m not sure what good that would do, other than to satisfy some fairly shrill cries for my head.

After looking at the above, can we really call this “an honest mistake?” Not at all. It was deliberate. There was no “honest mistake” involved in the least.

How about that last line? Again, the tone-deafness of Peter King is just insane. Does the term “fairly shrill cries” fill you with warmth at the thought of a humbled man looking to make good on his errors? Or does it leave you with the picture of a testy, impatient man scolding “leave me alone you screeching vultures?”

Way to go, Pete. Get your house in order.

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20 thoughts on “Peter King Needs To Turn The Finger-Wag On Himself For Once

  1. Lost in all this Ray Rice discussion is a truly fascinating story about Bruce Levinson the owner of the Atlanta Hawks throwing himself under the bus in order to force the league to facilitate the sale of his team. A friend of mine in Atlanta says this guys is the worst and that Levinson saw what happened to Sterling as his chance to get rid of the Hawks. Incredible! I wish more reporters were following this story. Feels like there’s a lot of layers there. Not Boston specific, but IMO very interesting.

    But I guess when the NFL commissioner could get the axe more people are going to pay attention. I wonder how many people truly think he should be fired for his actions this summer, versus how many are calling for his head just to see if it will happen. People do love a good firing nowadays.

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  2. Peter King and Roger Goodell should both lose their jobs over this. What they’ve done is actually worse than the collective wrongs Ray Rice has committed in his entire life. And their actions are clearly rooted in racism. They should be forced to give up all their wealth and it should be distributed as reparations for slavery. Ray Rice should be given help by the NFL for his problems. That’s just common sense, people. I mean, even his wife said what’s happening to them is a nightmare. And she’s a woman who was punched in the face so hard by her fiance that she fell right over, hit her head on a railing and was knocked unconscious. She’s got persective on what constitutes a nightmare.
    Sincerely,
    White Guilt

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  3. Can we nominate TMZ for “Sportsman of the Year” or would SI feel uncomfortable shaming their bell cow even more? They’ve had more impact on sports than anyone has in the past year, bar none.

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    1. Dude, TMZ has been topping every news outlet for years. They have ZERO qualms. If they decide to venture beyond entertainment and sports, watch out.

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      1. It’s also a sad day when TMZ has more credibility than many, many other outlets.

        Ordway joked that these leagues, if they wanted real security, should just call Harvey Levin.

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  4. Bruce…another really good job pointing out another emperor has no clothes. Speaking of which there are several angles of this story I have not seen or heard discussed yet by crack reporters like King:

    – Donald Sterling was forced out of the NBA for saying racist things in his own home to his “girl friend” who recorded them either secretly of with his permission. Art Modell allowed Ray Lewis to play after he was CONVICTED of Obstruction of Justice, while evidence pointed to him being either an accessory or the actual murderer. Fast forward to Feb of 2014, he learns about Ray Rice’s incident with his wife in an Atlantic City Casino, after allowing his people to investigate he takes no action…instead he abdicates his responsibility towards an employee, the employees spouse, never mind human decency instead relying on the NFL for punishment and moral guidance. I think questions should be asked as to what it will take for the NFL to force the sale of the Ravens. It is clear that Modell, Newsome and the others in that front office have put the cult of football in front of anything else for the past 15 years. Compare Modell’s actions to Bob Kraft’s during the Aaron Hernandez case. The Pats investigated the allegations quickly and severed all ties in a matter of two days. If the NBA could take Sterling’s franchise because he said “BAD WORDS”, shouldn’t the NFL at least consider taking the Ravens away from an owner who condones Murder and Violence Against Women? As I see it Modell is no better than Joe Paterno.

    – I don’t see how Roger Goodell survives this. Media members are late to this party but they have jumped with both feet. Goodell, who usually is pretty politically astute made three monumental mistakes in this case:

    1) He assumed his poo does not stink

    2) He trusted the Raven’s when they had to have assured him that Rice was remorseful, there was no other shoe to drop and that a lenient punishment would make this whole story blow over in a week.

    3) He let TMZ get a video that he allegedly could not or would not get.

    I think Goodell looks at $13 bill in revenue and thinks the NFL does not have to live by the same rules as everyone else. He has been right up until now, however direct video evidence of a heinous crime had not come out after the previous usual denials and “nothing to see heres”. Not getting that tape, or claiming not to get it, is the one part of this story that defies logic. The NFL knew all of the evidence in the Dante Stallworth case in hours, ditto Aaron Hernandez and Rae Caruth…yet they did not know of the existence of the in elevator video. Yet TMZ did?

    – Robert Kraft who I also think is usually politically astute made a pretty questionable move today coming out in such strong support for Goodell. I don’t see why the need to do it and do it today. I don’t think the owners have fully thought through how messy this whole thing might get. If it comes out that Goodell saw the tape ahead of time…or that his people did… then the NFL has a credibility problem. It has to some extent already started. The FCC today announced it was going to vote to do away with the NFL’s blackout rules. Curious.

    – I think it is clear that Janay Rice is pretty deep into an abusive relationship. Her lashing out at the media for taking away her husband’s livelihood is pretty remarkable. Coming on the heels of the other high profile domestic abuse cases such as Jennifer Martel and Nicole Brown Simpson you would think someone would have tried to help her in the last 6 months. I have not seen any reporting on this angle. I think the lack of proactive action to help her on the part of the Ravens is not sitting well with fans, especially women fans and players. I can’t ever remember such a break in the wall of silence. Players tweeting that Rice was an animal after the video went viral.

    – Lastly, once the video surfaced the Ravens fired Rice, the NFL suspended him indefinitely. My question is had the Ravens not fired Rice, would the NFL have acted?

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      1. You are right…teaches me to type after midnight. Steve Biscotti had nothing to do with Ray Lewis…however Ozzie Newsome was GM for both. There still is something rotten in the Ravens organization.

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        1. Newsome became GM in 2002. Lewis murder happened in early 2000. He did work in the Ravens’s front office then.

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    1. I thought he was done until Kraft went on CBS yesterday and basically said nope, he stays. It was strange but would Kraft have done it w/o the blessing of at least some of the other “bigs” in the NFL (Jerry, Giants, SF, etc?) I know this is a popular question but I thought he was done until I saw this.

      If he did speak out of character? That’s a wow.

      To me, the biggest thing is with this new “discipline” thing. At a bare minimum, the NFLPA has to strip Goodell of his plastic sheriff badge he got down at the 5 and 10 store and establish something new (NHL model?)

      Selling the franchise? I understand your angle but doubt it’d happen. Were there calls for Kraft to sell the team after Spygate? (And, not just the usual suspects like Borges) I did talk to a Ravens fan in the area who wasn’t happy with the team, but I recall seeing a poll from the Balitmore Sun that something like 35% of their fans believe Rice should play, or something disturbing. (I’d link the poll but Balitmore Sun has a paywall up.)

      On ownership there, the letter Steve Biscotti sent to all season ticket holders does nothing to really apologize about being “sorry” for their original stance until the full video came out. They also make no mention of the paintbrushing of Rice’s image after the initial 2gm and their PR effort (him being cheered, the Ravens website celebrating this, etc).

      Do not forget this letter by Kevin Byrne on “Why I like Ray Rice?” on the Ravens’ official website after the 2gm but before the rest of the stuff:

      http://www.baltimoreravens.com/news/article-1/Byrne-Identity-I-Like-Ray-Rice/f618f957-e03f-4fc6-919e-638552b14c2b

      Unless fan support goes down the toilet there or this blows up even more, I don’t think there would be any calls to sell the team.

      On the “how’d they get the tape?” I’ve said before that the “security” these leagues employ is nothing but a sham to make it look tough. I can’t help but laugh when people in the media talk about how elite these guys are, as if they’re Batman and Jack Bauer all in one. How much stuff have they missed over the years? Sam Hurd, Hernandez, and this case come to mind. Can’t we say that all of these ex-alphabet soup guys are more Ray Donovan than anything? It serves the same purpose as the drug policies do, where its just to keep the public and Congress away from intervening.

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      1. I don’t see how he survives this. The NFL is too high profile of a company/brand to have as its titular head someone who condones domestic violence. That will be there perception.

        The NFL has paid Goodell a lot of money to be commish. He can site “I want to spend more time with my family after having accomplished all I wanted to accomplish” and then he can ride off into the sunset.

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        1. I think a big test on this is what happen on CBS with the Ravens @ home tomorrow evening. It’s why Goodell wanted the interview out there today and not tomorrow, hoping to space out the stories, instead of he entire “game” being about his bs response he gave.

          As I said, I could see it going both ways. With this tape angle they’ve decided to take, I get the impression that someone in “security” is being positioned to take the fall for this, though, and not Goodell.

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    2. Funny this came up about “NFL Security”. Lester Munson, on LeBatard’s show, had this to say about “NFL Security”:

      “My choice among those is that these NFL security agents have been digging up information, spinning it, and hiding it for years. On this occasion, it did not work. Their usual techniques killed them. Now
      everything has blown up in their face, and there’s gonna have to be a scapegoat here, and it’s gonna be someone in the security department.”

      http://thebiglead.com/2014/09/10/espn-legal-analyst-nfl-security-has-been-digging-up-information-and-hiding-it-for-years/

      I guess it’s no longer a “conspiracy theory”.

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  5. This ‘stance’ by Florio and the others makes me laugh:

    Some person tweets @ProFootballTalk:

    @ProFootballTalk Where was your hard-nosed reporting to get that elevator video? NFL reporters are just as culpable. Too cosy w/ NFL.

    He responds:

    @badgerjill . . . Paying cash for videos isn’t hard-nosed reporting.

    So, are you admitting, like King, you’re lazy and don’t do your job, or is that because your job is to be NFLPR, just under a different umbrella?

    “We’re above TMZ because…” Such a sad day. I wish these people would have their ability to report stripped.

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  6. Starts to get worse..

    @AP BREAKING: AP Source: Law enforcement official sent copy of Ray Rice tape to NFL executive in April

    latetodinner, I now think he’s done, or someone higher up is done.

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    1. I think Adam Jones made a very astute point (I can’t believe I typed that sentence) tonight when he said…the fastest and simplest way for the NFL to get this behind them is to fire Goodell…not accept his resignation but actually fire him. If that happens I am firmly on TEAM CONDI RICE. She would be awesome for so many reasons that I will not list here until Goodell is fired.

      This is another in a long list of cases where the cover up is far worse than the crime. Felger nailed it this afternoon when he said… “Had the NFL come out and said, ‘We blew it’ we did not pursue this tape, we knew it was there but we did not do what we needed to do to fully investigate this situation’ they would have weathered the storm and we would be talking about the Pats failures in week 1. Instead it has become a never ending circus”.

      I think Goodell is gone by next week. He might be gone by Friday night. The comparisons of domestic violence punishments to getting caught smoking weed or illegally video taping an opponents signals, or Bountygate really focus on how poorly the NFL deals with domestic violence. Something has to be done by the NFL to get in front of this…to me that means Goodell has to go.

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      1. Willing to bet that Rice would never fly for certain things that happened around 2003-2004. We dive deep into politics, with that, so I’ll stop there. I only can mention that when she was brought in to the CFB Playoff Selection Committee, there was a ton of it. If she had an even more visible position it’d be worse. Maybe you like her. Maybe you hate her. I just don’t think the NFL owners want someone who would cause that much controversy. That reason alone I don’t think she’d work.

        Now, they’re hiring a “former FBI agent” to run an “independent” investigation.

        – It’s apparently run by Mara (NYG), who already stated Goodell won’t lose his job.

        – So, we’re hiring more incompetent people to investigate incompetent people. Hello redundancy? Reminds me of when Congress tries to investigate itself.. What a joke.

        Goodell apparently set this up even before the owners had to clearly do something, but with their blessing… I doubt this will be the end of it, but I just wonder how much (in re: Katie Nolan rant). This makes me think they want him back.

        At this point, I have to take a serious look at why I pay for TV.

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  7. If this didn’t have a serious subject matter attached to it. It would be comical. The feeding frenzy that the media will embark on now at the nfl head quarters in ny. Will be as Watergate and the Nixon white house to us who remember the hearings all day on tv. Will seemlike Mr Rogers neighbor hood….. oops silly me except for all the media outlets that have tv deals with the nfl. … ahh so. That means only pbs then will cover the story

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  8. Tim Benz makes an interesting point on WEEI.com this morning regarding King’s timeline in light of the AP report that someone from the league had seen the tape and they have voicemail evidence. Benz asks if King wrote five weeks ago that his source said the league had seen the tape, then why didn’t the league reach out to him to ask for a correction back then if they in fact hadn’t? I’m not defending King’s handling of the story as he should have confirmed his source’s claim, but given his relationship with Goodell I agree with Benz that it is a fair point should the AP story be proven correct.

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  9. Adam Jones barely got done declaring that the Canandaigua, New York police were inept and corrupt, before moving on to his new mission that the NFL fan public, must FORCE the NFL owners to fire Goodell, just because something must be done. If you think I’m kidding about that last part, tune into his show. If “something” isn’t done, to satisfy finger waggers like Jones, his head just might explode. What exactly does firing Goodell accomplish, accept serve as another notch on the belts of the likes of Jones and make it appear the owners have cleaned up their house? This story becomes more laughable by the second.

    By the way, that Tony Stewart crash that resulted in Kevin Ward’s death? Pretty much anyone that knows anything about racing has exonerated him and expects the police to do the same next week when their report is released to the public.

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