Thursday, May 01, 2014

Don't Criticize Magic Johnson. And Don't Lie. Otherwise, Whatever.

Oh, for the good ol' days.  The good old days when people were held responsible more for what they did than for what they said, which might have gotten Los Angeles Clippers' owner Donald Sterling bounced a whole lot earlier than he was (related video below, in which Bomani Jones explains why Sterling really was kicked out).  The good old days when the truth was the truth and anything else was a lie.

It isn't anymore, as two related incidents, one from the world of professional sports and the other from political media, indicate.

Philadelphia Eagles' head coach Chip Kelly releases pro bowl receiver DeSean Jackson and one month later deigns to tell fans (through the media) why.  And when he asserts it was for "football reasons," there is a common thread in the reaction among almost everyone, whether supporters of Jackson or of Kelly.

The assumption that Kelly was maintaining wide receiver Jackson no longer would help the Eagles in their passing game was reflected by Yahoo sportswriter Frank Schwab, who believes Kelly invoked the "football reasons" excuse because

The team would be stepping in some stuff it wants no part of if it said publicly that Jackson was cut because he was disruptive in the locker room or the story that discussed possible gang connections or whatever the reason was. To say that Jackson was cut for "purely football reasons" is just taking the simple route out of the situation, letting the story die, and it's the smart move.

Except that the Chipster did not deny that he cut Jackson because of gang connections, an inadequate work ethic, because he would have had to be paid $10 million this year, or any other reason Schwab and others believe lies outside the realm of "football decision."  The phrase is open to varied interpretations, which is its beauty, and the reason the coach invoked it. It doesn't take much imagination to believe that a disruptive influence in the locker room or being directly or indirectly involved with really bad characters might harm performance of the team.  And the big hit the organization would have taken on the salary cap had Jackson's salary and bonus been paid could have precluded an acquisition who might have helped the team more than Jackson would have.

None of these may have had anything to do with the receiver's release, although it would be a stretch to believe that.  But none of it is precluded by the reference to "football decision."

It's important for today's football coaches to be skilled at linguistic word games.  So, too, is it important for programming executives. Talking Points Memo reports

Fox News denied on Wednesday that a producer had "specifically" told an editor for Scientific American magazine that he should avoid discussing climate change in a "Fox & Friends" segment that aired earlier in the day about future tech trends.

After appearing on "Fox & Friends" Wednesday morning, Michael Moyer tweeted that he had wanted to talk about the impacts of climate change as a future trend but was "told to pick something else" by a producer at the show. He later wrote a fuller account of his experience for his Scientific American blog.

Moyer also told TPM he chose to share his experience after deciding that he wouldn't appear on the show again.

"I found the tone and topics of coverage while I was sitting in the green room this morning to be not something that I wanted to be a part of in the future," he said. "I didn't realize that the drumbeat of conservative propaganda was so ubiquitous on the show."

A Fox spokesperson sent TPM a statement on Wednesday afternoon denying that climate change was ever an issue.

"We invited Michael on for a segment on technological and scientific trends we can expect in the future. We worked closely with him and his team and there was never an issue on the topic of climate change," Suzanne Scott, senior vice president of programming at Fox News, said in the statement. "To say he was told specifically not to discuss it, would be false."

In response to Fox's side of the story, Moyer told TPM the producer had explicitly mentioned climate change.

"The exact quote from the Fox producer, in an email, was 'can we replace the climate change with something else?'" Moyer wrote in an email.

But there is no contradiction here, except in the exceedingly unlikely event Moyer is a flat-out liar.  Rather, Suzanne Scott did her best to mislead readers without actually lying.  He was "not told specifically not to discuss it," Scott asserts.  And in fact, "can we replace the climate change with something else" differs from "do not discuss climate change" while getting the point across quite clearly.  No one can accurately accuse the producer of lying but if Moyer had given the wrong answer to her question, he would have been booted from the program.

In the game of words, Scott accomplished her purpose, now that Moyer has decided not to discomfort GOP TV's Fox and Friends in the future with the truth.   Chip Kelly achieved his objective, now that nobody has asked him to clarify his statement.    Donald Sterling?  In the game of wealth, he's a winner.  But if you get your property taken away from you for the kind of noxious statements we've all heard in private (and in some cases, in public), you may fit the definition of a loser.

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