I think one of the biggest ethical challenges associated with the sports media landscape is the coverage of domestic abuse.
Now more than ever, cases of domestic abuse seem to be popping up in multiple different sports every few weeks. From cases that have lots of information in the public eye like in the example of Greg Hardy, to cases where little is known of the situation as is the case with Ezekiel Elliot or Jeurys Familia.
There are many difficult parts of reporting these cases.
The first issue involves how much information is available on the subject.
When it is first reported that an athlete is involved in a domestic abuse case, it will be all over Sportscenter and various social media platforms, before even any of the facts of the event have been brought forward.
I feel that a lot of the time this automatically paints the athlete is guilty in the public eye. Should we immediately put it out there that an athlete is being brought up on charges of domestic abuse, or should we wait until the case has ran its course and a verdict has been made?
In most scenarios, even in those where the athlete is found innocent, the initial report can tarnish a reputation. There are still people that firmly believe that superstars like Kobe Bryant and Ben Roethlisberger are rapists even though neither was found guilty in court; however neither was proven innocent either.
I really don’t know the best way to handle this situation, but it is your job as a reporter to report the facts and at the moment the facts are that there is an accusation against the athlete. People will make their assumptions, but it is your job to stay objectionable.
The second issue that comes with this subject is how you handle it with the athletes themselves.
When the news first breaks, there will most likely be a statement released by the athlete or their agent, but do you ask them any questions on your own about the incident, or do you wait it out?
Asking athletes questions about an ongoing trial will most likely garner few results and only anger the athlete, but it is your job as a reporter to get the facts.
I think that while the case is ongoing, unless they are holding a press conference specifically fielding questions on the issue, it is unwise to ask questions about it. The athletes’ lawyers most likely will tell them to not answer any questions about the accusation as what they say could incriminate them in court.
The fans want to know what is going on in the lives of their favorite players, but sometimes writing about the issues surrounding them is not so clear-cut.