Adam Schefter Under Fire (Again) For Insensitive Tweet About Dwayne Haskins

By Terrance Turner

April 9, 2022

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Dwayne Haskins died this morning after being struck by a dump truck while walking on a South Florida highway. He was 24.

Florida Highway spokesperson Lt. Indiana Miranda confirmed the incident. “He was just walking on the highway and got hit,” Miranda told the Associated Press. Around 6:30 am, Haskins was walking on the I-595 in Broward County “for unknown reasons,” Miranda told NPR, and was hit by the truck as he tried to cross westbound lanes. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

As an outpouring of grief spreads across social media — with fans, coaches and players alike mourning the loss — ESPN reporter Adam Schefter has come under fire for what many viewed as an insensitive tweet announcing Haskins’ passing:

The reaction to Schefter’s now-deleted tweet was swift and merciless:

This isn’t the first time that Schefter has been criticized for shoddy or insensitive reporting. Last April, he reported what seemed to be a bombshell development about Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Schefter wrote: “Reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers is so disgruntled with the Green Bay Packers that he has told some within the organization that he does not want to return to the team, league and team sources told ESPN on Thursday.

The Packers are aware of his feelings, concerned about them and have had team president Mark Murphy, general manager Brian Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur each fly out on separate trips to meet with Rodgers at various points this offseason, sources told ESPN.”

Schefter added: “The San Francisco 49ers called the Packers on Wednesday night, a source told ESPN, and the Los Angeles Rams inquired about Rodgers in January before they traded for Matthew Stafford. The Packers quickly dismissed the Rams’ overtures, the source said.” (The 49ers part is especially interesting: Rodgers, who was born in California, had originally wanted to play for San Francisco when he began his career.)

The story — released on the day of the NFL draft — caused a frenzy on social media. Schefter sold the story as breaking news culled from league and team sources — but that wasn’t true. Only weeks later — on May 6 — did Schefter admit that he’d been sitting on the story for weeks and that the “sources” he claimed to have didn’t exist.

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Schefter admitted that he had been sitting on the story for weeks, only releasing it on the day of the NFL Draft. In an interview with radio talk show host Dan Patrick, Schefter conceded that he had written and released the story without any new information, citing an interview Rodgers had given after the Packers lost the AFC Championship Game to the Buccaneers. That interview gave the impression that Rodgers had “unhappiness” or “uncertainty” about his future, Schefter said. Schefter eventually admitted that he had released the story with no new information. But that revelation came only after some direct questioning by Patrick.

“So you chose to release the news on Draft Day?” Patrick asked.

“That is absolutely accurate, yes,” Schefter replied.

“So it wasn’t something that you got information about…?” Patrick asked.

“No,” Schefter answered. “And it was nothing that morning that came in.”

Patrick noted that, according to Schefter, his information “didn’t come from Rodgers, didn’t come from the Packers. I was wondering: OK, you’re not gonna tell me your source–“

“Dan!” Schefter interrupted. “There’s not a source.

Interesting. Schefter literally began his story with the phrase “league and team sources told ESPN on Thursday.” Now here he was, admitting that “there’s not a source”.

Skip to 1:55 to hear the exchange detailed above.

So here Schefter was, essentially admitting to a lie — that the “league and team sources” he claimed to have did not, in fact, exist — and that he’d released the story without any new information. If there was not new info, then what was the urgency to release the story at the moment that he did? Schefter claimed that the tale “just happened to come out on draft day”. But it looks for all the world as if he timed it to coincide with one of the biggest days of the year for the NFL — a day when it (and he) would get the most attention.

Worse yet, many of us fell for it. When Schefter “broke” the story on April 29, I went into a reporting frenzy, bringing together various data and alternate sources to form the bulk of my story — which was based partly on Schefter’s reporting. I quickly crafted this story (and took time away from packing for an upcoming trip) because I believed this to be breaking news. It wasn’t. And because of Schefter’s malfeasance, I reported a misleading story to my readers.

Yet Schefter faced no consequences for acting in bad faith — indeed, when Rodgers eventually returned to the Packers, many accepted his reporting as based on fact. Sports Illustrated writer Jimmy Traina went so far as to run a story in July with the headline “Adam Schefter’s Original Report Was Accurate.”

“Rodgers’s return has led to some uninformed people bashing Schefter for starting this mess. The truth is, Adam Schefter’s original report was correct and it took the Packers and Rodgers renegotiating his contract to get him back in the fold,” Traina wrote, sarcastically noting: “Of course we live in a time where people can’t hold two separate thoughts at once. Aaron Rodgers is back AND Adam Schefter’s original report was accurate.

But many people can’t seem to grasp that.”

No, Jimmy. What we “can’t seem to grasp” is why Schefter would straight-up lie about having sources for a story that wasn’t based on new, original reporting — or why you insisted on caping for him three months after the fact.

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And Schefter’s been pulling these types of stunts for years. In 2015, NFL defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul injured his hand and lost a finger in a July 4 fireworks accident. “I saw my thumb hanging off a little bit,” Paul later recalled. “It was no flesh on my index finger, partial on my middle finger.”

Schefter obtained — and then published — a medical chart revealing the extent of Paul’s injuries. According to Sports Illustrated, “The ESPN reporter tweeted a photo of a medical chart revealing that Pierre-Paul’s right index finger had been amputated due to a fireworks accident. The tweet altered the public’s knowledge of Pierre-Paul’s injuries, which were known to be serious but not to such an extensive degree.”

Jason Pierre-Paul’s injured hand. Courtesy of Getty Images.

On Feb. 5, 2016, Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald reported an operating room nurse and a secretary were fired from Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital for “accessing the information in violation of federal patient privacy laws” after an internal investigation into the Pierre-Paul incident. Three weeks later, Pierre-Paul sued ESPN and Schefter for invasion of privacy.

“This action arises out of ESPN reporter Schefter’s blatant disregard for the private and confidential nature of plaintiff’s medical records, all so Schefter could show the world that he had ‘supporting proof’ of a surgical procedure,” the lawsuit said, per Julia Marsh of the New York Post. Pierre-Paul’s lawyers further contended that while the injury may have been “a matter of legitimate public concern,” the medical records were not.

Pierre-Paul sought more than $15,000 in damages. But USA Today revealed that Schefter could have placed both himself and the network in legal jeopardy. According to Florida statute 456.057, patients’ medical records can’t be given to or discussed with anyone not involved in their care — something the suit alleges Schefter violated. (Schefter himself later admitted that he “could have and should have done even more to protect (Pierre-Paul’s) medical records.”)

“Except as otherwise provided in this section and in s. 440.13(4)(c), such records may not be furnished to, and the medical condition of a patient may not be discussed with, any person other than the patient, the patient’s legal representative, or other health care practitioners and providers involved in the patient’s care or treatment, except upon written authorization from the patient,” the statute reads, in part.

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U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke later denied ESPN and Adam Schefter’s motion to dismiss New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul’s invasion of privacy lawsuit. The denial was part of a bench ruling, meaning an order that Judge Cooke read aloud in court without an accompanying written order.

“The court correctly ruled that Jason properly stated an invasion-of-privacy claim against ESPN and Adam Schefter, who we allege improperly published Jason’s medical records. Today’s ruling is a recognition of Jason’s right, as a professional athlete, to oppose the publication of his medical records without his consent,” said the football player’s attorney, Mitchell Schuster, at the time.

Though Pierre-Paul eventually settled the lawsuit with Schefter in February 2017, the suit raised serious questions about Schefter’s journalistic ethics (or lack thereof). “This just went beyond the pale,” sports law expert Daniel Wallach said of Schefter’s decision to post the private records.

“If this is not where the line is, where would it be?”

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