Braun case mishandled on many levels

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By Zach Hicks

If you haven’t heard yet, Milwaukee Brewers leftfielder Ryan Braun has been exonerated of a 50 game ban after failing a drug test in October. The MLB issued a statement quickly after the news broke that they “vehemently disagreed with the arbitrator’s decision.”

Despite Braun’s name being cleared, the court of public opinion is still asking questions of whether or not he cheated. Did MLB’s drug policy fail? Was the arbitrator right on reversing the case because the custody of the urine sample wasn’t delivered to FedEx promptly?

The public has every right to mull over these questions, while determining whether or not one of baseball’s golden boys is guilty. The bone I have to pick is with the MLB and ESPN.

Before I continue on to my problem with ESPN, I’d like to pause to question just what it is that MLB “vehemently disagreed” with. The MLB put a very strict drug-testing program in place and the routine of that program was breached. They made the rules that were broken, not the arbitrator. For those who also disagreed with the arbitrator or think that MLB’s drug-testing policy failed, I don’t understand your angle. They followed their own rules.

In Major League Baseball, players have the right to appeal and present a case before the three arbitrators. One of them always sides with the MLB and the other, a rep from the player’s union, always sides with the player. If there is a flaw, it is that the decision is essentially one man’s to make.

It was ESPN that decided it would be prudent to run the story of Braun’s failed drug test before he ever had the chance to respond publically, due to the ongoing appeal process. The appeal process is in place because people are innocent until proven guilty in America.

Ryan Braun’s situation was a prime example of just how damaging of a role the media can play by sensationalizing a story and hurting someone’s reputation. On Dec. 10, 2011, ESPN’s Outside the Lines first reported that Ryan Braun had failed his drug test. The sports world immediately erupted in anger and shock at the news.

ESPN is in the wrong here by sensationalizing a story that never should have been leaked to a media outlet. Instead of taking the high road and gathering all of the facts first, including the information on Braun’s appeal, which as we know he eventually won, ESPN chose to run the story that scarred Braun’s career.

It isn’t ESPN’s fault that Braun failed a drug test. However, the appeals process is there for a reason and it would have been refreshing to see the network that is supposed to set the standard in sports journalism to take the high road.

As a young journalist, I can’t help but imagine what ESPN must have been thinking. A leak comes to an editor’s desk but they know running such a story would be premature and unethical. Somewhere along this decision making process, they decided to ignore these downsides and run it anyway. They probably had quite a lot of viewers and hits to their website the next few days. They probably patted themselves on the back for being the first media outlet to report it.

However, they did the wrong thing. I lost respect for a network that had already been blurring the lines of online sports journalism websites and sports blogging into one slushy mess of rhetoric.

Today, I look to newspapers and online sports magazine websites such as Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News for my sports news. It’s too difficult for the avid sports fan to shun ESPN completely.

ESPN flashes on the TVs at Esker Dining Hall, and has too many big contracts with the NBA, MLB and NFL. Turning the other way from ESPN’s written content can be possible though. I’ve made the change, will you?