The recent allegations from ESPN of more autograph signings by Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel point to an alarming trend. The “World Wide Leader In Sports” is focusing all of its resources on Manziel, and ignoring the other star athletes in college who have similar numbers of signed memorabilia available online.
ESPN’s focus on Manziel indicates either a surprising lack of effort by their investigative journalists, or a bias against Manziel and Texas A&M. There is simply no easy way to explain the sports channel’s motives, nor the inconsistencies in the story.
When ESPN started this story the narrative was that Manziel had accepted a “five-figure” sum to sign autographs. A day later the sum of money changed to $7,500 from the original report of “five-figures.”
ESPN has no record of money changing hands. All they have are statements from “sources” that they gave Manziel money for his signatures. Joe Schad has allegedly seen video of Manziel signing memorabilia, but cannot provide the video for anyone else to see. The broker interpreted what Manziel said on the video as it was not readily apparent from Schad listening to it. Supposedly Manziel said he needed the $7,500 so he could buy rims for his car. This all allegedly occurred on January 11th and 12th of this year.
A picture of Manziel driving his Mercedes was posted on a premium board of Texas A&M fan site TexAgs.com. The picture was taken on March 13th and shows Manziel’s vehicle with stock rims on it.
So there is no actual proof that Manziel took money, except the statement from a source that refuses to cooperate with anyone, that Manziel wanted money to buy rims for his car. There is proof that two months after this alleged transaction that Manziel still had not bought rims for his vehicle.
Schad and Darren Rovelle are doing most of the investigative reporting on Manziel. So far they have been unable to come up with a single “source” who will cooperate with the NCAA.
Drew Tieman was named in the “Outside The Lines” report that broke the investigation story on Manziel. He was the one who said that Manziel was paid a “five-figure sum.” Tieman has multiple arrests on his record including drug dealing, and has spent time in prison.
It is hard to take any investigation seriously that is based on the word of a drug dealer. Evidently that is all ESPN needs to make a story.
Since it has become apparent that ESPN cannot find any proof of Manziel receiving money, they have concentrated on the fact that Manziel has signed such a large number of items. Their argument is that he signed a large number of items that have been submitted to authenticators like JSA in sequential order.
That is usually an indication of a large-scale signing, the kind done by an athlete for money. The problem is that a simply search of eBay reveals large lots of items like Manziels, that are signed by other college stars such as Jadeveon Clowney, Braxton Miller and Teddy Bridgewater.
Why is ESPN concentrating on Manziel instead of reporting on the large number of star athletes in college football who have these huge lots of autographed items for sale online? If these large lots of sequentially ordered autographed items are evidence that Manziel was compensated, then why aren’t they proof that Clowney, Miller and Bridgewater were compensated as well?
When news of their athletes having large lots of autographs on the market came to light, South Carolina, Ohio State and Louisville issued statements that their athletes had been investigated and were clear.
Texas A&M responded to similar allegations about Manziel in March, yet evidently this is not good enough for ESPN. For some reason ESPN has decided to accept the word of the athletic departments at South Carolina, Ohio State and Louisville, but not Texas A&M.
ESPN’s motivations on this matter are unknown. What is known is that they have seemingly ignored a larger story involving multiple Heisman Trophy candidates with autographs for sale online, in order to focus on Manziel.
They are relying on sources of questionable character and reporters who have proven to be gullible in the past. They have refused to do even basic investigations into the backgrounds of these dealers in order to find out why they might be motivated to hurt Manziel.
All of this to expose an investigation that has evidently not even started yet. Texas A&M has not received a notice of inquiry yet. That is the first step in an NCAA investigation.
So you have ESPN reporting on an investigation that has not started, and their evidence of wrongdoing are statements by a bunch of people who will not go on camera or identify themselves, except the one who served time in prison for drug dealing.
No one can say for certain why ESPN is breaking basic rules of journalism in order to keep Manziel’s name in the news cycle. It will be interesting to see where this story leads and how Rovelle and Schad come out at the end of this.
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