You can't unfollow me, I quit!

I'm formally excusing myself from the audience of the most prominent media member in my former industry because Adam Schefter has an issue covering men said to have abused women.

I quit Adam Schefter on Saturday morning.

I unfollowed him on Twitter, and then I blocked him not because I don’t want him to see what I might write or respond to it, but because I don’t patronize him in any way. This is not personal. Schefter was nothing but nice when I interviewed him on the radio, and when the Seahawks opted against re-signing Matt Hasselbeck in 2011, Schefter acknowledged I had reported the news, which was exceptionally gracious and something he certainly didn’t have to do.

My objection is strictly professional: There is a consistent problem in the way he reports on NFL players who are said to have abused women. The most recent example was this Tweet after quarterback Deshaun Watson was not charged in Houston after a grand jury reviewed 10 criminal complaints of sexual misconduct:

Any reporter with half a day of experience covering courts knows that the lack of a charge does not mean the truth came out. It means a grand jury did not find the evidence sufficient to warrant an indictment because it would not support a conviction. Schefter should know this by now especially given previous missteps in similar situations, but at this point I don’t really care if it’s his inadequate reporting skills or a concerted bias toward the players he’s supposed to be covering that results in these types of descriptions. I’m done.

I do not want to pay him any of what is an increasingly valuable commodity in the world: attention. And while the irony is not lost on me, that I am bringing Schefter attention by writing about how I won’t be paying him any going forward. I promise, when I wake up on Thursday, March 17, I won’t so much as mention the man again, but today, I’m going to ask your indulgence for two reasons:

  1. I think it’s important to point out the problem in the way the most prominent media member covering the country’s most popular sport covers players said to have harmed women.

  2. If attention has in fact become more valuable in today’s economy — and I believe that it has — then withholding that attention has also become more powerful.

Here’s Schefter’s problem when it comes to covering players who’ve been said to have abused women: He consistently lets the player or his representative tell that side of a dispute without incorporating the facts and perspective of the other side.

Last fall, Schefter published a Tweet stating Dalvin Cook was the victim of domestic abuse and extortion. Less than three hours later, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune published a story detailing a civil lawsuit filed against Cook alleging physical and mental abuse.

Getting both sides of the story is rudimentary reporting. Day One stuff.

Back in 2016, Schefter conducted what was a generally incompetent interview of Greg Hardy, a defensive lineman who was then a free agent. Hardy had been convicted of abusing his then-girlfriend by a judge in North Carolina in a bench trial in 2014. Hardy then requested a jury trial, which was his right under that state’s law. He was held out of 15 of his team’s 16 games that season. The criminal case against Hardy was dismissed after the season when the victim was not present for the start of the trial, the prosecutor stating there were reports she had reached a settlement with Hardy. Hardy played the 2015 season with Dallas, where he had done group interviews, but not discussed the case.

Schefter’s interview with Hardy was the first one-on-one interview he had done regarding the case. It was done at a point Hardy was seeking a job in the league, and it was problematic not for what Schefter asked, but for his repeated inability to challenge the things Hardy said with the known facts of the case.

Schefter asked Hardy about the photographs that had been published, showing the victim’s injuries, Hardy suggested photos could be manipulated. Schefter never asked him to explain if he was saying the photos were inauthentic or if he had proof. He let Hardy’s insinuation sit unchallenged.

Schefter asked Hardy how to reconcile those pictures with the Hardy’s statement he did nothing wrong. Hardy responded, “I didn’t say I didn’t do anything wrong.” Schefter never asked him to specify what he did wrong then. He asked Hardy if he ever put his hands on the victim. Hardy was adamant he did not. Schefter did not ask him to explain the injuries on the photos he allowed Hardy to insinuate were manipulated.

When Schefter asked about the judge finding him guilty in the bench trial, Hardy responded “It’s just a flimsy situation, and I feel it’s just a product of, I would say, miscommunication.” Schefter never asked him how there could be a miscommunication during a trial or how that trial could be a “flimsy situation.” But that’s clearly his M.O. He provides a platform for players to provide their characterization with minimal pushback.

I used to think this was because the skills Schefter uses to report on the transactional minutiae in the NFL are simply inadequate for handling a more important topic like violence against women. Now, I think it’s more likely that he’s doing this because it serves the interest of the players, the agents who represent them and the teams who employ them. Schefter’s willingness to frame these issues in the favor of players earns him influence and makes sources more likely to give him information before other media members. At this point, it honestly doesn’t matter. Schefter is aware of the problem. Last year, he admitted on the air he should have reached out to the woman he allowed Cook’s agent to characterize as the aggressor. Last Friday, he addressed and subsequently deleted the Tweet about Watson’s belief the truth would come out.

Too late. He’s had plenty of chances. Last year, while interviewing Watson’s private quarterback coach Quincy Avery for a podcast, Schefter noted that Avery said Watson looked better than ever. Schefter then marveled how that was possible given the scrutiny from the allegations of sexual misconduct.

“How do you think he’s handled all these allegations that have swirled around,” Schefter asked of Avery, “because it’s got to be really hard to compartmentalize and focus on your football future while there’s so much crap flying around out there.”

Imagine my surprise that the guy who characterized more than 20 complaints of sexual misconduct as “crap” would take the opportunity to spike the football after charges were not filed in the same case.

But ultimately, it doesn’t much matter if this demonstrated bias is the result of Schefter’s inadequacy as a reporter or is a deliberate approach that curries favor with sources. The result is the same: A portrayal that consistently skews toward the wealthy, famous young men whose talent fuels the industry he covers. And I’m over it. Not the league. At least not yet. But Schefter.

I stumbled my way to this conclusion after reading a Tweet from noted Seahawks fan and cigar enthusiast Jacson Bevens. He pointed out that even if we’re hopelessly devoted to the news cycle, you don’t have to pay attention to Schefter. There are plenty of people who provide the same information without the demonstrated history of favoritism.

Quit Schefter? I’m embarrassed to admit that’s not something I thought one could do. At least not while working in an industry where he is the first in a competitive field of football scoopsters. But Jacson’s right. There is nothing Schefter provides that another reporter won’t have within minutes, and while I imagine that he’ll somehow soldier on with only 9,199,999 followers after my defection, continuing to follow him would in some sense contribute to his value.

The largest industry in the world has become the one in which people and even companies seek your attention. This gives consumers increased power, though. Companies are better attuned than ever to realize when we’re not paying attention, which means there is a way to oppose certain behaviors: You don’t reward them.

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