St. Louis Rams Coach Jeff Fisher said he is “extremely disappointed” in an ESPN report Tuesday about the showering habits of Michael Sam, the first openly gay player in the NFL.
ESPN apologized Wednesday morning, but Fisher was still angered by Josina Anderson’s coverage from St. Louis on the first of two days of NFL roster cuts.
“I’m extremely disappointed in her piece,” Fisher said (via Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). “I think it’s unethical. I think it’s very, very unprofessional. Not only the piece itself, the content. The manner in which she did it.”
ESPN President John Skipper called to offer an apology, Fisher said.
“We appreciate John Skipper reaching out to us and apologizing, and their willingness to communicate and work through this with us,” Fisher said.
Fisher was particularly peeved because Anderson spoke to players away from the team facility, something that all reporters do — and something that all coaches hate.
“We have a media policy, and we’re very flexible,” Fisher said. “We have open practices. Players are available. We have open locker rooms. Obviously she came in, in all likelihood to see if there was gonna be a roster move at the 75 cutdown as it relates to Mike Sam. That didn’t happen. But she needed to do something, and it’s my understanding that she manufactured this story.
“She was out of line because she went and contacted several players on their personal time. Misled them with questions and then put this piece together.”
In its apology Wednesday morning ESPN said it regretted “the manner in which we presented our report. Clearly yesterday we collectively failed to meet the standards we have set in reporting on LGBT-related topics in sports.”
On Tuesday, while providing an update about Sam’s quest to make the St. Louis Rams’ final roster,Anderson said that a Rams “defensive player told me that ‘Sam is respecting our space’ and that, from his perspective, he seems to think that Michael Sam is waiting to take a shower, as not to make his teammates feel uncomfortable.”
She also said that [defensive end Kendall] Langford and linebacker Alec Ogletree said “they didn’t know that, specifically, and also weren’t tracking that.”
Rams defensive end Chris Long was especially exasperated by the report and tweeted:
Dear ESPN, Everyone but you is over it.
— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) August 26, 2014
“I’m disappointed for Mike,” Fisher said. “I’m disappointed for the players who she put in this position, and mostly I’m disappointed for her because she felt what she was doing was right — and it wasn’t right.”