As early as 2016, according to one victim, who spoke anonymously with NBC 12 News in Phoenix, one of the brothers began texting her with questions that didn’t pertain to high school sports, and the messages became more personal over time.
“One of them asked me to send them a picture of me in a bikini and that he would send me a picture back of him,” she told 12 News.
Another female student athlete from a different school told the station one of the brothers told her she was “cute” and asked if she had a boyfriend. A baseball player at Notre Dame Prep in Scottsdale, Ariz., provided messages to the station and to the website Arizona Varsity in which Jeff Edgington asked him to streak through his house and perform naked push-ups recorded on video.
“If ur game. Keep it between us,” read the message, which was sent through Snapchat.
Neither Jeff nor Zach Edgington replied to The Washington Post’s requests for comment, but Zach Edgington told 12 News, “I do not think that my twin brother or I have done anything inappropriate.”
“My response is that there’s nothing with anybody underage,” he said. “I don’t have any negative thoughts or idea in my head ever. This has blown up where it’s actually causing my brother and I self-harm.”
The allegations against the Edgington brothers were first made public by Ralph Amsden, the publisher of online magazine Arizona Varsity, who on Monday tweeted a string of text message conversations he says he obtained from student-athletes in the area that show the brothers making indecent requests of students.
In August 2017, one of Amsden’s employees said the brothers had asked to take a photograph of him with a high school girl at a football game. Amsden declined to name the employee but said the request made the employee uncomfortable, and the employee continued to remind Amsden of the incident in the following months.
“He didn’t let it go,” Amsden told The Post.
At another high school football game in November 2017, Amsden, accompanied by the same employee, noticed the brothers were intoxicated on the sideline of the field. Amsden wrote to Zach Edgington privately on Twitter to try to encourage him and Jeff to behave within the bounds of journalistic ethics.
Both brothers at the time were freelance reporters credentialed through the score keeping application “ScoreStream.”
“I root for you guys. I really do,” wrote Amsden. “You hustle. But you need to get some s— straight if you’re going to do the big things someone with y’all’s drive can do. … Can’t drink, show up on a sideline, and talk about it. That spreads.”
“Nooooooooooo favoriting any high school girls tweets,” Amsden wrote later on. “Favorites show up in timelines sometimes, and you always want to be above reproach. Never give anyone a reason to question you.”
But last week, Amsden received an inquiry from a concerned local coach who wanted to know how to hold freelance journalists accountable. Normally, a concerned source can report a journalist to his or her editor or publisher, but freelance writers often operate as independent contractors without direct supervisors.
The coach told Amsden the reporters in question had been liking and commenting on photographs of underage girls.
“My stomach just sank,” Amsden said.
Amsden conducted searches of the Edgington’s Twitter accounts, @EdgeZach and @EdgeTwin02, and found messages he considered troubling and predatory. He tweeted a warning to local coaches and players not to work with the brothers and was soon flooded with messages and images from players and coaches around the state describing similar behavior.
On Monday afternoon, the Arizona Interscholastic Association banned the Edgington brothers from covering all high school sporting events, and advised schools not to admit them as spectators.
When Amsden spoke with The Post early Tuesday afternoon, he said he received 15 messages from potential victims. By the end of the day, he had closer to 30 messages from potential victims, he told 12 News.
Amsden told The Post he had contacted the local FBI field office with the victims’ stories.
“Whereas I would normally write something about it,” he said, “there was an immediacy to make sure coaches were aware and players were aware. I mean, they were going to be on a baseball sideline that night.”
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