Without excusing what Eric Wynalda said in the "Beers With Wynalda" interview that has been burning up the Internet lately, there's more to the whole story.
Some might have wondered why Wynalda would give an extensive one-on-one interview to a fansite, let alone reveal all the things he did.
The answers could very well be 1) He was told the interview was for someone else. 2) He was recorded part of the time without his knowledge.
Luis and I both got a similar version of this story. Sources revealed that Christian Franek, the guy who did the interview, had actually pitched an article about the U.S. Ecuador game to a well-known sports magazine. The editors were willing to look at an article from a fan's perspective, without promising to run anything. That's a fairly standard approach.
What they didn't expect is that Franek would apply to U.S. Soccer for a media credential. Recognizing the magazine as reputable, the federation granted one. Franek then used the name of the magazine again to arrange for an interview with Wynalda.
(An aside - If I don't have a specific assignment from espn.com, or topdrawersoccer.com, and I'm just trying to follow a story that I hope will run somewhere, I go out of my way to explain that I'm a freelancer to both press officers and interview subjects. It's important to be honest.)
So Wynalda sits down with Franek and they talk. It's Wynalda's contention that he said at one point the standard, "Ok, we're done, you're good, right" or something along those lines to clarify that the interview was over.
This happens all the time to me. I'll say "Yes, I'm good." and turn the recorder off. Then whoever I've been talking to will often add commentary, make a joke, or clarify other thoughts they have in more colorful language. They trust that I'm not going to write up what they said after I've indicated the interview is over. It's not entirely alturistic on my part to do so. I also have my credibility to think about. No player or coach is going to want to talk to a journalist who they feel has burned them by breaking a confidence. It's one thing to criticize a bad game, it's a whole different thing to reveal inside information that someone believed in good faith was off the record.
It seems that Franek not only kept taping, but he also raised the subject of Jim Rome, the sports personality who often derides soccer. What Franek specifically said about Rome did not make the interview, but at least part of Wynalda's response did.
Though the magazine received Franek's interview, they held off on running anything until they could check with Wynalda, because it certainly wasn't the fan article they'd asked for.
Perhaps Franek thought the interview was too juicy to wait on a response, because the fansite FulhamUSA was given the material instead.
It exploded over the Internet, and was posted again and again. This not only got back to Rome, (who was unhappy about it, talked about it on his show and eventually accepted Wynalda's strained apology on the air), but also led to Wynalda being suspended from the ABC national airing of the 2007 MLS kickoff game. In addition, Wynalda was fined a substantial monetary amount.
He called the magazine, furious. They pointed out that they had no association with the fansite and hadn't run the story themselves.
It's possible that Wynalda will pursue other legal options.
Otherwise, though, there's probably no after effect on Franek, even if he did break someone's confidence. Not only can he claim ignorance under the defense of not actually being a journalist, but he also can go back to whatever job he normally does, with perhaps even a higher standing among his soccer buddies for getting the inside info, no matter who he burned to do it or how shady he went about it.
For those who might have read our earlier posts about seeing Wynalda at the ChivasUSA/Toronto game and might be thinking, "They got a sob story from Wynalda", let me clarify. Neither Luis or I got this information from Wynalda. Neither of us has even talked to him about it - at least not yet. This side of the story came from sources at the magazine - which is unnamed because it understandably wants to be left out of it at this point.
I wrote a column on this before - about how readers sometimes get pushy about, "Get us the real scoop." At what cost? There needs to be some integrity involved.