Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Fall of Wynalda

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.


Anonymous said...

Like many American soccer fans I'm so glade someone stuck to Rome. The fact he got upset about it makes it that much sweeter:-)!

Anonymous said...

I didn't read anything wrong with what eric wynalda said! I agree whole-heartedly with his sentiments. What happened to freedom of speech? Wynalda's stock rose, not fell with me.

David Keyes said...

Great insight into your profession, Andrea, and very revealing for those of us interested into how things are done in that world. Keep up the good work!

A.C. said...

Thing is, Wynalda may bounce back, but losing out on a national broadcast and paying a hefty fine and swallowing his pride to apologize publically - none of those are fun things to go through. He should never have been put in that position.

A.C. said...

By the way, "freedom of speech" is not the issue here. No one is saying that Wynalda didn't have the right to spout off. Of course he does. But what if he wants to talk freely with one individual, not have his opinions aired all over the country? Freedom of the press isn't about the right to print stuff your interview subject believes isn't going to be made public.

Anonymous said...

A.C. the issue is that as long as Wynalda is talking within a work related context any thing said is subject to publication. Thats just not right of course. But I guess one should not be so frank to an interviewer unless that person is trusted or is called a friend. Readers may suffer now b/c Wynalda and other soccer figures may not feel free to open up to a young aspiring journalist.

Anonymous said...

note to self: never give an interview while under the influence.

Anonymous said...

We live in a time where, at least in a public context, passionate opinions are frowned upon. I see nothing wrong with Wynalda's statements. He did not use racial stereotypes or discriminatory language. Yes the comments were crude, but in the context of having a few beers they were perfectly acceptable. Everything is too vanilla. Anyone who has listened to Rome's unmitigate soccer rants can hardly see him as a victim.

Anonymous said...

1. To those who see nothing wrong with what Waldo said, why don't you go to your company's happy hour this Friday after work, and talk about how if Roscoe in accounting makes you re-do your travel forms one more time, you'll club his ass, and invite him to fellate you.

But be sure to update your resume and clean all the porn off your work computer first. Or has everyone forgotten that Wynalda and Rome both work for Disney???

2. Andrea, right at the top..."to Luis and I." You wouldn't write "to I," you'd write "to me." Including Luis doesn't change the correct case from subjective to objective.

Yeah, it's a blog, but every time someone gets a pronoun's case wrong, God kills an angel. Think of the angels.

3. I'm gonna add Christian Franek to the list of people I don't marrying into my family. What a jerk.

A.C. said...

Meh, I focus on grammer in an actual article, but here on the blog, just to keep it real, it's much more stream of conciousness. But I do like to be responsive to reader feedback, so I'll change it based on that.

Toddzilla said...

When I first saw that 'interview', I thought something had to be really off about that whole situation. Wynalda's no dummy, he wouldn't just mouth off in that way if he knew it was something that was going to be plastered everywhere. I would also think that the magazine would be ticked off at that Franek character.

Matth: said...

I can't claim journalistic credentials--I was only an editor for my high school newspaper and write a bit for college--but the Wynalda situation is unfortunate. It's completely ludicrous that Franek acted the way he did, although I don't think he could have possibly known how outlandish his actions were. At the same time, I understand ESPN's reaction, although I think it was shortsighted and ultimately based in an American predisposition against soccer. I've always liked Wynalda, even when other soccer junkies ragged on him, and I think it's too bad that he had to go through this crap to attain the status of hero. I just hope that the repurcussions stop soon.

Diego R. said...

If Jim Rome can bounce back from the whole Jim Everett / Chris Everett thing then I'm sure that Wynalda will be just fine

bigdumbgod said...

Rome will bounce back just fine, since his listers/viewers expect and want him to be an ass, especially concerning soccer. Wynalda will emerge as a Charles Barkley for US soccer, and that guy's opinions and rants are usually, but certainly not universally, applauded by NBA fans, much like those of Wynalda. What sucks is that Waldo has now been officially silenced by network suits and lawyers, all for an interview that appears to have been conducted and distributed in an underhanded, disingenuous manner. Waldo won't be any more "damaged" then Sir Charles. At least he didn't say anything mean about Rutgers hoops.

Anonymous said...

Here are some reactions from work:

Here's some comments that I got from a co-worker and a friend:

From: Richard
If you see Wynalda... tell him I'll give him a hundred bucks to help pay his fine. His comments were classic and ESPN should be proud to have someone who actually tells the truth about what he sees. Tell him I'll give him a grand if he drops that obnoxious little t*** Jim Rome.... I have no doubt he could.

From Svetco:
“Wynalda is a godsend in this p.c. media culture we live in...”

Anonymous said...

The thing I find most interesting about all of this is that ESPN makes no effort to tell Jim Rome to lay off soccer. In the past, that was understandable, but now ESPN is financially invested in the sport (see TV deal); Rome's comments may actually cost the league money. What will happen?...

Anonymous said...

Ahhh.. errr.. ESPN wants the hype?.. Rome and Wynalda benefit too?..


To a degree, yes, and contradiction in less physical ways works well in this informational age.

Marketing.. go figure.

Bryan Rosenbaum said...

Andrea, you're blog posting, "The Fall of Wynalda," pretends to defend journalistic "integrity."

Like it or not, "journalism" nowadays means anything from newspapers and magazine to blogs and fan-sites. Nobody is better than the other if they get the quotes. If somebody has an interview with Eric Wynalda, they can post it on their site; if they get the credentials, they are no different from any other reporter. The interviewee cannot assume the reporter works for one publication or another, no matter how "legit" you may think that media is. "On the record" perhaps means more than ever nowadays, when any Joe Schmo can start a blog and write something that gains national attention, and the interviewee has to accept that what he or she says can be held against you.

We've all read Eric Wynalda interview transcripts in the past: they are random, off the wall and, at times, degrading. You cannot, under any circumstance, criticize the reporter for telling us what the interviewee said, straightforwardly. Do you have an obligation to only report the good and hide the bad? Absolutely not. Read the article and, you'll see, that there was no break in questioning or an area where "are we cool?" was implied. It wasn't like the reporter said, "Jim Rome - Asshole?" and got him going down that route either.

I understand you're point after the "are we cool?" portion of the interview. Unfortunately, this interview seemed to be still very much on the record, and FulhamUSA has said so. Waldo's apology on Jim Rome was very half-assed and didn't make any sense: "Jim, you know I wouldn't say that." Huh? Seems to me you did, now own up to it. And another thing, maybe he shouldn't do these things with a few beers in him.

Listen, Eric Wynalda is a member of the media and should have been smarter about what he said. It's one thing for an inexperienced interviewee to do it; it's another story if a savvy veteran gets burned because he should know better. Attacking the reporter, either by you or him, isn't going to make anybody look better. In fact, it only makes you look worse by degrading who's professional and who's not - what makes you more professional and able to speak for professional journalists than him? The fact that ESPN picks up an article of yours every so often? Now you're just being an elitist. You have to assume that somebody with a tape recorder is that, and not attack anybody who's credentials don't line up to yours.

Bottom line, whether you are speaking to a reporter for the New York Times or Fulham USA, you have to treat everybody the same. A journalists best defense is printing the truth...seems to me that's what he did.

My take? I think if Wynalda meant what he said, which he probably did, maybe he could have called Rome out for being a hypocritical douchenozzle and a user of tired, very tired takes - the very same thing he despises from his listeners and guests.

A.C. said...

Bryan, I don't trust the transcript. Too many things jump from topic to topic.

FulhamUSA can't vouch for what was on the record, because nothing I've seen on their site indicates that they've heard the transcript themselves. Their verification seems to consist of asking and the original interviewer saying that it was an "on the record" conversation.

Considering that this person was the same one who, according to the relevant publication before the material was handed to FulhamUSA, took out a credential in their name without permission, I question his reliability. He seems willing to bend rules.

I don't doubt some of the interview was on the record. But if you look at the interview itself, there's almost a split personality, articulate answers and just casual, profane stuff. You may think it's nice that the public gets a glimpse of the "real Wynalda" but the question is, does Wynalda have the right to expect that when a public, formal interview is, in his mind at least, concluded, he can be candid in private conversation without being publically exposed?

No one can read the last part of the interview and believed it followed the line above. There is too much indication of information missing, prompts and questions never given, context lacking, there is selective editing. I don't think that qualifies as straightforward reporting.

I'm not talking about whether the blogs and this kind of journalism has a right to exist. It already does, obviously.

You can believe you're getting the "straight scoop" from guys like Franek and that Wynalda, as a public figure, had no right to expect any consideration or protection. You can believe that there is no difference between the New York Times and Franek sending his interview to a website that would not question him too closely about it. I disagree, but that's just my opinion.

A.C. said...

I'm not a lawyer, so I have no idea if Wynalda has a case on this incident, but it seems basic false pretense to say anything along the lines of, "Can I interview you for (blank) magazine?", when in fact one doesn't work for that publication and is only thinking of submitting a fan's perspective story to them? On top of that, after saying the interview is for that specific publication, posting the granted material elsewhere seems another form of misrepresentation.

I don't see how pointing out that this seems shady is pumping up my own professionalism.

Anonymous said...

grammar, not grammer. zing!

Anonymous said...

AC, I am a lawyer and I have intimate knowledge of the facts surrounding this matter. You stated in one of your last posts, "Considering that this person was the same one who, according to the relevant publication before the material was handed to FulhamUSA, took out a credential in their name without permission, I question his reliability." (Also, in the body of "The Fall of Wynalda" you state: "What they [your 'relevant publication'] didn't expect is that Franek would apply to U.S. Soccer for a media credential."

I suggest you contact your source at the "relevant publication," and ask that person if he/she will ask every editor in the publication (associate or otherwise) whether this is true. I then ask you to re-evaluate any further posts from you portraying this information as "fact."

I have a couple questions/comments that I would like you to respond to, if you can:

1) Where have you heard or where have you read that Eric Wynalda stated that he did not know the interview was being recorded? Is this quoted somewhere? If so, where?
2) Ask your "source" at the "relevant publication" whether he/she was present at the interview.
3) Considering that you hold yourself out as a journalist, don't you think it is a bit bizarre that you are commenting on the integrity of a journalistic piece when you have never spoken about the piece with interviewer or interviewee? (I guess to answer this question, you will have to confirm for your readers that you have not actually talked to anyone that was present at the interview.)

PS: Coming soon: 'beerswith.com'

A.C. said...

Cool, a lawyer is involved now.

I've said and attributed all the relevant information that I have. People can read and judge for themselves.

Anonymous said...

"I've said and attributed all the relevant information that I have. People can read and judge for themselves."

The problem is that people who read your "article" on this subject will be judging based upon inaccurate information.

I take it you have no desire to answer my questions/comments. I guess people can see your lack of response and judge for themselves how truthful and reliable your "article" is.

A.C. said...

You are free to come out of your anoymous shell and inform the readers here what is inaccurate about what my source told me - as well as verify the parts that are accurate, if any. I don't see any reason to repeat myself. Most of what you ask is already answered in the information I provided.

Anonymous said...

The whole truth will be told in due time and in the proper forum. I'll be sure to let you and your readers know where that will be.

Based upon all you have written about this subject, I can only assume you have never heard or read that Eric Wynalda did not know the interview was being recorded.

As far as I can tell, you have never addressed the questions/comments numbered two and three.

Your sudden silence on this subject is deafening.

Matt said...

Geez this thing won't die.

I've been following the comment exchanges with interest. One of the anonymouses (if that's a word)brought up what I thought was a good point.

I heard Eric's apology on Rome's show and I've read some other quotes from him. However, nowhere did i see a quote from him that says he was unaware that he was being taped. That phrase (unaware he was being taped) was used on Soccer America's daily email today as well. Now it's being repeated as if it were fact.

I think anonymous asks a fair question about where Eric says he didn't know he was being taped. The issue might seem minor but it's important b/c by saying he didn't know it was being taped is to accuse someone of a crime in many states.

Finally, i think you're unecessarily throwing the reporter/blogger/fan/drinking buddy under the bus if you've never tried to talk to him.

A.C. said...

I never said Wynalda didn't know he was being recorded - for at least part of the interview. I passed along information that he claimed that the interview was over - that he continued to talk to the interviewer believing that that conversation wasn't part of the interview.

That's the information that I got, and that's what I related. Other versions of the story have been out there for some time. Until I posted what my source told me, this side of the story hadn't been expressed. How is it throwing anyone under the bus to relay that info?

L.B. said...

When we first started this blog, I didn't want to post comments from anonymous people. I thought that people should be willing to attach their name to comments so we don't get the hit-and-run remarks from people to scared to let us know who they are. I relented because we were getting some good feedback from anonymous posters that I felt added to our blog.

This, however, is the reason why I don't like anonymity. AC and myself put ourselves out there with every story we write, every blog item we post. And now some anonymous poster is trying to take us to the mat and questioning our journalistic credibility? Anonymously?

john said...

I am happy to identify myself. I am the "anonymous" who posted questions/comments for ac. It was just easier for me to post as anonymous than to set up an account.

I am not trying to take you or ac to the mat. I am merely questioning the accuracy of her article. I am new to your site, but I am certain that you and ac are interested in publishing accurate facts.

Regardless, I still do not have a response to my suggestion that she contact her "source" at the "publication" to discuss the "credential issue" with the editors. Furthermore, I have not really seen anything responsive to my other questions/comments.

For example, in her last post ac said, "I never said Wynalda didn't know he was being recorded - for at least part of the interview." I am curious as to where ac received her information that Wynalda didn't know he was being recorded for the whole interview. I still don't have a clear answer on that, and I would be very interested to read anything you or ac have to support this contention.

Also, you are more than welcome to respond to any of my other questions/comments.

A.C. said...

I never claimed to be present. Obviously the ones who were were Wynalda and Franek, at the least. What I related was what someone at the publication whose name was used to get the interview was told by an unhappy Wynalda. My source at the publication has read this post and verified that it is accurate to everything known by that individual. I never claimed this story was anything other than what I was told.

Anonymous said...

"The thing I find most interesting about all of this is that ESPN makes no effort to tell Jim Rome to lay off soccer. "

That is rich. ESPN has made no attempt to censor one of their media personalities.

Matt said...

After reading your blog on this subject and looking at phrases such as "perhaps Franek thought...." and "no matter who he burned or how shady he want about it.." and then later in another response say that Wynalda and Franek were the only ones present, I think you are impuning the integrety of Franek and throwing him under the bus if you have never spoken with him or tried to speak with him. I don't know one way or the other whether you have gone that route. It just seems odd that he's not one of your sources for the blog.

I can see why Eric wouldn't want to talk about it, but you'd Franek should at least be contacted.

Look, I really don't mean to start a fight (so to speak) but when I read your blog, the overall tone seemed to blame the entire thing on the interviewer/reporter/blogger/beerdrinking buddy. If you wanted to criticize both parties for being a big amateurish, I'm fine with that. Perhaps Eric shouldn't have said what he said, and perhaps the author could have said "hey, Eric, you sure you want me to include that part about Rome"? But I think it's unfair to attack the author buy creating the scenario that by an large his actions were nefarious. I know, I know, you didn't use that word, but in this reader's opinion that was the tone.

Sadly, lost in all of this, are the other insightful and colorful opinions expressed by Eric in the interview.


L.B. said...

As much as I don't want to respond to all this, I can't sit back idly.

All we're doing is putting this out there. We wanted to pass along what we heard on the topic as merely that: what we heard. Our source told us how they said it went down, we thought it was in bad taste and posted it here and that's the extent of where we're willing to take it.

john said...

Yeah, ac trashed a guy, Franek, based upon what she heard that someone else allegedly heard from someone else who may (or may not) have heard something from someone else...and, having never talked to Franek or Wynalda.

Great journalism!

A.C. said...

Sorry, I don't think that information from the publication Wynalda believed he was talking to at the time the interview happened is removed from reality. Incidently, I talked to Wynalda last night, as did my source. I will not confirm what Wynalda said, but I was convinced again of the accuracy of my source. I told his story already. You're obviously a friend of Franek - once again, if you like, you can dispute specifically in the comments here - which you have again failed to do, which of the information my source provided that is inaccurate, along with what is in fact accurate. You've danced around all of that. But my post all along has been what I stated - hearsay - from a source I trust. After checking with other sources last night - including someone else who works at the same magazine, as well as Wynalda's own statements, I'm convinced my source is reliable.
Unless someone has new evidence to present on this, that's where we stand, so I'm not going to respond to this topic any more.

Anonymous said...

I'm too lazy to set up an account...sorry 'bout that.

I just want to point out that it's not MERELY a dispute between what Andrea has heard and Franek. Andrea has, a couple of times, pointed to the disjointed nature of the interview to support the notion that Waldo thought part of the article was, in Waldo's mind, off the record. It's obviously not a Tenet-like slam dunk, but it's further evidence.

Joamiq said...

I have to echo the previous comment. Some of the jumps in the "transcript" are suspicious to say the least. "I hope it is ESPN" to "Jim Rome can s--- my d---!" makes no sense. Something is missing.