An object lesson in character

by

Mike Florio of NBC’s ProFootballTalk has responded to criticism that he’s received for his irresponsible hit piece on Aaron Rodgers and his alleged mistreatment of Packer fan Jan Cavanaugh. He did not apologize.

Florio’s original post was high on fact-free moralizing and short on actual reporting. He used a three-second clip of Rodgers walking past Cavanaugh to indict Rodgers’ character and draw sweeping conclusions about the character of the Packers’ quarterback. It was a cheap attempt at character assassination. And it failed.

Later, when he was bombarded with news stories about Rodgers’ work with cancer-stricken children, he chose not to link them – not surprising since they undercut the central argument of his ill-tempered rant.

Cavanaugh responded – both to Packergeeks and to WBAY. She noted Rodgers’ voluntarism and confirmed a report from Cheesehead.tv that Rodgers had signed a jersey for her a week earlier. Cavanaugh also criticized those attempting to make a big story out of a minor incident.

Now, in his response, Florio not only refuses to apologize for an embarrassing post based on mistaken assumptions, he further misrepresents Rodgers’ charitable work in order to justify his shoddy work. He writes:

Folks who frequent this site on a regular basis know that we aren’t terribly impressed by the things athletes do while the world is watching.  As one high-level executive with a team other than the Packers (and not an NFC North rival) observed in response the WBAY video, what we do when tired, cranky, busy, etc. reveals more about our true character than what we do when attending a charitable event arranged through the team and/or handlers.

But, as Jan Cavanaugh herself noted, Rodgers is known for doing charity work when the world is not watching. Rodgers, she writes, “quietly has done so much for the community with so many groups.” This is well known. And if Florio had bothered to do any actual reporting, he might have understood this. (One of those groups is the Boys Club, where Rodgers quietly took dozens of children for a Christmas time outing.  See here: http://cheeseheadtv.com/blog/aaron-rodgers-wins-at-life)

Where his post isn’t outright misleading, it’s based on speculation and supposition. So WBAY “has likely spent much of the past 24 hours apologizing” and the fact that Rodgers had previously signed a jersey for Cavanaugh “tends to reinforce the notion that Rodgers” should have known she has cancer. He claims that those of us who have written that Rodgers should have stopped have made that acknowledgement “grudgingly.” And those who have provided much-needed context to Florio’s hit piece did so “possibly to gain some traffic by sparking a public fight.” Florio, of course, doesn’t know any of this. And it’s revealing that his first inclination is to believe that those who provided such context were interested in web traffic rather than accuracy. (Some might call that projection.)

The facts in this matter are simple: Florio indicted Aaron Rodgers for behavior that was out of context and out of character. When he was presented with information that undermined his central claims, he first ignored it, then downplayed it, then mischaracterized it. And rather than provide his readers with context that might help them draw their own conclusions about Rodgers, he left it out so that his own highly-misleading post would stand as the final word.

The important takeaway from Florio’s orginal post – judging from its headline and its conclusion – is that athletes should “show some gratitude” to their fans, “especially when it’s obvious that one of those fans isn’t blessed with good health.” According to Jan Cavanaugh, Aaron Rodgers did just that one week earlier.

Ironically, the entire incident did precisely what Florio intended – it provided a window on one man’s character: Mike Florio.

By Steve Hayes

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8 Responses to “An object lesson in character”

  1. Clay Toporski Says:

    A most excellent post.

  2. Keefer147 Says:

    Thanks Steve…well written. I was astonished to read Mike Florio’s follow-up piece to his original poor story. I guess I shouldn’t have been shocked by his defensive stance in the face of evidence contrary to his inflamatory comments yesterday. I am always pleasantly surprised when I hear of the incredibly selfless acts undertaken by many, many NFL players in support of those less fortunate. I’m going to focus on the good being done everyday and try and forget about Mr. Florio and his spineless behavior.

  3. Daybreak Doppler: Cart, Meet Horse…Now Get Behind It | PocketDoppler.com Says:

    […] Geeks with an object lesson in character, you can figure out what it’s about by the title I’m […]

  4. bucky Says:

    I think someone else said it before, PFT is the NFL’s version of TMZ, with the journalistic standards of the NY Post. Florio’s legal “career” notwithstanding, he’s a PR guy (with himself as his number 1 client), not a journalist.

    FYI- don’t you mean an “abject” lesson in character?

  5. PackerBelle Says:

    Completely agree. The original video looked bad given how short it was and without the context that Mrs. Cavanaugh frequently is at the airport when the Packers are leaving/arriving (and therefore this wasn’t her one shot at getting an autograph) and that Rodgers had signed a jersey for her the week before and (according to WBAY) had signed multiple items for her over the years. All of a sudden this wasn’t a superstar snubbing a cancer stricken fan, it was just that this one time he chose not to sign something – most likely because he had signed something for her very recently.

    What I think really reflects on Mr. Florio’s character and motivations is that he’s suppossedly getting upset for Mrs. Cavanaugh and despite the fact that a) she wasn’t upset with Rodgers’ behavior b) she contradicts his point that Rodgers doesn’t do things when the cameras are off and c) she’s upset with how he is portraying Rodgers. Florio could have made the situation into a huge positive for him had he just basically said ‘I got upset when it looked like Rodgers had snubbed a woman who is going through a very tough time and I let my feelings get the better of me. Given the new evidence I have to adjust my views and I offer an apology to Mr. Rodgers and all my readers for leaping to conclusions. I am not sorry for trying to stand up for fans but I should have tried to get all the information first”. Then he looks like a really good guy instead of a jerk who can’t admit he was wrong.

  6. Joe Says:

    Is there any truth the the rumor that Florio has taken money form certain agents in return for favorable reporting about players?

  7. Nick Says:

    Florio is a douche. Blunt and offensive words for a blunt and offensive person.

    And thanks for adding the link about the Boys Club incident. My father sent that along to me when it happened, and there could not be a more perfect example of doing something when no one is watching.

    All in all, Florio is looking for attention, and while he may get some, it will come back to haunt him.

  8. Nick Says:

    This just in: Favre wants the Pack to win it all.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs/2010/news/story?id=6031703

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