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