Thayer Evans, an investigative reporter for Sports Illustrated, has not been fired by the magazine, three sources at SI tell The Big Lead. The magazine even cryptically tweeted ‘ rumors of editorial changes are inaccurate,’ which must have been puzzling as hell for over 600,000 people who follow the account.
The “rumor” about Evans getting canned was irresponsibly started because someone didn’t see his name on this list. Did the rumor-starter attempt to check and see if the writer’s name was on the list previously? Of course not. (Answer: It wasn’t.)
Despite the baseless rumor, this has been a dreadful week for the Sports Illustrated brand. What started out promising – we spent 10 months digging up dirt on Oklahoma State! – has turned into a calamity. ESPN’s Jason Whitlock blasted Evans, then, ESPN went out and refuted some of SI’s claims with documents. Deadspin picked up the phone, made a call, and further depantsed SI. Brandon Weeden took a sledge hammer to Evans.
While some SI staffers stood by the magazine all week, more than a couple writers have distanced themselves from the story by simply avoiding the topic on social media. It’s pretty clear the Oklahoma State series is full of holes (here’s a good read on the history of fact-checkers at SI), but then there’s the larger issue – nobody seems to care about college athletes who take some money on the side or smoke a little weed. (It’s not just the rabid, team-obsessed fans, Jeff Pearlman. It’s casual fans, too.)
Is this a tipping point for investigative work on college football players taking money on the side and doing drugs? (Oh, sex!) Change the rules, as Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel eloquently noted earlier this week.
And lastly, on SI: A few years ago, when ESPN hired Rick Reilly from Sports Illustrated, the chatter in the media was that ESPN had hoped it would be a death blow to the magazine. But Reilly was a bust at ESPN, and it didn’t appear his departure had that much of an impact (if any) on the magazine. This disaster?
That could be a different story.