Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown gave fans a scare yesterday evening when he limped off the practice field following individual drills and did not later participate in scrimmage drills during the penultimate training camp practice. Or at least that is how it was initially reported, and Brown didn’t appreciate it.
It was Pittsburgh Post-Gazette veteran journalist Ed Bouchette who Tweeted that Brown “limps off [the] practice” field. Being the highly respected reporter that he is, the report circulated and it quickly became accepted that the All-Pro did indeed limp off the field, presumably in such a way that indicated it was an injury that ended his day.
But Head Coach Mike Tomlin confirmed after practice that it was his intention all along for the wide receiver only to participate in individual drills that day and to remain out of the team work. Brown took umbrage to Bouchette’s social media reporting, Tweeting, “bro seriously have some respect”, saying that he was making things up and calling him a “clown”.
Bro seriously have some respect you making shit up clown https://t.co/SxgHHee7KV
— Antonio Brown (@AB84) August 13, 2018
Now I’m sure this is not the first time that a player has called Bouchette a name. It’s just something that comes with the territory. Even I have gotten a player or two upset with me over the years for something that I’ve written, and frankly, I get it, especially from a blogger.
Ultimately, I wasn’t at training camp and I didn’t see how Brown looked when he walked off the field after he completed individual drills, so I can’t confirm whether or not he left the field in a way that suggested that he had a limp or if he was simply walking in a lazy fashion that could give that appearance.
Either way, it doesn’t matter, because he showed after practice that he was perfectly fine. If he ‘limped’ off after individual drills, it was likely just an indication of body language, as we already had it confirmed that there was not further aggravation of the injury that he has been dealing with.
All of this raises questions about the nature of modern-day sports reporting in this context, though. We rely upon not just our eyes and ears but also our immediate judgement before we send out a Tweet without acquiring any form of secondary validation.
The higher your status, the more dangerous this becomes. When a writer such as Bouchette says that a player limped off the field, it’s going to be taken as a big deal until it is either verified or debunked. But really, what are we to do? Is that not how sports journalism now functions, when fans in the stand are live posting videos from practice anyway?
Perhaps Bouchette could have exercised a bit more caution in his phrasing, or patience in his timing before learning more, which would have led to his avoiding the accusation of being a clown. Frankly, the Twitter reporting is still a gray area that both the professionals and amateurs are still feeling out.