Steelers fans trying to find information about Ben Roethlisberger's sexual assault case may have noticed ESPN has been surprisingly silent about it on TV, the radio and Internet.
ESPN did not report any components of the story for most of the past two days because of company policies. From "SportsCenter" on TV to "Mike and Mike in the Morning" and "The Herd with Colin Cowherd" on the radio, there was no mention of the Roethlisberger case.
The decision drew the Worldwide Leader in Sports some criticism in media circles the past two days.
Mac Nwulu, manager of communications for ESPN, said he spent a lot of time on the phone with various media outlets Wednesday explaining his company's policies. He read the following official statement to the Mirror:
"At this point, we are not reporting the allegations against Ben Roethlisberger because no criminal complaint has been filed. As far as we know, this is a civil lawsuit that Roethlisberger has yet to address publicly."
ESPN typically reports on any and every bit of news regarding star athletes - from trade rumors to possible but yet-to-be-filed criminal charges - so the stance on the Roethlisberger story has been perplexing.
It also has brought about a conspiracy theory concerning conflict of interests. Roethlisberger is scheduled to appear on an upcoming ABC reality show starring Shaquille O'Neal, and both ESPN and ABC are owned by The Walt Disney Company.
Nwulu was asked if that connection has anything to do with the lack of Roethlisberger coverage.
"Definitely, definitely not," Nwulu said.
"We are always very, very cautious with civil suits that impugn a person's character or reputation," Nwulu added.
Other things the network considers when reporting such a story include the subject's track record, if the subject has addressed the matter publicly and if the allegation will impact the performance of the player or his team.
ESPN did have a report on Roethlisberger late Wednesday night, and Nwulu e-mailed the Mirror an update saying no specific item changed the company's stance. He also said ESPN did not cave to pressure from other media outlets.
"We made this decision because we feel it is the right thing to do," Nwulu wrote in the e-mail. "We know not everybody will agree with the decision, just like not everyone agreed with our decision not to report it in the first place."
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and firstname.lastname@example.org.