Tuesday’s edition of ABC’s World News Tonight was a prime example of how sensationalism in journalism damages credibility. Instead of leading the show by reporting on something important like CBS did with the opioid epidemic, or political conflict like NBC, ABC chose to celebrate the NFL seemingly not requiring players to stand during the national anthem at a meeting earlier in the day. But the problem was, setting the league’s policy was not the goal of that particular meeting.
“And we begin with breaking news from the NFL,” announced an overly excited Anchor David Muir. “The NFL Commissioner coming before the cameras just moments ago here in New York City and revealing that owners today did not ask players to do what the President wants them to do, to stand during the national anthem.”
Muir then declared that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was not asking them to stand. ABC Reporter Adrienne Bankert parroted him saying: “Late today, the NFL commissioner saying he did not ask the players to do what the president wants them to do. Stand for the national anthem.” “We did not ask for that,” a ridiculously cut down clip of Goodell said following her.
But ABC’s deceptive edit made it seem as though there was a new policy in the NFL. But if they were to play the Commissioner’s statement in its entirety, it’s clear that the meeting was just a discussion and they were not yet ready to make a decision. When asked if a commitment to stand was brought up during the meeting, Goodell responded:
We did not ask for that, Sal. No. We spent today talking about the issues that our players have been trying to bring attention to, about issues in our communities to make our communities better. I think we all agree there’s nothing more important than getting back into our communities and trying to make our communities better. That was the entire focus today.
To drive home their false depiction of events, Bankert touted how the decision came in defiance of Trump who wanted players fired. She also hyped how “Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones, who says his players must stand or be benched, [was] confronted by a protester.” “Look at the videos of the police getting away with murder and tell me that the players are wrong to protest it,” the protester screamed.
And while wrapping up their lead segment, Muir questioned Bankert about where they go from here. “And Adrienne, the question tonight, is this final? They're planning on more meetings?” But after she mentioned that there was going to be another meeting in two weeks, the anchor quickly reminded viewers that “so far Adrienne, as you point out, the owners have not asked those players to stand.”
As evidence that ABC’s version of events was not as they occurred, CBS Evening News didn’t even mention the NFL meeting at all, while NBC Nightly News Anchor Lester Holt noted that “The two sides called the meeting productive, but no agreement was reached on the anthem protests, and both sides say there was no talk of changing the rules to force players to stand.” If that was really the policy of the NFL, all of the networks would be shouting it from the rooftops like they did when players kneeled to protest the President.
It’s a possibility that the owners could decide not to require them to stand, or leave it up to the clubhouses, but as of Tuesday evening, ABC’s assertions were false.
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World News Tonight
October 17, 2017
6:31:27 PM Eastern
DAVID MUIR: And we begin with breaking news from the NFL. The NFL Commissioner coming before the cameras just moments ago here in New York City and revealing that owners today did not ask players to do what the President wants them to do, to stand during the national anthem. Moments ago, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell saying they were not asked to stand, and players who were there at the meetings saying progress was made on bringing attention to the reasons some were kneeling about in the first place. There were protests outside this high stakes meeting, and ABC's Adrienne Bankert leading us off.
[Cuts to video]
ADRIENNE BANKERT: Late today, the NFL commissioner saying he did not ask the players to do what the president wants them to do. Stand for the national anthem.
ROGER GOODELL: We did not ask for that.
BANKERT: Team owners met face to face with players at NFL headquarters in New York. Both sides saying it’s a step in the right direction.
MALCOLM JENKINS: This is the first time we really gotten a chance to sit down in front of ownership. We felt like they were receptive. We felt like there was real dialogue.
GOODELL: We spent today talking about the issues that our players have been trying to bring attention to.
BANKERT: It comes after President Trump said this –
DONALD TRUMP: Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, “Get that son of a [ bleep ] off the field right now, out, he's fired.”
BANKERT: Today, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who says his players must stand or be benched, confronted by a protester.
PROTESTOR: Look at the videos of the police getting away with murder and tell me that the players are wrong to protest it!
BANKERT: Darius Butler of the Colts who has taken a knee in solidarity with protests of racial injustice, says players will make their own call.
DARIUS BUTLER: It's going to be an individual choice. But I think the ownership, the team and the league and the players, I think we're going in the right direction.
[Cuts back to live]
MUIR: And Adrienne Bankert joins us live from New York City tonight, outside those meetings. And Adrienne, the question tonight, is this final? They're planning on more meetings?
BANKERT: You know what, they are planning on more meetings. The owners and players are expected to get together again to discuss specifically within the next couple of weeks. But they've got to come up with something definitive. There are still a lot of fans out there who believe that players who kneel are disrespecting the anthem and the military. David?
MUIR: But so far Adrienne, as you point out, the owners have not asked those players to stand. Adrienne Bankert leading us off tonight, thank you.