The players involved in SB Nation’s publication and removal of a story about convicted rapist Daniel Holtzclaw are attempting damage control. The story, which read as highly sympathetic, attempted to frame the former cop’s crimes as a story about his failed football dreams.
After removing the story the same day it was published, SB Nation editorial director Spencer Hall posted a tasteful apology in which he called the story a “failure” and its publication “a complete breakdown of a part of the editorial process at SB Nation.”
In a memo acquired by our friends at Deadspin, VP of editorial operations Kevin Lockland announced that SB Nation would temporarily suspend its longform program and was looking inward to figure out how exactly the story was published in the first place.
We are launching an internal peer review on the process and sequence of events that led up to our publication of this story as well as systemic and organizational factors ranging from how our team is resourced to our efforts to build a more diverse and inclusive culture.
Lockland also revealed that the site had cut ties with Jeff Arnold, the freelance sportswriter who wrote the piece.
Today, Arnold issued his own statement about the story on Twitter, and once again demonstrated a lack of understanding about sexual assault. He does acknowledge the complete disregard he showed for Holtzclaw’s victims by not allowing their voices to be heard in the piece:
By not spending more time reaching out to victims or their families as a way of accounting for the horrific abuse they suffered, I made a grave mistake. I accept responsibility for that.
However, he continues to argue that approaching the story of a man who raped and sexually assaulted 13 black women primarily from a sports angle was somehow a good idea:
In writing this piece – which was reviewed and signed off on by at least four editors prior to its publication – I hoped to present a more fully-rounded portrait of Mr. Holtzclaw than had appeared in the press. I hoped to explore the question of what had happened to this once-promising young man. I and my editor at SB Nation hoped to find possible answers as to what could have led to him to become a convicted rapist and sexual predator. In the end, though, I produced a piece that had massive shortcomings.
The question, of course, is why Arnold felt Holtzclaw deserved a more rounded portrait in the first place. By most accounts, Holtzclaw is an unexceptional man who has been found guilty of serial rape. The difference between Holtzclaw and other men who sexually assault women is that his position as a police officer allowed him a unique opportunity to brutalize his victims while keeping them silent. The other difference, of course, is that Holtzclaw actually got caught and will pay for his crimes.
Arnold fails to grasp that Holtzclaw’s days as a “promising” football recruit are not significantly relevant to his rape and sexual assault of women. As far as we know, Holtzclaw’s predatory nature did not reveal itself until after he graduated and his football days were behind him. That’s an angle Arnold’s editor, Glenn Stout (who we can presume was one of the four editors Arnold reveals read the piece before it was published), considered noteworthy as well. Stout reportedly wrote in a celebratory email to SB Nation staffers last Wednesday that “the fact that he was a football player — and a pretty good one, who fell just short of the N.F.L. — seemed to have escaped all other coverage.
Stout’s email, conceivably sent just before the piece’s negative reception took hold last week, called Arnold’s story “a nuanced portrait that never loses sight of the fact that women were victimized. I think people will be talking about this one,” he added. And here we are.
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Image via SB Nation.