The most important facet of any relationship is communication, and ESPN's crack football writer and the NFL's angriest franchise are apparently lacking in that department.
Late last night, ESPN.com posted a story by Chris Mortensen—that has since been removed from the front page—saying that the Oakland Raiders were in talks to sell a controlling stake of the team to a billionaire investor who has allegedly tried to buy other NFL teams so that he can move them to Los Angeles. (As if anyone in L.A. wants them.) The Raiders furiously denied such a tale, and included some pointed jabs at Mortensen's fabled "reporting."
"Chris' report is not true," Trask told The Associated Press. "We are not negotiating with this group. We know who they are and that they want to purchase the controlling interest in a team. This team is not available to them. They are unhappy about that and have turned to Chris to assist them in their efforts, which is easy to do since Chris contacted no one with the Raiders to ascertain if there was any truth to his report. There is not. It would have been so easy for him to contact us and ask if we are negotiating with this group. We are not."
Well, okay then. Mortensen responded to that claim in an email to Associated Press, which he quoted in an ESPN.com story that he apparently wrote about himself. (His byline was removed from the top of the story, but his bio remains at the bottom.)
"The Raiders have lost the privilege with me of running stories past them for comment," the e-mail stated. "This stems from their history of denials to most stories I have reported — as well as others in the media — when those stories have eventually proven to be true. The latest example is I reported that Al Davis planned to interview Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride and, of course, the story was trashed by a team spokesman."
Lost the privilege? This is delicious. Oh, wait, Chris would like to clarify.
"Upon further review, I should not have qualified any potential communication with the Raiders as a 'privilege.' I'd say they have repeatedly diminished and discouraged efforts to reach out for an official comment based on the repeated denials of prior stories," Mortensen said. "It also would be an assumption on their part that I have not had any contact with the Raiders while reporting on this story."
Aww, don't back down. PR/reporter hissy fits are the only reason to care about anything that happens at the Coliseum these days. I nominate "Raiders get sold" for most boring story of 2009, but think "Head of ESPN reporter tossed around Oakland tailgate like beach ball" would be a great news peg for the start of next season.
Sources: Raiders trying to sell more of team [ESPN.com]