This morning, ESPN published a positive and forward-looking profile of new Memphis Grizzlies head David Fizdale, focusing on his first practice yesterday. It was written by veteran NBA writer and ESPNer Michael Wallace—an awfully strange choice considering that last week Wallace announced that he was becoming a Memphis Grizzlies employee.
Wallace joined ESPN in 2010, and primarily covered the Miami Heat. But according to multiple sources, his most recent contract wasn’t renewed, and he apparently found a job with the Grizzlies. Five days ago he took to the Grizzlies website to introduce the team-owned Grind City Media, the latest and most ambitious attempt by a major sports team to replace independent coverage with positive, team-owned coverage. Wallace wrote that he had already relocated to Memphis from Miami, and declared a deep belief in Memphis and the Grizzlies:
I came because they stayed – first Gasol and then Conley. You don’t just live and work in this place. You believe in it. The grit the people have here just grinds on you until it becomes contagious. It seeps into your DNA. We aim to creatively tell the daily stories of this place and its people, these players, this team and this word-class venue to a regional, national and global base of basketball and entertainment fans.
On his Twitter account, Wallace says that he is a “Sr. Editor, Contributor & Analyst for Grind City Media at Grizzlies.com effective Oct. 2016,” and the team confirmed that he has accepted a job with the Grizzlies and will start in a few days. They also seem quite happy with his ESPN story:
The timeline, as we understand it, runs roughly like this: ESPN declines to renew Wallace’s contract; Wallace accepts a job with the Grizzlies; Wallace introduces Grind City Media on the Grizzlies website; Wallace writes Grizzlies puff piece, with all sorts of on-the-scene color from this week’s training camp, for ESPN. The details aren’t exactly the same, but it brings to mind recent media kerfuffles like CNN employing Cory Lewandowski while he is still being paid by the Trump campaign, or technology website The Verge not knowing that a deputy editor had taken a job with Apple.
Did ESPN assign Wallace to cover training camp yesterday, or did he just file from Memphis while waiting for his new job to begin? Why, at the very least, doesn’t this piece have a disclaimer about how the guy who wrote it has accepted a job with the team he’s writing about? ESPN says they’re looking into these questions, and Wallace didn’t respond to a request for comment; we’ll update if we hear back.