On April 24, I reported that ESPN’s Pat Forde, who once co-authored a book with Rick Pitino, wrote a curiously incomplete piece for ESPN.com about an extortion charge Pitino (via Federal prosecutors) was pursuing against a woman named Karen Sypher.
(My suspicion from 3 1/2 months ago now confirmed?)
In Forde’s piece, much like the reportage of the rest of the main media at the time, all of the meaningful details of the case went unmentioned. We were so left in the dark that I asked at the time why Forde even bothered to write the piece.
Of course, we had an inkling of the answer - Forde was going to bat for an old friend, and looking to marginalize Sypher - which is precisely what he did in the story.
So the question remained: why specifically did the Feds think Pitino was the victim of extortion? Thanks to the LOUISVILLE COURIER-JOURNAL - and not ace Louisville-based ESPN columnist and Pitino confidant Forde - we now know.
From the COURIER-JOURNAL late Tuesday:
University of Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino told police that he had consensual sex with Karen Cunagin Sypher at a Louisville restaurant where he’d been drinking on on Aug. 1, 2003.
He also told police that he later gave Sypher $3,000 to have an abortion, according to Louisville Metro Police reports The Courier-Journal obtained under the Kentucky Open Records Act.
The extortion came as the married Pitino claimed to the Feds that Sypher was demanding money for her silence about the affair and abortion. After the Feds slapped the extortion charge on Sypher, she then counterfiled with two rather dubious rape charges against the coach.
Crazy stuff for sure, and information that was never reported by any main media outlet until the Courier-Journal accessed the case information, which included interviews the Feds conducted with Pitino and Sypher, via the Kentucky Open Records Act.
ESPN makes a fortune on its non-stop basketball coverage, and there’s no bigger name in the sport than Pitino. Now, if I was a cynic I might suggest that because the sports network had a financial interest in keeping up appearances with Pitino and the NCAA, it covered up the true nature of the case.
This situation smells a lot like what ESPN did in ignoring a recent, widely-reported sexual assault accusation against Ben Roethlisberger and getting skunked by SI and the NEW YORK TIMES on the 2003 list of 104 MLB players who tested positive for PEDs. (Where’s Boston Hall of Famer Peter Gammons on Red Sox David Ortiz? Hello? Anybody home?)
But hey, it could be that ESPN’s just on a breaking news losing streak and this is all a complete coincidence. Perhaps ESPN really does care about covering objectively all sports celebrities and leagues for which it has a vested financial interest.
OK, maybe not.