When it comes to the NFL, injuries are a part of the game. Every week tens of thousands of collisions take place in NFL games, and dozens of significant injuries occur (along with thousands of aches, pains, and internal workings that go completely unmentioned). In an age where everyone is obsessed with fantasy sports, gambling, and having every edge possible, this information is the equivalent of a potential winning lottery ticket. A questionable designation puts fans on edge and can swing betting lines on a moment’s notice. So yes, we get it. The NFL injury report is nothing more than a thinly veiled endorsement of gamblers and fantasy players, offering those who are interested a chance to adjust their expectations one way or another and hedge their bets.
That fact in its own right is a slippery slope sometimes. While disclosing that a player has a sprained ankle isn’t much of a medical story, putting a player on an injury report with a generic “illness” designation is a bit more troublesome. Perhaps the illness is the flu. In that case, we all shrug and go about our days the same as if any of our co-workers were sick. But what if that illness is something more serious? Perhaps a heart condition, blood clot, cancer, or other potentially life-altering ailments? Should we, the public, need to know that Player X is suffering from such an issue? Obviously when that player doesn’t suit up in a game the questions will start to flow from all sides. But the long and short of it is that NFL players deserve a right to medical privacy as much as you and I do. If they choose to disclose various information, that is their choice, not ours. All of which leads us to Jason Pierre-Paul suing ESPN and Adam Schefter.
As we all know, JPP lost his a significant portion of his right hand during an Independence Day fireworks celebration that went terribly wrong. In JPP’s case, the news was dramatic and chilling, as reports quickly started to come in regarding the severity of the injury. JPP’s a public figure, and even I have to acknowledge that public figures are under a different microscope than you or I (even if they shouldn’t be). So news reporters digging into the story ultimately have every right to report the news. But Adam Schefter crossed a line when he tracked down and posted an image showing a portion of JPP’s medical data, along with information about another non-public figure.
Schefter is a true pro in the news breaking business, but he crossed the line in this case. Reporting on JPP’s condition is one thing. Posting actual images from a hospital stay is another. In this case the image confirmed what we already suspected, that the Giants’ defensive star would be having a portion of his hand amputated. But simply because it confirmed suspicions doesn’t mean the image was worthy of posting. Imagine instead that the image belonged to another player, one that broke the news that the player was having radiation treatments for cancer or drug therapy for HIV. Even in this age of instant gratification, a player deserves some right to medical privacy. Yes, it’s a fine line. I get that. However, breaking news about an ailment is one thing. Posting direct images from a hospital medical chart is another. Schefter’s error was even worse when considering that a non-public figure’s information was also included in the report.
In the end, I’m no lawyer. As to how the potential lawsuit will shake out, my partner would be better to ask. But I am a person. So is JPP. So is the non-public figure included in Schefter’s image. Ultimately no one deserves to have their medical records distributed, regardless of who they are. Hopefully this lawsuit will guarantee that no other player will ever have such a situation happen to them.