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Patriots fans continue to stiff ESPN, showing fractured relationship may never recover

04.18.17 at 3:55 pm ET
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Patriots fans continue to stick it to ESPN on social media. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Patriots fans continue to stick it to ESPN on social media. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

It’s been more than two years since the start of Deflategate. But many Patriots fans still aren’t letting ESPN live down its erroneous reporting.

There have been at least three cases in recent months of Patriots fans refusing to give ESPN permission to show either their tweets or photographs on television. Perhaps the most notable example happened Monday, when a Twitter user who posted a picture during the Boston Marathon told ESPN it couldn’t feature his work.

“After the witch hunt ESPN led against Tom Brady,?” he wrote. “Absolutely the f*** not. In fact, block me right now. Go f*** yourselves.”

This trend started in September 2016, when the person who videotaped a suspended Tom Brady throwing passes at Milton Academy told ESPN to shove it when the network asked to use his recording. In January, the Patriots fan who snapped a picture of Bill Belichick sleeping on a ferry on his way back from Nantucket expressed similar sentiments to the assignment desk.

While ESPN didn’t start Deflategate, its inaccurate reporting turned the saga into a major national story. On Jan. 21, 2015, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen tweeted 11 of 12 Patriots footballs were two PSI below the legal air pressure threshold. The following day, Deflategate led all three national evening newscasts.

As it turns out, none of the Patriots’ balls were two PSI below the limit. Even though those numbers were released when Ted Wells’ report was published in May 2015, Mortensen didn’t delete his tweet until that August. The corresponding article remained unedited as well.

There were other instances in which ESPN appeared to do the league’s bidding. On the same day commissioner Roger Goodell announced he was upholding Brady’s four-game ban, “First Take”co-host Stephen A. Smith said the Patriots quarterback “destroyed his phone” during the investigation. But once the transcript of Brady’s appeal hearing was released, it was revealed that Smith’s report left out two important details: Brady says he regularly cycles through cell phones for privacy purposes, and he offered to obtain printouts of all relevant text messages for the league. Goodell denied the request.

Oh, and there was crying Mark Brunell, too. Who could forget that?

Despite the Patriots’ incredible on-field success –– two Super Bowls in three years –– it’s apparent New England isn’t going to forget about ESPN’s role in propagating Deflategate any time soon. The rash of ESPN personalities who also keep insinuating Boston is a racist city, such as Bomani Jones and Dan Le Batard, probably aren’t helping matters, either.

Thanks to all of ESPN’s rights agreements, it’s unlikely Boston sports fans would be able to successfully boycott the network. But it’s clear that everlasting damage has been done to the relationship between the WorldWide Leader and one of the most premier sports markets in the country. For a company that’s bleeding revenue and subscribers, it’s a troubling reality to confront, especially because it’s self-inflicted.

 

Read More: Deflategate, ESPN, New England Patriots,