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Outside the Lines:
Here's the transcript from Show 113 of weekly Outside The Lines - Private Lives
Announcer - May 26, 2002.
Bob Ley, host - Celebrity, fame, adulation, all part of a sport star's life. Today, as much as any Hollywood celebrity.
Pat O'Brien, Access Hollywood - The sports figures are celebrities. I mean, they're in commercials. They're models. They hawk things.
Mike Piazza, N.Y. Mets - You don't have to make a commitment to get a great rate on calls.
Ley - Rumors can be transformed instantly into headlines.
Piazza - I'm not gay. I'm heterosexual.
Michael Jordan, Washington Wizards - There's so much speculation about things that are totally untrue.
Ley - The most personal aspects of an athlete's life can be played out in the media.
Chris Webber, Sacramento Kings - I've given you all interviews. I've done every (expletive deleted) you all wanted, and you all going to violate me like that?
Ley - The fascination even extends to owners.
Mark Cuban, Dallas Mavericks owner - You can write whatever you damn well please. I don't care. As long as it's not about that.
Rick Fox, L.A. Lakers - He shouldn't be in this business if he can't handle the limelight.
Ley - Today on "Outside The Lines," how much should the media report? Where is the line between the public career of athletes and their private lives?
So many in popular culture are famous simply for being famous, such as the fascination that Americans have with celebrity. Athletes then have a great advantage. They are famous for hitting and pitching and dunking and running and all the highlight moments the day after sporting day put them in front of an insatiable public. The interest in these athletes does not end at the sideline or the dugout steps. This past week saw the coverage concerning Mike Piazza's sexuality. A New York columnist lost his job when he criticized his newspaper's handling of the matter. And ahead, I'll be speaking with him.
Also this week, a very visible NBA owner threatened business harm to a magazine that was, to his mind, about to invade his privacy. I'll also be speaking with him. The public's interest in its sporting figures extends, but just how far into their private lives?
Ley - How did it happen? How did these games and the people who play them become transformed? How did these athletes become entertainment celebrities, their private lives a matter of public interest? Babe Ruth's raucous private life was protected by the media and the understanding continued for years, until the book "Ball Four," published in 1970 showed these private lives to be entertaining. Now with more media minting more celebrity, sports stars are arguably the most available famous figures in society.
O'Brien - Well, it's changed in sports because the players are out there more.
Ley - Pat O'Brien, a former news and sports anchor, reports entertainment news as the co-anchor of "Access Hollywood."
O'Brien - Don't forget that a baseball player basically has 162 plus red carpets every year, whereas a celebrity in Hollywood maybe has four or five. You can probably make Joe Namath the godfather of all ads, that when Super Bowl III, when he guaranteed that victory, sports became a drama. And of course, he was Broadway Joe. And he had a girl on each arm, and the fur coat, and that sort of thing.
Ley - The moderate intersection of celebrity, sports, news and rumor hit full throttle this week.
Piazza - First off, I'm not gay. I'm heterosexual. And that's pretty much it.
Ley - A gossip item in "The New York Post" had not even named Piazza, yet still sparked a media feeding frenzy, one Piazza felt compelled to address.
Piazza - I guess that's the price you pay sometimes of being a public figure.
Ley - The examination of Piazza's life moved in two days from rumor, to gossip, to news and then national satire.
David Letterman, show host - Here, take a look what they're doing now.
Letterman Show - Come out to Shea Stadium this weekend as the heterosexual Mets take on those sissies the Florida Marlins. That's right. The non-gay Mets will be kicking a little ass in a three game series.
Ley - Piazza earns an estimated $3 million per year from endorsements as a visible spokesperson.
Piazza - I'll give you a buck.
Ley - Very much a man about New York, in addition to his all-star skills.
Fox - That's what comes with it. That's part of the territory. I don't think you see anyone out there that reaps the benefits of what it is we do as celebrities, complaining about it. Well, I don't think you can complain about it.
Jason Kidd, New Jersey Nets - You know, there is a fine line between, you know, privacy and also, you know, news. The media has grown, you know, so fast it's been so big due to the likes of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Tiger Woods. Everybody wants to know what's going on. And you know, there is a point where, you know, there should be privacy.
Ley - Rick Fox understands the lack of privacy better than most, playing on Hollywood's team, pursuing an acting career in the off-season and married to entertainer Vanessa Williams.
Fox - I have a high profile marriage. And throughout my courtship with my wife, you know, our lives are thrown on the front page of papers and gossip columns in New York and no bigger media in New York. So you know, we've dealt with that. You shouldn't be in this business if you can't handle the limelight. That's something that we are. We're public figures.
Ley - Tell that to Chris Webber.
Webber - This is the first (expletive deleted) I came here. I gave you all interviews. I've done every (expletive deleted) you all wanted, and you all going to violate me like that? And I know everybody didn't do it, but everybody has to pay for it.
Ley - Webber exploded in February over a newspaper account of his reported relationship with model Tyra Banks.
Webber - It's the only place there's nothing (expletive deleted) do that you (expletive deleted) live my life. Who to date and where I (expletive deleted) I go. I play basketball for you all. I don't live for you all.
Webber - It was a situation where a man invaded my private life. You know, he asked me could he do an article. And when, you ask, then you're saying, I'm asking you. If you say yes, I'm going to do it. If you say no, I'm not, because you're asking me. You have the right to write it, but you're not going to ask me.
And there's this big article. And I wasn't interviewed. No one was interviewed.
Ley - No matter. The love lives of rich and successful athletes are increasingly out in the media. Even "Sports Illustrated," the print product of record, devotes increasing space to social and romantic happenings. It is all news, well beyond the sports pages.
Michael Jordan's once planned divorce. Kobe Bryant's marriage, Derek Jeter's new girlfriend, and just this week, the anger of Donovan McNabb over the front page reporting of his engagement to a woman who was not a public figure.
Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles - There's something in which I'd like to keep my private life, you know, very private, you know. For you guys that already know, yes, I did get engaged, but as far as anything after that, I like to keep (that) to myself.
Ley - Where is the line between a public career and a personal relationship? Sport's most public star draws that line very close to home, politely, but firmly.
Tiger Woods, golfer - Yeah, I'm happy.
Ley - Is there anything you can say that....
Woods - No.
John Daly, two-time Major champion - I've always shared my story with the media. And I think I've gotten taken advantage of that a lot. I've never had anything to hide in my life, but I think it depends on the athlete, the individual. If he or she wants it to be out, then that's fine.
Shaquille O'Neal, L.A. Lakers - This is my office where I conduct all my business. See, I got faxes coming in every five minutes. It's my jersey that was retired from LSU, and that's my samurai sword that I practice at night.
Ley - Increasingly, athletes, in the hyper charged media world of reality television and real world access, do want to be out there, inviting scrutiny to their after hours world, the better to burnish their celebrity. Mark Cuban may be sport's highest-profile owner, with a litany of NBA finds and a well publicized stint as a Dairy Queen worker.
Cuban even has his own television show. But he drew the line at a magazine's planned story on his finance, concerned over their public safety. Cuban called "D" magazine to complain. And the conversation was recorded by senior editor Tim Rogers.
Tim Rogers, "D" Magazine - You're making it sound like a personal thing, Mark.
Cuban - It is a personal thing, because this is my life.
Rogers - It's not like that at all. You're a celebrity and you're...
Cuban - That's right. And there are a million other ways that you can cover anything associated with me. And I don't give a (expletive deleted.) You can justify it any way you damn well please. And you can come up with all the rationalization you want Tim, but if something (expletive deleted) up, just think how you're going to feel.
Rogers - Hey, Mark.
Cuban - Especially when I come and slice your (expletive deleted) nuts off.
Rogers - Dude, it's not about (expletive deleted) anybody.
Cuban - It is.
Rogers -You're the celebrity in this town.
Cuban - This isn't, you know, you know the beginnings of Enron and someone threatening not to report it. This is personal privacy and security. It's not going to make a damned bit of difference in anybody else's life. This is going to sell more magazines for you. It's not going to do anything but create a major headache for you and the magazine.
Ley - Where is that line drawn in the private lives of public figures? Mark Cuban, as we said, is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks. He joins us very early in the morning in Las Vegas. Wallace Matthews, until this week, was a columnist with "The New York Post." He and the paper parting company over his criticism. And in an intended column, the paper's handling of the Mike Piazza story. He joins us from Long Island.
Chris Connelly, the host of ESPN's "Unscripted," has also written and edited for "Rolling Stone," "US," and "Premiere Magazine." He's in Los Angeles.
Good morning to you all. Mark, we heard you in that conversation. Explain to us once again why were you upset that "D" magazine would be doing the story on your fiancée. You're a very public figure?
Cuban - Well, first, they sent me an e-mail asking me if it would be OK if they pursued asking questions about my fiancée. And I politely replied, "No, I prefer you didn't for security reasons." Then they sent me another reason, saying, "We'd really like to. You know, would you please let us do it?" You know, it shouldn't be that big a deal. You're a public figure. And I said, "Not really, sports media asks and writes the same 15 questions all the time. That doesn't mean I open up every part of my life. It means there's a sports part of it, and then there's the rest of it.
For safety reasons, please do not write this story." And you know, they had asked my permission. And then it turns -- they turn around and they start calling everyone she knows, freaking her out. Because I think what people fail to realize when they want to write this thing is A, partially security, but I don't know what they're going to write. You know. And after the fact, they could say, "Oh, well, this one writes the basic."
Ley - But you never do with the media, Mark.
Cuban - Well, yeah, but OK, so what if they put in her driver's license information? What if they put in her license plate number, the route she takes to work everyday, where she goes for lunch, you know, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, where she gets her hair done. Those are security reasons. I think people are -- if this were "The National Enquirer" or some tabloid media environment that I had this issue with, I think people would say, OK, it's a tabloid.
Well the reality is the magazine that we're talking about, in my opinion, is no different than a tabloid. They have a history of writing these types of stories. They've been sued again and again and again.
Ley - OK.
Cuban - ... of writing inaccuracies and not caring. And so I was concerned. I had every reason to believe this was a security issue.
Ley - OK.
Cuban - And I was at risk.
Ley - Wally Matthews, can Mark Cuban be expected to be allowed by the media to segment personal from professional life when he's out there so much in the media?
Wally Matthews, reporter - Well, you know, let me start by saying that I understand Mark Cuban's concerns about security. And I certainly appreciate them. But one thing that strikes me is that a lot of people in this country either haven't read the First Amendment, don't know it exists, or forgot about it. When Mark Cuban says I don't know what they're going to write. Well, guess what, Mr. Cuban, you're not supposed to know. And it's not your business.
I understand that you want to protect your fiancée and your home. And I appreciate those concerns. And of course, anybody who would write, you know, where your fiancée goes for lunch three times a week or what her license plate number is, or her address. I mean, these are ground rules that professional, legitimate journalists would not cross.
Cuban - Well, you're assuming this was a professional legitimate journalist. And I'm saying that in my opinion, they were not. And so, I had every reason to be concerned.
Ley - All right, Chris Connelly, all of this flows from celebrity. The celebrity that Mark Cuban has because he's a very visible NBA owner, the celebrity that sports people have achieved to the point where, what, they're equal to Hollywood?
Chris Connelly, host, "Unscripted" - I would certainly say so. And I think if people like Mark don't want that kind of scrutiny, then I would imagine people like Ben Affleck and Matt Damon and Julia Roberts will be asking for the same kind of deal. He's a dynamic and charismatic figure. So it's no surprise people would be interested in his personal life to that degree.
I think Bill Murray, who's had some experience in celebrity and in sports ownership once said, "If you want to be rich and famous, try being rich first and see how that suits you." Well, Mark was rich first. And now he's rich and famous. It's tough to sometimes take the scrutiny that goes with it. It seems to me like this could have been handled in a better way by all concerned, but that's the way it goes.
Ley - Mark, you were disagreeing as well, as Chris was making this point?
Cuban - Yeah, I mean...
Ley - (Unintelligible) famous?
Cuban - Yeah, well, that's great and...
Ley - And you're famous by choice?
Cuban - Yeah, I have never complained about what people write about me, but the reality is, as I said earlier, sports media asks and writes the answers to the same 15 questions. I feel, and hopefully my life is about a lot more than those same 15 questions. And...
Connelly - Mark, it seems like you were being asked different questions. It seems like...
Matthews - And the other thing is it doesn't seem to me that.
Cuban - You guys have no answers to give unless you ask questions. And there has to be a quid pro quo there. And there is a quid pro quo that goes on with the media, just like I was asked to sit for this interview. You know, you have to ask, and somebody has to sit and answer those questions.
And because of that, there's a basic understanding, 99.9 percent of the time that, you know what? There is a limit. That's why people say off the record. Well, you know what? When this guy recorded my conversation, I had no idea. When they wrote the article, they didn't preface by saying that there were multiple e-mails that took place before the conversation that they wrote about, where I politely asked, and they politely asked for my permission. And I politely declined.
They didn't write that. They...
Matthews - The problem here, Mark, is that we don't have to ask your permission. They were doing you a courtesy, all right? And I understand that there are guidelines.
Cuban - OK, but they don't ask -- well, you know on the flip side, I have the opportunity because of the First Amendment, to respond.
Matthews - Absolutely, you have a right to say I'm not to going to respond, but you can't tell a reporter don't ask that question. Don't look (Unintelligible).
Cuban - Oh, I certainly can. Now what he does -- because I have every right as a consumer, I have every right as a business person to take whatever measures I feel I can legally take to respond.
Matthews - That's right, but you can't say 'I don't want you writing about my fiancée.'
Cuban - And that's exactly what I did.
Matthews - I mean, you could...
Cuban - And that's exactly what I did.
Connelly - You know, in the real world, this is more of a problem with sort of an access swap here. You know, this is a kind of thing that should've probably been handled in a different way, it seems to me. Mark, if you wanted to make sure that your personal details about your fiancée were not reported, if you had legitimate security concerns, obviously, this magazine was not going to print her address, her routine work.
Cuban - No, it wasn't obvious at all. Have you read...
Connelly - Her driver's license.
Ley - Let's not debate the merits of the particular magazine. In a sentence, Mark, where do you think the limit is? Where's that line?
Cuban - You know, everybody has got -- you're public, Bob. How would you like it if I called your wife? And how would you like it if I had somebody follow her? And how would you like it if I had somebody ask all of her friends specific questions, and then I said, you know what? I'm going to print a story. And then you had to -- you would be concerned. And at some point, you would have to say, you know what? I feel those concerns are so dramatic, that I need to take action.
Ley - Even though my wife...
Cuban - That...
Ley - ...hasn't sat courtside with me and been on television and wedding, engagement announcement, television, no?
Cuban - No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. You haven't done your homework.
Ley - OK.
Cuban - I don't sit next to my fiancée. OK? I sit separate from her. She's been anecdotally in various pictures at the different times. At no point in time ever has there been an article about her next to a picture of her. So unless you -- you still to this point wouldn't know where to find her and how to get her.
Ley - OK. We're going to step aside right there, guys. We have much more to talk about. We'll get back with Mark Cuban and Wally Matthews and Chris Connelly. In a sports culture where stars such as Jerry Rice offer access to their private lives, and the current rage is behind the scenes, total access, how do you define privacy?
Ley - And we continue with Mark Cuban and Wally Matthews and also with Chris Connelly. Chris, let me ask you. We're living in, for lack of a better phrase, the age of Ozzy Osbourne, because you've got shows here on ESPN like "The Life," "MTV with Osbourne," people inviting the media into their lives. What does that do to moving this line and raising the ante?
Connelly - Well, part of the reason why that's happening is so that people can control access. You know, reality shows give the illusion of total access. It's like the in-stylization of coverage. And it allows the celebrity to help play a bigger role in shaping the way his or personal life is covered, you know. Certainly if you invite cameras in and you want to get the bump of public approval by seeing the way you are with your spouse or the way you are with your children, then you certainly swing the door open for scrutiny.
But the bigger situation is these athletes are figures of, you know, dynamism and charisma. People are as interested in their lives as they are in the lives of the Hollywood stars we've got out here. So they have to expect this level of scrutiny. I'm actually surprised there isn't more of it.
Ley - Wally, does -- is the ante raised for print because there's so many people out there putting their own story in the electronic media with total access?
Matthews - Well, you know, no. There really isn't anything like that. But I just wanted to say that I think that I fall firmly in the middle between Mr. Cuban and Mr. Connelly on this issue. I mean, I understand a man's request for privacy. And I also understand that celebrities relentlessly court publicity. You know, but they want to try to control exactly what kind of publicity that is. And I don't think that you can have it both ways when you're that kind of person.
Ley - All right, Wally, but let me ask you. Where do you come down on, for example, if you're Donavan McNabb, and you're engaged to a woman who is not a public figure, and "The Philadelphia Daily News" puts together a composite photograph, not of the two of them together on the front page, does he have a right to be angry? I mean, you...
Matthews - You know, I'm not sure.
Ley - I mean, you work for a tabloid. "The Daily News" is a tabloid.
Matthews - Well, let me explain my personal guideline, all right? I'm a columnist who's been accused of being very critical. And I am very critical. But I try to keep my criticism to things that happen on the field or in other public forums, such as press conferences, the print and media access times in the clubhouse, maybe autograph sessions, anywhere where the ballplayer is on public display.
The only time I would get into a personal life thing is in case of a milestone. I mean, if let's say if Mike Piazza says, "I'm married and my wife had a baby yesterday. That's a milestone. I can print that. I don't...
Ley - Yeah, but if a player like Donovan pulls you aside and says, "I'm ticked off at your publication," would you sympathize with him over that circumstance?
Matthews - When you work for "The New York Post," players often tell you things like that.
Ley - All right. Understood. And you no longer work for "The New York Post." I'm imagining, Mark, that you would sympathize to a great degree with what Chris Webber said. I don't live for you all?
Cuban - Oh, yeah, oh, yeah, absolutely. I mean, there is a line. And notice that nobody else in the Dallas media had printed the story about this subject. And so, they all respected it. We just had one magazine that specializes in yellow journalism, and you know, that's why I was very much concerned about the security...
Connelly - I don't see it as an issue that way. I think, Mark, you're an interesting guy. I think there are a lot of people out there who would imagine what it would be like to be married to you, just like...
Matthews - Hold on a second. Mark Cuban has been a guy, and I say that with all due respect, Mr. Cuban, who has made himself extremely visible, a lot more visible than the average owner in any sport. So in a way, you kind of turned that spotlight on yourself and you've invited this kind of...
Cuban - On myself, on myself. You have not heard me complain, you have not heard me complain about what anybody has written about me, truth or otherwise. I don't care.
Connelly - The reason why you're interesting is that you create yourself as a fantasy object. Men sit at home and go, what it would be like to be Mark Cuban, what it would be like to have so much money and to be living this exciting life and to be owning this great team? And then they imagine, well, what else would that be like? Who would I date? What would I be able to do?
It's because you're a fantasy object that people have interest in your personal life, and that's why your fiancée is getting that kind of scrutiny.
Ley - Has this caused you, Mark, to think about maybe pulling back what you do as far as being a public figure?
Cuban - Well, no, I mean, it doesn't change, because the reality is, this isn't -- this is sports media. You know, the underpinning logic behind this -- and I've been involved in the biggest IPO in the history of the stock market, I've sold a company for billions of dollars, and it gets, you know, some coverage in trade magazines and one article for each occurrence in the "Wall Street Journal" and in "The New York Times."
Yet, the sports media has -- we have two beat writers in Dallas, and they have to write something every day. That's the nature of sports media. They're going to look, they're going to find something. I'd rather have them write about me than my players. I'd rather be the lightning rod than my players. That's just the nature of this industry. And because the sports media has to write something every day has nothing to do with my fiancée, has nothing to do with my family. And in any scenario if I feel my family is threatened, I'm going to respond.
Ley - All right. Guys, thanks. That's where we're going to leave it. Thanks for a great discussion. Thanks to Mark Cuban, Wally Matthews and to Chris Connelly.
Next up, a new development off of last Sunday's report on a small school where grades were routinely changed. It involves a former star of the North Carolina Tarheels.
Ley - Last week's program concerned the Christopher Robin Academy in New York City, a for-profit school where many New York City high school basketball stars acquired the needed grades to get NCAA eligibility. Our report concerned the fact that grades were constantly being changed there. Among our e-mail feedback - "It seems to me it would only take one honest college administrator to challenge the legitimacy of the transcripts presented to them. If indeed Christopher Robin represents fraudulent grade transcripts as factual, wouldn't that represent fraud on some level, and in turn could it be used in court against them?"
And from a former teacher of the school now living in Plantation, Florida - "Having worked there in the early '90s, grades were given for almost all students whose parents kept up with the tuition payments. The school deserves all the bad press it receives, not only for its unfairness to athletes who really go to school, but for the poor quality of education that all the children there do receive."
That teacher subsequently told ESPN.com's Tom Farrey that former North Carolina Tarheel Ed Cota was enrolled in his course while in high school. Despite the fact that Cota attended only two classes, the teacher claims that the principal of the Christopher Robin Academy issued Cota a passing grade.
As a result of last week's "Outside The Lines" report, the Consumer Fraud Division of the New York State Attorney General's Office has opened an investigation into that school.
You can check out "Outside The Lines" website on ESPN.com; the key word is "OTL Weekly" for transcripts and streaming video.
Our e-mail address - firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll look forward to your thoughts on this week's look at private lives.
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