The topic of conversation at Baptist Sports Park Wednesday was not so much the $25 million lawsuit filed by former Tennessee Titans receiver David Givens, but tactics used in reporting the story by the media outlet that broke the news.
After a report by news reporter Nick Beres offered details of the lawsuit filed by Givens from a career-ending injury in 2006 on the station’s 6 p.m. newscast, WTVF Channel 5 broadcast an interview with Titans coach Jeff Fisher at 10 p.m. that was taped during training camp and interspersed with Givens’ attorney Dan Warlick responding to comments by Fisher regarding the team’s policy on treatment of injuries.
The CBS affiliate promoted the interview with Fisher as an exclusive and portrayed it as if it was a new response. Fisher and a Titans spokesman both declined comment on the initial lawsuit to media outlets once the story broke on Tuesday evening.
On Wednesday, Fisher was unhappy at how the station handled the story by interspersing the interview into its 10 p.m. newscast.
“I can’t comment on the lawsuit. With the lawsuit, there’s a legal process involved so therefore you just can’t comment on it. That’s the nature of that,” Fisher said. “What I can do is I can comment on the report last night. Never in my career have I ever been associated with a more deceitful, unprofessional report that I witnessed last night.
“I’ll just finish by this, the organization is looking into the possibility that there may be a connection between the reporter and the attorney, and that’s all I can say.”
Later in the evening, WTVF news director Sandy Boonstra spoke to The City Paper and issued a statement about Beres’ story.
“We have a clarification to make on the Titans lawsuit story from yesterday. The Titans, as we reported, are being sued by former player David Givens... claiming he was not told of the extent of his injuries to his knee,” the statement said. “In our story, coach Jeff Fisher talked about the team's policies on injuries. We neglected to say that interview was done during training camp. Jeff Fisher had no knowledge of the pending lawsuit when that interview was conducted. We regret if anyone was misled by the story.”
The station planned to air the statement on its newscasts Wednesday evening and again Thursday morning. It is not known if Beres faces any discipline from the station regarding the interview.
Beres admitted in a radio interview Wednesday morning on WGFX-FM 104.5’s The Wakeup Zone that he had been tipped about the potential forthcoming lawsuit for sometime before the suit was actually filed federal court on Tuesday.
Fisher indicated that the training camp interview was one of a general nature, not specific as it was played out in the broadcast.
“I did an interview at training camp, a general interview at training camp. Then the perception was I was questioned very recently about this,” Fisher said. “The last question in this unusual interview regarded David Givens. This is just, it’s very, very unprofessional and I’m disappointed for the industry to be quite honest with you.”
Warlick commented to The City Paper Wednesday morning on the details of the lawsuit, which alleges the Titans did not inform Givens of a knee condition that existed at the time he was examined by team doctors and signed a five-year, $24 million contract in March 2006. He suffered a career-ending knee injury in November of that year when he crumpled to the ground while running a pass pattern.
Efforts to reach Beres were unsuccessful. No representatives of the station were in attendance at Wednesday’s practice. Fisher was asked if Channel 5 had been banned from practice and said, “You’ll have to talk to the station.”
A station source confirmed the station had been asked not to be at the session on Wednesday.
To further complicate the matter, Beres also indicated in his radio appearance Wednesday that he hoped to have an exclusive interview with Titans center Kevin Mawae, president of the NFLPA, about the lawsuit as well. The truth of the matter is that a training camp interview conducted similarly with the center as to the one with Fisher.
Boonstra indicated Wednesday that plans to air the Mawae interview had been scuttled.
Still, the announcement of an exclusive interview with Mawae caught the center off guard.
“I heard about it on the radio this morning. I don’t know anything about the situation. I don’t know anything about the lawsuit,” Mawae said. “I don’t know anything about any exclusive that I reportedly had done with any news channel. At this point, I have no comment, because I don’t know what’s going on.
“I’ve been a part of this team now for going on four years and not one time have I ever been asked about this particular player. So now to supposedly have an exclusive about it, I think it’s wrong. I think it’s irresponsible of the journalist who did it. Believe me, I lived in New York for eight years and never had a situation like this.”
As to the lawsuit itself, Givens alleges that he was not informed about a dead portion of the bone in his knee that held ligaments and tendons together and eventually gave away when he collapsed in that game against Baltimore. Bone plugs were eventually inserted into the knee to try and regenerate growth, but the knee has not sufficiently responded to allow Givens to resume his football career.
The key ingredient in the matter could be the timing of memo with regard to the contract. Warlick indicates that Givens officially signed with the Titans on March 14, 2006, and the memo from team physician Dr. Thomas Byrd regarding the potential knee problem was dated March 13.
“That’s kind of an up in the air question. Al this takes play. He comes down under a contract that is effective on March 1,” Warlick said. “The contract appears to have been signed on the 14th. We’ve got the date of the memo, which is March 13th, so the physical had to be have before March 13th.”