I'm Defending Marvin Harrison Against ESPN's Blatantly Biased Attacks

Ryan MichaelSenior Writer IIIJanuary 15, 2009

When it comes to the world of sports reporting, often rumors give birth to speculation that leads to the complete and utter destruction of an athlete's character. Whether these rumors are true or false and whether they are based from a solid foundation often means little so long as the sports writer(s) benefit from exposure their pieces of work can gather.

Thus seems to be the case in the latest article I read on ESPN's official website.

The very same article, titled The other side of Marvin Harrison, can be read in ESPN The Magazine, or by clicking here.

Tragic, really, to know that an article that is based so much on rumors and unfounded accusations could make its way into what is supposed to be one of the most well respected sports magazines in the nation.

The article exposes several tales that if true, would prove to be detrimental to the character of Indianapolis Colts' star wide receiver, Marvin Harrison.

If you want to actually see another side of this monster known as Marvin Harrison, take a look here...


I first read the article with every intention of giving it the credit that you'd expect an ESPN piece to be given. I would have never imagined that such a sources would be so plagued with an abundance of blatant bias and personal attempts to destroy the character of a person whom the authors have never met.

The article goes as far as to tell the tales of three criminal-like occurrences that Marvin Harrison was allegedly a part of.

The first of these instances was the infamous tale of the shooting in Philadelphia that Marvin Harrison was connected with.

The account details a fight that allegedly broke out between Marvin Harrison and a man named Dwight Dixon that would later lead to shots being fired. The allegation was that the man who shot the gun was none other than Marvin Harrison.

Of course, I find it a little bit humorous that they claim that Marvin Harrison (the 180-pound guy who curls up into a ball after every tackle) was able to beat up a 280-pound man, and do so to the extent that the guy leaves before getting a single good hit in.

That's very believable.

The details of the account appear to differ from person to person and such a lack of credible witness accounts has now led to the inability of the police department to follow up with charges against Harrison.

Of course, the implication that the article chose to present is that there appears to be more than enough evidence to follow up with Harrison but that he is getting preferential treatment due to his celebrity status. Whether or not this has any base in reality is not for me to say. I myself certainly have not been presented with nearly enough evidence to base any sort of definite judgement on the matter.

My issue isn't so much with debating the guilt or innocence of Marvin Harrison. The issue with ESPN's article is the blatant bias used in its presentation. Such a respected publication should hold itself to a higher standard and refrain from writing "shock articles" that lack enough foundation to stand up properly.

The article goes out of its way to paint a negative picture of Harrison due to the fact that he still resides frequently in bad areas of Philadelphia. The article acknowledges that the area in which he owns many pieces of real estate is in-fact the neighborhood where he grew up.

Although I do find it a bit odd that he would essentially become the "landlord" of local buildings in this area, using what could be Marvin Harrison's nostalgia for the area in which he grew up to essentially label him as suspicious was nothing more than an innuendo-laced attack against a man who has never been convicted of doing anything criminal.

Although I have plenty of bones to pick with the depiction of the events of the  Philadelphia shooting, I found much more issues with the other two events described within the article.

The first was a story about Marvin Harrison from the 2002 divisional playoff game against the New York Jets. ESPN claims that after a ball-boy for the Jets threw a ball in Harrion's vicinity, he responded by saying the following...

"You threw the ball at me!" Harrison screamed. "You're a professional! You should do your job better than that!"

Everyone on the field froze. Prior asked Harrison to back away. Instead, Harrison grabbed Prior by the throat and lifted him off the ground. While fans watching on the stadium's video screen chanted for their ball boy to fight back, players and workers tried to separate the two. As Harrison argued with security, Prior was taken to a medical station, where marks were found around his neck.

"This was a violent incident," says Dan Santos, security manager at the Meadowlands that day. "Coaches tried to downplay it, but we were one step from making an arrest."

In the end, though, Prior decided not to press charges; he just wanted an apology he never got. The NJSEA referred the incident to state police, who didn't pursue it.

The issue here is the lack of credibility within the accusation and the suspicious questions that hit my mind immediately. If Harrison attacked a ball-boy in plain sight of thousands fans, and did so to the extent that it left visible damage that was viewed at a hospital by medical staff, just how is it that Marvin Harrison was not arrested or sued for these violent actions?

I myself do not have an answer to that question, but it strikes me as something that the article should have explored for the readers.

So why didn't they?

Because it would obviously take away from the very dramatic presentation of an event that none of us have any clue regarding its accuracy.

The next event that was described was Harrison's alleged reaction to fans who persisted to bug him for an autograph...

On the evening of Feb. 10, 2005, three nights before the Pro Bowl, he and two men were walking along a row of stores at the Hilton Hawaiian Village hotel in Honolulu. According to a police report—and a witness—Harrison was talking on his cell when a group of teenage fans asked for his autograph. Harrison declined, and when the fans kept pestering him, he and his friends turned on them. The Pro Bowler took a swing at one fan, then grabbed him by the throat and put an arm around his neck. After more scuffling, Harrison and his friends ran off, leaving one of the teenagers beaten.

"I was walking about three feet behind these kids," the witness told The Magazine. "Harrison and his friends acted like real punks."

Despite the police report, Honolulu's prosecuting attorney didn't press charges. "We couldn't prove them beyond a reasonable doubt," says deputy prosecutor Renee Sonobe Hong.

Again, the logical question that comes to mind is to wonder how criminal charges were never made, despite the account of an eyewitness?

We all are aware that famous athletes can avoid being prosecuted to the same extent that a less famous (and less wealthy) person might be. Even so, to imply that two serious altercations like this happened without a proper credible foundation is both negligent and unprofessional of any writer, much less writers who write for such a well known publication.

Whether or not you believe that Marvin Harrison is guilty of any of the above three mentioned altercations is the right of each individual to decide. One thing that I hope everyone can see however, is the blatant bias against Harrison depicted in this article.

It's a shame to see an article so well written, be so filled with such erroneous hearsay.

There are two sides to every story. Rest assured, ESPN only presented one.