Jay Mariotti: Lawyer Finally Speaks, But Is He Already Guilty to Public?

Adam LazarusSenior Analyst ISeptember 14, 2010

Jay Mariotti: Lawyer Finally Speaks, But Is He Already Guilty to Public?

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    After several weeks of silence, Jay Mariotti’s “camp” has finally spoken about the allegations against him. According to the LA Times, Mariotti’s attorney claims that the domestic-violence claims against Mariotti—made by his girlfriend—are entirely false.

    Mariotti was arrested on August 21, 2010 and charged with seven misdemeanors: four of which were domestic violence charges. Yesterday, Mariotti’s attorney told the LA Times that Mariotti’s girlfriend was intoxicated and “abusive.”

More From Mariotti's Lawyer

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    Mariotti will be arraigned in a Southern California court on Friday.

    Although—at this moment—it would appear that this is a case of “he said, she said” for a public figure like Mariotti, the incident will likely do irreparable damage to the sports writer/ESPN talking-head, regardless of whether or not the allegations are true.

    As is the norm, Mariotti has been unofficially suspended from his duties for both ESPN and AOLFanhouse.com, for whom he currently writers.

    When news like this breaks in the sports world, political world, entertainment world, etc., there is often a guilty-until-proven-innocent cloud hanging over the defendant. Mariotti’s recent episode seems to be one of those cases.

    Has he already been convicted in the public’s mind? Here are 10 reasons why the answer is yes.

No.10: Ozzie Guillen

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Setting Ozzie Guillen off doesn’t take much but when the two had a very public incident a few years ago, it didn’t really help people like Mariotti any. He certainly didn’t seem to be the “Victim”: the problem rested with the use of an unacceptable slur by Guillen: I don’t think anyone felt sorry for Mariotti.

    Although it wasn’t really his fault, BECOMING part of a story is never a good thing for any reporter and it became another non-sports related line on Mariotti’s resume. Mariotta hasn't really let the feud go, either: he criticized Gullen in an article entitled: "Hold Your Nose When Ozzie Tackles Serious Topics." Mariotti should simply never write about Guillen again, unless it is about baseball.

No.9: His Resignation from the Chicago Sun-Times

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    When Mariotti left the Sun Times in 2008, he seemed to have burned a whole bunch of bridges. Not just within the publication for which he wrote for 17 years but within the entire publishing industry. He essentially declared print newspapers dead, then did so again on a local Chicago television station.

    Yes Roger Ebert, his former colleague, publically blasted him for it (among other things) but Mariotti offended or at least irritated countless more with the claim. It doesn’t matter if Mariotti is right or wrong about his prognostication regarding the future of sports journalism. Saying what did, in his final article, on his way out the door, was the wrong way to express his opinion and the public remembers that poor taste in their mouth.

No.8: Woody Paige

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    Those who watch Around the Horn, probably recognize Mariotti and Woody Paige as much (if not more) than anyone, even the host. On any given episode they are the two who usually bicker/banter back and forth.

    Mariotti’s other-half on the show, Paige, was accused of sexual harassment a few years back and although the case was dismissed, the allegation has not been entirely forgotten. Like Paige, Mariotti might be considered guilty-by-association….even though neither man has been convicted of anything.  

No.7: The Internet Aka Mariotti’s Vision of the Future

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    This really has nothing to do with Mariotti directly; the internet is a pretty diligent historian.  But it is ironic that when Mariotti left the Chicago Sun Times he basically said that the internet was the future of sports journalism. Why ironic?

    Because no matter what transpires with these seven misdemeanors, many people will remember that he was arrested and charged for them. But anyone who forgets and does a simple Google search of Mariotti or enters his name on Wikipedia will be instantly reminded of what happened. As far as we know, the internet isn’t going anywhere soon and on the web, there is no wiping away what happened.

    Much like those old and long-forgotten newspapers that our grandparents once told us about [speaking facetiously here] when an unvalidated scandal breaks on the front page and the subsequent retraction is printed 2 weeks later on page 17 in small font, most people don’t notice it. If he is acquitted, more articles about his ARREST will have been written than about his acquittal or dismissal of the charges.

No.6: No Measureable “Comeback”

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    A still-active athlete has a built-in advantage in image-rehabbing that most people don’t have. Assuming they are allowed to continue practicing their craft, they can rehab their image by performing. If Tiger won the Grand Slam this year, it would do wonders for his image.

    He may never be seen as a choir boy but millions would still cheer for him again. That certainly fortifies the public image if it doesn’t entirely rebuild it. The same with Ben Roethlisberger: if the Steelers win 2 more Super Bowls, he will bring more people back to his side simply because they are fans of his play. What can Jay Mariotti do to rehab his image? He can’t win a Super Bowl or the Masters.

    He might reclaim a post writing features, but it doesn’t matter if it was for the New York Times or the East Overshoe Daily Shopper, no one will be “rooting” for him. There is no real way to tangibly measure his revival, like Super Bowl rings or Green Jackets being adorned amidst the cheers of millions.

No.5: His Silence

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    No doubt his lawyers told him not to say a word about the arrest or the charges. There is a reason he is (likely) paying them a huge fee: they know what types of statements can be used against him down the road. But even his lawyers waited a long time to comment on the issue: nearly 3 weeks.

    The unequivocal denial of the charges by his lawyers helps Mariotti in the public eye—at least they didn’t go with a “no comment” or “we will wait for the truth to come out in court” and nothing else—but not much. If Mariotti publically disputed the charges in front of cameras and reporters we would be much more likely to believe his innocence, even before a trial.

    Again, he is most likely following his lawyers instruction but by doing so he missed an opportunity to convince the public.   

No.4: Apparent Hypocrisy

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Less than three weeks before he was arrested for several counts of domestic violence, Mariotti wrote a column on AOLFanhouse.com entitled “For Acts of Violence, MLB Much Too Soft.” Mariotti chastised MLB and especially Commissioner Bud Selig for not issuing harsh enough penalties against Johnny Cueto and Francisco Rodriguez, two major leaguers who were involved in violent actions.

    This isn’t a case of karma coming back to bit Mariotti. Instead (again, if the allegations are true) it’s another instance where Mariotti lacks integrity….another—albeit much less significant—charge against Mariotti’s growing collection.  

No.3: ESPN Doesn’t Need the Headache

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    Kevin Winter/Getty Images

    Although he is (was?) a featured columnist for AOL and a longtime columnist for a major publication like the Chicago Sun Times Mariotti became a NATIONAL sports commentator by joining ESPN early last decade. Depending on how it plays out (will the charges simply be dropped or will he have to go to trial and be acquitted, which is a whole lot trickier in terms of rehabbing the image) many people will take their lead from ESPN. 

    If the charges are dropped and they welcome him back on the air immediately, he will be likely considered “innocent”; if they don’t bring him back—after being LEGALLY acquitted—he will still be guilty in the public’s eye.  The Worldwide Leader has been through a handful of these issues with their on-air faces. Some are not illegal and simply embarrassing like Dana Jacobs.

    Others are very serious like Erin Andrews: yes Andrews was the victim and not the accused but it was still another case where ESPN had to address issues about their personnel that had nothing to do with sports. Rather than have to publicly defend Mariotti (guilty or not) they might simply cut him loose.

No.2: Domestic Violence Is Always A Deal Breaker

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    For whatever reason, some scandal-related image injuries are easier to rehab (drugs, alcohol, infidelity, assault) than others. But there are some missteps that you can never recover from in the public’s eye. A celebrity who commits murder, rape or domestic assault, is pretty much persona-non-grata for the rest of their public life. If Mariotti is found guilty of these charges, he can’t simply apologize or go to rehab to recover.  

No.1: Mariotti Is Just Unlikable

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    In addition to some of the aforementioned incidents, Mariotti’s just not a very likeable sports commentator. The image I have of Mariotti, by watching Around the Horn, is of him pointing into the camera (didn’t he seem to do that a lot?) screaming at someone: either the host or another member of the panel.

    But I can understand him getting fired up and loud and even angry while doing a (somewhat) live television show defending his beliefs. What’s far more frustrating about Mariotti is that his curmudgeonly attitude oozes out of his writing as well.

    I went back and looked at some of his most recent AOLFanhouse articles and virtually each one was negative: “Darrelle Revis or Albert Haynesworth: Who’s the Bigger Dummy”, “…Tiger Woods Should Go Away”, “After All the Shame, Pitino Should Resign”, etc. No one says journalism has to be all flowers and praise—far from it; nothing is worse than reading an article about how perfect someone is. But most people love sports because of what’s GREAT, not what’s awful.

    Perhaps Mariotti just wishes for a purer sporting world—which is fine—but non-stop complaining and borderline hatred of everything is only going to annoy and alienate most fans.