ESPN Insider's response to the death of Alabama football player Aaron Douglas today was terrible. There's no other way to say it.
Douglas, a 21-year-old offensive lineman, was found dead in Jacksonville. The circumstances of his death are unknown.
On ESPN Insider's Crimson Tide news feed section of the Alabama football page, a headline read, "Shocker at LT." Below that was one line of text which read, "Possible starter found dead in Jacksonville, opening door for five-star signee Cyrus Kouandjio."
That headline links to the site's Rumor Central feature, though as of 3:10 p.m. ET, the story was removed.
One person—Holly Anderson, an editor for our rival SBNation.com, as it happens—tweeted a screenshot of the blurb that included a line below the rumor reading, "Subscribe to Insider for as low as $2.50/month to access the complete rumor." That line wasn't visible to me, even when I looked at ESPN.com on a browser that I've never used to sign in to Insider.
What an insensitive response.
A young man died, and the news is presented as nothing more than an on-field issue, something that affects football games. If Douglas had pulled his hamstring, the treatment would not have looked significantly different.
It took me a minute to figure out that "LT" in the headline meant "left tackle," not some place or event where Douglas might have been.
We don't even know how Douglas died yet. The report is so new, and the news is so fresh, it's possible Douglas' body is still in the place where it was found.
Yet, ESPN somehow called it an opportunity, an "open door," for the next man on the depth chart.
Then, if that screenshot wasn't doctored, they used it to advertise its subscription service? That's just revolting.
Update: As of 3:40 p.m. ET, the blurb had been replaced by one reading, "Alabama lineman Douglas found dead in Florida," with the subhead "Alabama offensive tackle Aaron Douglas was found dead in Fernandina Beach, Fla., early Thursday." The headline links to Chris Low's story, which is not behind the Insider paywall.
Update 2: Deadspin has posted the Rumor Central piece by Albert Lin that the original blurb linked to. It apparently had been pulled down before I checked Rumor Central, though the blurb pointing to it had not. The full two-paragraph piece is offensive in exactly the same ways.