By Katie Kieffer
When arch rivals like the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers go head-to-head, anything is fair game. Except cheating. Winning is the end-goal, but neither team will knowingly jeopardize its NFL standing.
There’s not a lot of love between the Bears and the Packs. This January, when the teams played each other in the NFC championship for the first time since 1941, we witnessed overblown name-calling and pompous chest-pounding.
Football fans live for match-ups that grant them the opportunity to Photoshop a bear eating a cheese wedge or a green-and-gold Pac-Man chasing down a bear to antagonize friends and coworkers rooting for the opposing side. Good-natured teasing and competition make these games fun. Sometimes it seems like anything goes, but, at the end of the day, cheating is off-limits.
What if—unbeknownst to Lovie Smith—one of the Bears’ sports doctors had accepted a bribe from someone deep within the Bears association to give the entire team performance-enhancing drugs (without the players’ knowledge) before the big game?
If this were leaked before the NFC Championship game, the NFL would have jumped in. Probes would have been ordered. Smith would have looked like a cheater at worst and incompetent at best. To make matters worse, what if the Packers took advantage of the Bears’ public relations predicament and went to the press with claims that the Bears won the 1985 Super Bowl by doping up? The Packers would instantly hurt the Bears’ reputation by casting doubt on their ethical standards.
Clearly, this never happened. No Bears sports doctor accepted doping bribes and the Packers didn’t slander the Bears. However, something very similar to my “what-if” scenario is happening right now to one of the most successful entrepreneurs and job-creators in the world, namely Rupert Murdoch.
Murdoch’s competitors are playing dirty. Instead of upping their game and trying to improve their journalistic standards, they are lowering themselves to the level of slanderous cheaters in a brazen attempt to knock Murdoch and his company News Corp. down.
Murdoch owns media companies all over the world and employs 53,000 people. His now inoperative British tabloid News of the World comprised less than one percent of his company’s holdings.
Allegedly, at least one employee within News of the World betrayed Murdoch and Murdoch’s key executives, including one employee who allegedly hacked into a missing 13-year-old girl’s cell phone and erased messages, thereby leading her parents to believe she was still alive.
Murdoch apologized profusely to the girl’s family and the public. He shut down News of the World. He refused to allow his other companies, such as Fox News, to downplay the scandal. His top tabloid executives stepped down. He dropped his $12 billion bid for British Sky Broadcasting. He submitted himself to questioning before Britain’s Parliament.
For this honorable behavior, his rivals in the media and politics have slandered his good name and chipped away at his job-creating ability.
Most people don’t have time to watch Murdoch and his key executives defend News Corp. in three-hour-long parliamentary committee meetings. Most busy people simply scan headlines and leading paragraphs of stories written by Murdoch’s competitors like the Guardian, the Washington Post, the New York Times, TIME Magazine and the Huffington Post. Sadly, these competitors paint Murdoch as a corporate cheater without sufficient evidence. Here are some key examples:
FBI Probe: U.S. politicians impulsively lent credibility to media allegations that Murdoch’s British outlets hacked phones of 9/11 victims. Their panic sparked an FBI probe. No substantive evidence backs up these horrendous allegations. If legitimate, these claims are oddly a decade late.
Source Inflation: TIME Magazine’s July 25 issue plasters Murdoch’s face on the cover under the headline “SCANDAL!” TIME cites several “anonymous” (and therefore non-credible) “public figures” with juicy examples of News of the World’s allegedly unethical behavior.
Besides anonymous celebrities, TIME cites Hugh Grant for this feature cover story. Yes, that pretty boy who needs a 20th Century Fox film script (think Nine Months) to sound witty.
TIME reports how Grant secretly records one former News of the World journalist stating that 20 percent of Scotland Yard takes bribes from tabloids. TIME implies that Grant caught an omniscient ex-Murdoch journalist on tape who somehow knows the exact percentage of underhanded dealings between journalists and law enforcement officials (impossible) and that Murdoch controls all British tabloid journalists (false).
Murdoch invests in high-quality journalism. Before acquiring The Wall Street Journal, he stated: “This is the greatest newspaper in America, one of the greatest in the world. It has great journalists which deserve, I think, a much wider audience.”
The evidence shows Murdoch plays to win the ethical way. His competitors in the media should follow the NFL’s lead: Teasing is fine, but slander and defamation are forms of classless cheating.