After the Milwaukee Bucks' triumphant opening night against the Philadelphia 76ers, fans were treated to a video supposedly featuring Damian Lillard discussing his desire to join Milwaukee and play alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo. "Ain't nothing I want more," claimed Lillard in the clip.
"I told you when I first came here, I ain't come here to waste my time." It was a captivating moment that seemed like a dream scenario for a player eyeing an NBA Championship.
The catch? Lillard never uttered those words, at least not within the last two years, and he certainly wasn't referring to Milwaukee. As it turns out, the video was recorded in the NBA Bubble back in 2020 when Lillard was still with the Trailblazers. ESPN digitally altered the footage, replacing the original reporter with an ESPN microphone and transforming Lillard into a Bucks player.
The altered video was then shared on Twitter after the recent game, creating confusion among viewers. ESPN later admitted to the manipulation in a statement, clarifying, "We occasionally look to connect sports moments of the past with contemporary imagery and storylines as part of our social content. While it was never our intention to misrepresent anything for fans, we completely recognise how this instance caused confusion."
However, the intention behind the video's alteration raises questions. Why make it appear as if Lillard was wearing Bucks gear and standing on the Milwaukee floor if not for misrepresentation? Despite ESPN characterising it as connecting past moments with current narratives, the unnecessary creation of this video for mere clicks and social media shares raises ethical concerns. The failure to disclose the alteration compounds the issue, making the entire post seemingly unforgivable.
The ethical challenges brought to light by ESPN's questionable judgment highlight broader issues within sports media and news media overall. The perception of sports as entertainment rather than news poses a dilemma, where the justification for blurring ethical lines is based on the idea that sports are just for fun. This attitude seems to have influenced those in the sports media space, as evidenced by the approval of the Dame video at ESPN. With the decline of shows focused on investigative reporting in sports, such as ESPN's Outside the Lines and HBO's Real Sports, the space for genuine journalism in sports media is diminishing.