#39 — Henry Abbott (TrueHoop)
Hello! And welcome to another edition of the Inside The Newsroom podcast newsletter! Today’s guest is... Henry Abbott, founder of the TrueHoop basketball blog and newsletter! I’ve followed Henry’s work for a few years now, so I’m honoured to have him on. Henry and his team changed the way I and many others look at basketball, and TrueHoop is one of the few investigative outlets out there daring to tell the truth about sports.
TrueHoop is Back
After a two-year layoff, Henry and TrueHoop are back. In our discussion, Henry talked about what he learned and how he kept sane during his time away. The lesson: watch a buzzard circle outside the window and take stock of life. TrueHoop is one of the few sports investigative outlets out there and ESPN made a huge mistake by letting it go as part of its 2017 purge. But that’s the past. Henry and co. are back with more motivation to tell the truth about sports than ever before.
The Truth About Mikhail Prokhorov
In the first investigative series of the relaunch, Henry dug deep into the affairs of Brooklyn Nets owner and Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov. There is so so so much money involved in the major leagues right now and too few people investigating where this money came from. Henry went as far as to attend Putin Con (an actual thing), and also found himself in the office of Prokhorov’s lawyer, who just so happens to be Donald Trump’s lawyer as well.
What the F is Putin Con?
A conference where thousands of people attend to hear about the dangers of the Vladimir Putin administration. Who wants to go next year?
What’s Lurking in Your Stadium Food?
One of those few news outlets investigating sports is ESPN’s Outside The Lines, who have done countless power-altering pieces in the past. In their stadium food series, they investigated 111 professional football, baseball, basketball and hockey facilities across North America and found that at 28 percent of the venues, at least half had food outlets that incurred a high-level violation, including bugs and pests. They also include a neat tool that allows you to find out the violations at your nearest stadiums.
Talking of rich and powerful people, Henry referenced one of the books he read in his time off. Moneyland by Oliver Bullough details the pervasive use of tax havens and shell companies to hide money and ultimately evade paying tax. Again, completely anecdotal, but there seems to be an invisible shield around the owners of our teams and leagues that goes unchecked. Anyway, Moneyland has been added to the reading list.
The NFL is Bipartisan?
The NBA has ascended in recent years as the most progressive and open league in North America, and is part of the reason why I’m such a huge fan. But wearing my journalist hat makes me skeptical. A big reason why the NBA has grown in popularity is because of the NFL’s self-destruction when it comes to domestic violence, CTE and comparing black players to inmates. Like most things, it largely comes down to money, and as my former colleagues at FiveThirtyEight point out, the NFL is unique in that its fans transverse the political spectrum.
What is ‘Amygdala Hijack’?
In the podcast, Henry and I talk about why sports fans make dumb decisions that they wouldn’t otherwise make in real life. According to Henry, it comes down to ‘amygdala hijack’, which I’ll save myself from explaining and include the below video instead.
The ‘Donald Trump Effect’ on Journalism
The vicious attacks on journalism’s legitimacy and importance by Donald Trump and his administration have not gone unnoticed. The Washington Post reported that journalism school admissions have spiked since 2016, particularly for investigative and data tracks. This is good and I hope the folks entering the field keep their eyes open to injustices and corruption in sport as well.
To be confirmed…
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