The McNair Story’s Other Angle?

The dial on the coverage of the tragic death of Sahel Kazemi and Steve McNair seems like it has been set on 11 for much of the past two weeks.

But while there have been thousands of column inches dedicated to Steve McNair–not all of them putting their authors or subject in the best light–most of them have spared Steve McNair’s legacy (and his family that survives him) from discussing some of the seedier aspects of his personal life, beyond the obvious affair with Kazemi.

It seems that maybe that angle getting lost in all the noise may not be all accidental after all.

Clay Travis, formerly of Deadspin.com, has a new post up on his website discussing The Tennessean‘s recent killing of a story that would detail, through the use of anonymous sourcing, the reported multiple extramarital relationships Steve McNair had with various women around town along with the more glowing portrayals he’s received since passing.

Travis puts forth that the paper killed the story because they didn’t want to rely on anonymous sourcing (not necessarily a bad thing, ethically) and didn’t want to deal with the public backlash that revealing “multiple” affairs would engender.

The Tennessean is denying such reports, but the whole discussion does really make one wonder what exactly this story is about.

I won’t call out specific writers, but many have seemingly made it seem as though Steve McNair is dead not because, if the murder/suicide theory is correct, his girlfriend was upset and severely troubled, but because he had a girlfriend in the first place.

I’m not going to condone cheating on one’s wife, but that’s an entirely separate matter from the violent events that ended McNair’s life.

The truth is that many people–athletes, politicians, the powerful, the everyday–cavort with those who they are not married to.

Do they deserve to die? That’s hardly a just punishment. So drawing some sort of causal link between Steve McNair having an affair and Steve McNair getting shot by his girlfriend is a pretty awful abuse of logic.

I’ve even read several writers pull out the old “nothing good happens after Midnight” line about Steve McNair, when he was apparently shot while asleep at home (just not his marital home) with the door locked.

This is not a player out at 3 AM who was targeted and violently slain because of gang involvement. He wasn’t at some club throwing cash around when a shooting broke out.

He was at home, asleep.

Was he in the wrong place at the wrong time? Of course.

Would he be alive if he never cheated? It seems very likely.

Does that mean that cheating somehow directly caused his death? No. He was doing something wrong, but things are not so black and white. Was what he did any worse than an athlete who drinks and drives?

This new wrinkle with The Tennessean just slams the point home more. I’m hesitant to call them out on anything that remains unconfirmed. They deny killing the story and that’s good enough for me.

But there may have very well been other women than Sahel Kazemi, at least according to various reports and rumors, and if you’re going to talk about Steve McNair, it’s not proper to simply gloss over the more unfortunately character wrinkles in what otherwise seems like a great guy.

Without knowing why (or if) The Tennessean really killed the story, it’s hard to comment much. But I do know that there has been a real lack of context in most of the McNair reports that I’ve read so far.

It’s easy to get caught up in this sort of things, but I do wonder why most of the media has been hesitant to really discuss the “other” side of McNair’s life while at the same time willing to say that he died because he made “poor choices,” as though he were courting death by vacationing with a 20-year-old.

If they truly have reports from multiple women who are willing to discuss their time with McNair (who can, of course, prove they were romantically involved with him) but are only refusing to have their name published–and they’re compelled by reasons beyond journalistic standards to withhold that information– then this certainly looks bad for the paper.

Anonymous sourcing is a touchy subject. On the one hand the public has the right to hear the truth about its public figures, especially one that died so tragically and so young. The public also has the right to vet the statements these women would make about McNair, but the women have the right to not have their names dragged through the media.

It’s a difficult ethical dilemma to wade through, and anonymous sourcing, in this regard (assuming the reporters do their due diligence) would solve these problems.

If The Tennessean won’t go that far as a rule, then that’s fair.

But some other paper probably will.

In my mind, though, the question is when will the schizophrenic media finally decide exactly what story they’re trying to tell: McNair, the charitable father tragically killed by a troubled woman? McNair, the fly by night playboy whose illicit personal life finally caught up with him? or the truth of it, which probably survives somewhere in the middle of those extremes?

You can guess which option I’d prefer.

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