If you had Phil Jackson landing on his feet as President of the Seattle SuperSonics in the “What will Phil do next?” office pool, things may be looking up for you.
NEW YORK — The libel lawsuit I filed against Peter Vecsey and the New York Post has been settled out of court to the mutual satisfaction of all parties. An editor’s note appeared at the bottom of Vecsey’s column in last Friday’s print editions of the New York Post, and that editor’s note also appears online at the bottom of the original Vecsey column — “Knicks Don’t Have Best Shot at ‘Melo” — that I took issue with.
I will have no further comment on the settlement, and I have nothing negative to say about Mr. Vecsey.
But I do have a few things I want to say for the record.
We’ll start with a question: At what cost would you defend your reputation?
ESPN did not want me to file my lawsuit against Mr. Vecsey and the Post, which they made clear to me after I objected to the strong words he used in criticizing my well-sourced story from Dec. 14, 2010 that Carmelo Anthony, if he was traded, would only sign a maximum contract extension with the New York Knicks. I never wavered from that story, and it was dead-on.
Several top editors at ESPN knew who my primary source was, and they, too, were displeased with the tone of Mr. Vecsey’s column. But they told me they were on the other side of libel law, they were busy defending themselves against several time-consuming and costly libel suits, and they could not be on both sides of the fence.
Here’s what I wrote to the managing editor of ESPN.com in an e-mail: “As you understand from our conversations, I feel I must protect my reputation as a journalist. I have spent 24 years building it, and if I am to maintain my professional integrity, I must defend myself.”
So I rocked the boat at ESPN, my contract subsequently ended, and I no longer work there.
And that’s fine with me, because I spent six years there, five of which were wonderful and the last of which was not. And when you are unhappy in your job, it is best to move along. That is also what I needed to do in 2005 after 18 years at the Associated Press.
So moving along is what I am doing, running a Web site with high-quality content from some of the most distinguished veteran writers in the business (between myself, Mark Heisler, Jan Hubbard, Chris Bernucca and Chris Perkins, we have nearly 100 combined years of journalism experience), and I am doing so with my dignity and my principles intact.
When I decided to rock the boat, for me it was a question of whether the reputation of the name “Sheridan” was more important to me than the name “ESPN.” Like Mr. Vecsey, I am a second-generation journalist. And as much as I wanted to protect my own name, I also wanted to protect the legacy of my dad, who spent 30 years at The New York Times and was one of the most highly respected newsmen to grace the third floor of the old Times building on West 43rd Street.
When I first filed my complaint, I was covering the NBA labor negotiations. The day after the news broke, commissioner David Stern was holding a news conference and asked me from the podium: “Did you really sue Peter Vecsey?” I told the commissioner it was not the time or place to discuss the issue (it was being broadcast live on NBA-TV), but we had a conversation about it later, and I explained to Stern how I believed a journalistic line had been crossed.
I wish ESPN had my back on this, but they chose not to.
I chose to stand up for my principles anyway, come what may.
It was a decision that has impacted my family and my journalistic career, and I do not regret it one iota. Sometimes, you have to stand up and defend your integrity and your reputation. So I will move forward in my career without looking back. The aim here is to build a better basketball Web site, and if this is your first time visiting, have a look around. Lots of talent here, not a lot of schlock.
Thanks to all those who have been supportive.