The news broke Saturday night, blaring across TV screens, laptops and phones all over the country — including those held by fans at an Indianapolis Colts preseason game. The message was some variant of BREAKING: ANDREW LUCK RETIRING, and the source was ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Filed to ESPN: Andrew Luck has informed the Colts he is retiring from the NFL, per source. There will be a press conference Sunday to make it official, but Luck is mentally worn down, and now checking out.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 25, 2019
That scoop, in turn, led to the surreal scene at Lucas Oil where fans stared at their phones, then looked down at Luck on the sideline in street clothes. Disbelief turned to rage, and fans booed Luck as he walked off the field to an impromptu press conference.
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) August 25, 2019
Schefter took some heat for reporting the news in the middle of a Colts game, inciting the boos and, well, there’s no other way to put this: hurting Luck’s feelings.
Lest there be any doubt: Schefter was absolutely correct to report the news as soon as it was verified, regardless of whether Luck was standing at a podium, on the sidelines of a preseason game, or in the delivery room waiting on the birth of a child. It’s not Schefter’s obligation to hold news out of deference to Luck or the Colts.
The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch talked to Schefter the day after the news broke, and Schefter offered up a timeline of events. He noted that Luck had begun informing teammates as early as Thursday, and expressed some surprise that it hadn’t broken any earlier than Saturday evening. When Schefter got the confirmation he needed, he filed the news to ESPN while out at a birthday party for his mother-in-law. ESPN’s desk sent the news out through all social channels, and from there, the story exploded.
“What’s amazing about it is that the Colts’ brass had a discussion earlier in the week and considered holding Luck’s retirement press conference Friday or Sunday at 3 pm,” Schefter told Deitsch. “They decided on Sunday, but some in the Colts’ inner circle worried that word would slip out before then. Frankly, it’s surprising that the information held up as long as it did, especially in this day and age. They did a great job keeping a secret.”
Thursday on “The Dan Patrick Show,” Schefter commented further on the timeline, and addressed the idea that he should have held back his news.
"I don't understand [the criticism],” Schefter said. “I'm at a surprise 75th birthday party for my mother-in-law. I apologize for not tracking a Bears-Colts preseason game." He added that restaurant workers were coming up to him for verification throughout the rest of the evening.
Colts fans have criticized Schefter for not giving Luck the opportunity to make his announcement at his own pace, which, while a sweet idea, has very little connection to reality. Schefter told Patrick he tried to contact the Colts about the story, but got no response.
It’s also worth noting that Luck could have called his own press conference at any moment Thursday, Friday or Saturday; it’s not Schefter’s place to serve as Luck’s social coordinator. While Schefter won’t, and shouldn’t, reveal his sources, whoever decided to leak him the information about Luck’s retirement bears plenty of responsibility here as well.
Bottom line: news demands to be out in the world, and when it’s league-rocking news like this, the team or player gets, at most, one shot to decide whether to control the narrative. The Colts and Luck had that chance earlier in the weekend when no one had any idea this was coming. By letting the story sit, they let the news work its way out from under their control.
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