Now That Sports Illustrated Is Committed to ‘Updating Accordingly’ Its Erroneous Coach Jeff Sims-Fed Spin on the Cause of Braeden Bradforth’s Death, When Will the Magazine Decide to Do a, Like, Accountable Story About It?

Published December 14th, 2018, Uncategorized

by Irvin Muchnick

 

A Sports Illustrated writer yesterday told the family of Braeden Bradforth that she would “update accordingly” an August online article that colluded in throwing the public off the scent of what happened in his death just after the first day of football practice at Garden City Community College in Kansas. As of this morning, no such editorial revision was evident; perhaps the writer, Charlotte Carroll, meant that after she returns from vacation she’ll slap a new sentence at the end of the eight-paragraph item at https://www.si.com/college-football/2018/08/03/braeden-bradforth-garden-city-community-college-player-dies.

The Bradforth fatality happened on the watch of coach Jeff Sims, who is now at Missouri Southern State University, and who spun a tale of being told by an emergency room doctor that the 19-year-old defensive lineman from New Jersey had sustained a heart attack caused by a blood clot. Last month’s Finney County autopsy report put the lie to that one: Bradforth died from exertional heat stroke. And the publication this week of details from the paramedics’ report from the scene of the 911 call raises the stakes considerably — strongly suggesting that the Sims swerve was not ignorant but intentional.

That is why a tiny addendum by Carroll while no one is looking isn’t good enough. SI.com’s “Garden City Community College Freshman Dies Hours After First Practice” is near the top of the Google search list and plays an outsize role in shaping the public’s perception of what is a lot more than just another kid croaking in the middle of nowhere in the great game of football from who knows what. So “updating accordingly” amounts to a badly needed second chance at a first impression.

(In the 2014 football conditioning death of Ted Agu at the University of California-Berkeley, the challenge is even greater, since the coroner — after being misled by Cal team doctor Casey Batten, who didn’t disclose that Agu had sickle cell trait — actually got wrong the official finding of cause of death. Discovery and testimony in the family’s wrongful death lawsuit eventually embarrassed the county into an unprecedented revision of the autopsy more than a year later. Yet even today, when you google “Ted Agu death,” the answer comes up “hypertrophic cardiomyopathy” — not “exertional collapse associated with sickle cell trait.” In my Public Records Act lawsuit against the university, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Brand has scheduled a hearing next month on his tentative ruling that UC must release 141 related but secret campus police reports.)

And as I wrote just three days ago (the piece is reprinted below), Sports Illustrated has a special obligation to get the Braeden Bradforth story both right and complete, a decade after the 2008 death-by-football of a high school player from exertional heat stroke led to what is believed to be the only criminal prosecution ever of a coach for negligent homicide in conditioning drills. That case was featured in a long retrospective 2010 article at SI.

On a personal note, I am proud that the third publication of my freelance writing career, back in 1972, was in Sports Illustrated. As Casey Stengel would have said, you could look it up: https://www.si.com/vault/1972/04/24/612547/how-baseball-sent-its-hop-to-war. I’m also honored that the legendary late SI writer Frank Deford was a friend and booster — see http://concussioninc.net/?p=12043.

 

Echoes of Louisville High School Football Coach’s Reckless Homicide Prosecution in Exertional Heat Stroke Death Are Evident in Emerging Details About Coach Jeff Sims With Braeden Bradforth at Garden City Community College in Kansas

Published December 11th, 2018

by Irvin Muchnick

 

Last night Concussion Inc. broke the story of an emergency paramedics’ report describing the scene where Garden City Community College player Braeden Bradforth, who had collapsed and soon would be pronounced dead, was sprayed with a water hose at the direction of the coaches before the too-late 911 call.

The head coach, Jeff Sims — who now has jumped from the college in Kansas to Missouri Southern State University — erroneously, and perhaps with calculated disregard for the already heavily suspected truth, told news outlets that Bradforth had died from a blood clot that had no relation to football. But in fact, as the autopsy released two weeks ago firmly concluded, the young man expired from exertional heat stroke (EHS).

Bradforth is college football conditioning‘s (not games’ or contact scrimmages’) 36th authoritatively reported fatality this century. He is the third such student-athlete death this year, and the second (after the major media-scrutinized case of Jordan McNair at Maryland) in which EHS was the cause.

The documentation beginning to trickle out from Garden City suggests something else Bradforth may have been: a homicide victim.

Sims’s arguable agency in Bradforth’s death has strong whiffs of the facts in a 2008 high school football death in Louisville. There player Max Gilpin died of EHS sustained in a brutal conditioning session in the heat. Coach Jason Stinson was tried for reckless homicide and wanton endangerment. A jury acquitted Stinson at the criminal trial. The school district ultimately settled a wrongful death lawsuit by the family for $1.75 million.

The Stinson-Gilpin case was the subject of a 2010 Sports Illustrated article by Thomas Lake, “The Boy Who Died of Football,” which can be read at https://www.si.com/vault/2010/12/06/106012866/the-boy-who-died-of-football .

Our sports news outlets aren’t too comfortable when the realities of death and crime creep into core narratives of spectacle, fantasy, divertissementSI is among the better ones, sometimes providing longform thoughtful investigative takeouts long after the fact. These are usually highly literary efforts. As for investigations in real time, or even sharply critical parsing of initial official statements, so as to heighten public awareness of the systematic human cost of entertainment and to maximize the accountability of the industry’s worst actors … not so much.

On August 3, two days after Braeden Bradforth’s death, SI.com’s Charlotte Carroll wrote an account, much of it apparently cobbled from generic Garden City newspaper and wire service coverage, with this passage:

 

“While an autopsy will determine cause of death, Sims said an emergency room doctor told him a test was indicative of a blood clotting disorder. According to Sims, a blood clot likely broke free, traveled to his heart and caused him to have a heart attack.

‘Something that could have happened, anytime or anywhere,’ Sims said.”

 

But what SI.com quoted is now known to have been at best misleading and at worst a lie. So, four months later, have the magazine and writer Carroll caught up their readers with the truth in the public record?

The answer is no.

This morning I emailed Carroll, at what seems to be a good address for her, and asked whether she or SI.com were in the process of reporting on new developments in the Bradforth death. As this article was being published, I had not heard back.

Next, I’ll kick the query up to Sports Illustrated managing editor Chris Stone and let readers know what I hear back.

 

DEATH OF BRAEDEN BRADFORTH — CHRONOLOGICAL HEADLINE LINKS

http://concussioninc.net/?p=13441

 

Complete headline links to our Ted Agu series: http://concussioninc.net/?p=10877