by Irvin Muchnick
I’ve been lambasting Missouri Southern State University in Joplin for not telling the public if and how it dealt with this summer’s death of Braeden Bradforth at Garden City Community College in Kansas in the process of hiring head football coach Jeff Sims to jump from Garden City to Missouri Southern.
The topic is important, of course, because Sims had been representing Bradforth’s collapse following the first day of practice as the result of a “blood clot” and an act of God — whereas last week’s Finney County coroner report established that it was an exertional heat stroke episode. I’d hate to be the GCCC defense lawyer who will have to fend off what seems an inevitable wrongful death lawsuit by the mother, Joanne Atkins-Ingram.
It turns out that MSSU has issued a public statement. Well, half public and half in stealth.
First let’s dispose of the statement. Then we’ll get to “the rest of the story”: its spineless, kid-gloves handling by the Joplin media, led by the Joplin Globe newspaper.
“Missouri Southern State University,” reads the statement, “joins Garden City Community College in mourning the death of their student-athlete, Braeden Bradforth, in August. MSSU was aware of Bradforth’s death when then-GCCC head football coach, Jeff Sims, interviewed at Missouri Southern in October 2018. Coach Sims shared with MSSU his recollection of the circumstances surrounding Bradforth’s death, including the timeline and comments made by the attending physician. We believe this is a matter for Garden City Community College and the Bradforth family to resolve. Our hearts go out to the family and the Garden City community.”
There are so many things wrong here. For starters, the statement regurgitates the Sims spin from August — “comments made by the attending physician.” These are more properly labeled comments Sims alleges were made by a doctor in the emergency room. But regardless: they’re now established as inaccurate, inoperative, 180 degrees off. Bradforth did not die of a blood clot. He died of heat stroke. MSSU blissfully lets the inaccuracy dangle and ignores the new facts giving rise to the statement in the first place.
Oh, and then there’s the small matter of MSSU’s questionable due diligence in now exposing its own student-athletes to the Sims brand of reckless endangerment. “We believe this is a matter for Garden City Community College and the Bradforth family to resolve.” Lovely.
Shame on Missouri Southern State University.
Now here’s the sidebar on the enabling news media. The way I just learned about the statement in the last couple of hours is not because the university put it into general release. (Officials there, from the athletic director to the president to members of the Board of Governors, altogether stopped responding to my queries.) The way I learned was in a peculiar series of communications with Jared Porter, a sportswriter for the Joplin Globe.
In the last 24 hours the Globe website posted the generic Associated Press wire service article about the Garden City autopsy. This is the same story that has run now in newspapers across the country, including USA Today and the Charlotte Observer. I do not know if the AP account also found its way into the Globe print edition.
As part of a routine sweep of mainstream media coverage and lack of same, I late this morning emailed reporter Porter and sports editor Jim Henry to ask if they intended to pursue the angle of the Sims hire at MSSU, now that the Globe had informed its readers about the pathology finding in college football conditioning’s most recent death, and 36th this century.
I never received a reply email. Almost immediately, however, Jared Porter started following me on Twitter. Naturally, I followed him back.
By Twitter direct message, I asked him if he had gotten my email message and had an answer.
“We are aware of the matter,” Porter DM’d back in part, “and currently gathering the facts we need to run a story soon.”
Porter then added: “I’m sure you’ve already seen the first statement from MSSU. It was released to the Globe yesterday morning and has been posted to the KZRG Joplin [news-talk radio] website.”
Actually, I didn’t know. I’d seen the AP story at the KZRG website in my Google hits, but I hadn’t looked closely enough to notice that the MSSU statement was appended to it.
But this wasn’t the only curious aspect of the statement. An equally pressing problem was, who else had the statement? And why hadn’t the Joplin Globe itself published the statement? It is, after all, what is known as newsworthy.
Porter: “My apology, Irvin. I’m mistaken on the timing. Seems the statement was published by KZRG yesterday morning but the Globe was not aware of it until after publishing hours.”
Additionally, Porter said he couldn’t elaborate on how soon the Globe would be publishing a story on Sims and the Bradforth death as it related to the MSSU hire. “Not my call.”
I think the only thing left is Porter’s coda complaint that I had been “baiting” him. Really? I email the dude; he ignores the email but follows me on Twitter; he reverses field more than Gale Sayers in his prime; and he concludes by taking exception to my interpretation of his answer to a question that by this point had morphed into a two-parter — with bad answers in both parts.
At http://muchnick.net/jaredportertwitter.pdf, you can read the whole Twitter DM thread and decide for yourself. One person’s “baiting” is another’s journalism a la mode. And 101.
DEATH OF BRAEDEN BRADFORTH — CHRONOLOGICAL HEADLINE LINKS