ESPN Cuts Ties with Reporter Accused of Fraud
Sports tweeps and bloggers had a field day today after news broke that ESPN.com columnist Sarah Phillips may be a fraud.
A widely circulated report by sports site Deadspin examined suspicions that Phillips, whose profile indicates she is an attractive twenty-something sports fan, may be an alias or a cover for someone else.
ESPN abruptly ended its association with Phillips after release of the explosive story. Despite her pink slip, the Phillips story grew wings and got crazier by the hour.
Update: "We've ended our freelance relationship" with Sarah Phillips, ESPN spokesman says. deadspin.com/5906658— Deadspin (@Deadspin) May 1, 2012
According to the expose, ESPN hired Phillips, a purported West Coast college student and hardcore gambler, in 2011 after reading her work at Covers.com, a gambling site. Deadspin reports that no one at Covers or ESPN ever met Phillips face to face or conducted a background check before hiring her as a freelance writer.
Deadspin reporter John Koblin claims that Phillips, in addition to alleged fraud, may have committed extortion. She also reportedly scammed owners of popular Facebook and Twitter accounts into handing over their admin rights.
The question of Phillips' true identity remains unanswered, leaving a myriad of other questions. A Bleacher Report column points out how the Phillips scandal raises new concerns for online journalism:
Welcome to the new age of Facebook, Twitter and online journalism, where an avatar and some witty zingers typed out in 140 characters or less can make you famous.
Everyone online seems to have a theory (or a joke) about Phillips. Whether she is a fictional character conjured up by (fill in the blank) or a con artist who successfully duped ESPN, Phillips took to her (unverified) Twitter account this evening to tell her 65K followers:
Today was a good day. I was able to evaluate everything and move away from sports media. You live and learn. I'm just a fan now.— Sarah Phillips(@SarahPhilli) May 2, 2012
If Phillips is in fact a college student in the middle of something outside her control, it's too bad. But if the allegations are true, and she is the figment of someone's imagination, the fraud will greatly impact the credibility of bloggers. If you want to get up to speed on the whole Phillips controversy, Deadspin has updated its original report.