|This is my final response to the "controversy"
over whether all photos from every game should be posted online. My
position on the subject (explained below in my original response) has not
changed but I have decided to take down the photos for reason's I'm not
going to discuss publicly. I have a unique position in this because
I sit right in the middle. I hear comments from the Burlington side and
the Colchester side and from the media side and from the student's side
etc... and one thing becomes very clear to me. Everyone just needs to move
on. There are two sides to every story and in this case, the two sides
will clearly never agree on what actually happened or the history behind
why it happened so I see no reason to keep dragging this through the mud
(no I'm not referring to the soccer fields at CVU!). Although it is NOT
why I am removing the photos, the longer we keep up the "should the
photos be online" debate, the longer this drags out. The amount of
misinformation floating out there surrounding the players involved and
what happened is staggering. It's become like the childrens game
"telephone tag" where by the time the information reaches the
end of the line it's so inaccurate it becomes laughable. That's just not
fair to either player involved especially when we're talking about high
school players with bright soccer futures ahead of them. A part of me
feels like that is why my photos HELP the situation because people who
were not there can judge for themselves but even that is not foolproof.
Photos can lie. Photos don't capture intent. Photos can be deceptive.
(We've all seen a photo on a tabloid that shows a "fat" Jennifer
Anniston because the photographer got the shot at just the right angle but
really she's not fat). But again, even if my photos DO help dispel the
rumors, it just becomes one more day of people debating it and one more
day that this drags through the fields at CVU...umm, I mean the mud. As
someone who sits totally neutral in this and has heard all the myths and
rumors and truths and untruths from all sides, I'm tellin ya...the best
thing is to move on. Wipe the slate clean and start over. I don't care
what's on the video and I don't want to see it. To that end, I won't leave
this response up very long. Just long enough for the people that want to
know what's up can read it.
I want to make it very clear that when I talk about rumors and such that I am NOT referring specifically to the players themselves or the parents of the players involved. The parents on both sides have been great to me about it and I've had no contact with either player and only know both as great soccer players from watching them. I've never, ever seen either player act like that before and would have nothing but good things to say about both based on what I've seen on the field. If I could comment to both players in person I would tell them that this incident does NOT define who they are as soccer players or as people. I know a lot of people around high school sports and both players have reputations as great soccer players. I know for a fact that coaches, refs and players won't look at you any different going forward. People involved in the sport get that it was a classic "heat of the moment" situation in a hard fought playoff game. Had you guys made arrangements to meet in the parking lot after the game to settle the score, people would have a different take on it but based on what actually happened you both come out ok. Nobody is condoning what happened but again, in the heat of the battle sometimes you do things you regret. Heck, one of the most famous sports photos of all time is Larry Bird and Dr J choking each other (see below) and both Larry and Dr J are two of the most beloved figures in sports. Bird is clearly the better of the two players...but I digress.
|Before I end this, I need to make three more comments (this
part might ruffle feathers so if you are squeamish, look away). One to all
the people that emailed me since I posed my "letter", one to BHS
and the other to the parents who were in the stands during the infamous
First to all the people that sent emails...Wow. Unbelievable how many and how well written they were. 99.9999% of them were positive and in favor of keeping the photos up. I do feel like I am letting you people down by taking the photos down but all I can say is trust that I have a good reason. Yes, I totally agree that I have every right to post them and yes I am a defender of the first amendment and yes, if this ever got legal, I'm extremely confident I was doing the right thing. But again, just trust that I am now doing the right thing by taking them down and helping the healing process.
To the administrators/coaches at BHS...I'm not taking the photos down and caving because of the "pressure" you put on me. The "pressure" you put on me only makes me want to keep them online longer. Keep that in mind when you deal with similar situations in the future. Often when you push, it makes people want to push back. If I wanted to keep the photos up I would and I could. Period, end of sentence. For me it's real simple...I go to games and shoot what happens between the white lines and post them for kids and parents to enjoy. If you don't want me doing that for the BHS kids, just say the word and I'm gone. I'm not going to "lawyer-up" and drop gloves with you over this. It's not even remotely worth it for me. If I don't have to cover BHS games, it's just one less game I have to go to and 9 more holes of golf I can play with the free time. Balls in your court but remember...actions have consequences.
Lastly...to the ADULT fans in the stands at the CHS/BHS game (Student section at BHS was awesome during that game. No issues whatsoever). You all need to take a look in the mirror at your role in what happened during that game. Your constant chirping at the refs and opposing players after every slight contact between two players helped build up a frenzy in that game and created a "powder-keg" situation that was destined to blow. I was standing literally right next to the benches so everything I hear, the players are hearing. When a kid sits there and listens to their main authority figures telling them "how screwed" they are getting and how they need to fight back because the refs aren't doing anything about it etc...what do you think is gonna happen? I've been to thousands of high school games and that game easily ranks right up here with the most pathetic adult fan behavior I've seen. Soccer IS a physical sport. There IS constant contact. Every time two players collide, it's NOT a foul. Stop chirping every time two players touch and you will see that the game on the field will be played MUCH cleaner. Whether you are a relative of a player, a coach or the ball boy please, please know that your actions in the stands DO effect the game and also that even "regular voice" level comments travel down to the benches. I'd go so far as to say that I'd bet that if that game was played in a completely empty stadium, that fight never happens. One of the reason I think I got those photos (other photogs were there but none captured it) is because I could sense it coming. I was waiting for it to happen. The parents had whipped up such a frenzy that it was almost inevitable.
|Ok, I'm done. I'm moving on and I implore everyone involved to do the same. I know I've angered some, but I'm willing to live with the consequences of my actions. Below is the Bird/Dr J photo I was referring to...|
|** Note for any lawyers reading this: I don't think Jennifer Anniston is fat and I was just joking about the CVU soccer fields. Wet? Yes, but equal for both teams.|
|Below is my original response to posting the "fight" photos from the CHS/BHS playoff game posted on 10/29...|
Please note that any references in this letter to “Burlington” or “Colchester” people are NOT administrators or coaches, but parents. Both schools AD’s and administrators have acted professionally in discussing this issue with me.
As some of you are aware, there was a fight at the end of the Colchester vs Burlington girls soccer playoff game on Wednesday afternoon. While photographing that game, I captured a sequence of photos depicting that fight. In the 12 hours since the photos have been online, I have been besieged with phone calls and emails demanding that I take the photos down, telling me how terrible a person I am, questioning my integrity, threatening to “ruin my business” etc…
Here’s my problem. As a journalist, my role is to capture the events that unfold in front of me on the fields, courts and rinks. I don’t control what happens in the games, I simply record what happens in the game. That is my job. As a journalist, it starts to become a slippery slope when you are asked to “filter” the news that people are allowed to see. Keep in mind that less than a 100 people saw it live yet hundreds have heard about it and are drawing conclusions based on rumors. For those people, seeing photos helps them understand what really happened. It’s an extreme example but nobody would want a government that picks and chooses what you see on the nightly news, right? So where do I draw the line? What are people that don't attend the games live "allowed" to see? Can a parent of a player who commits a hard foul in a basketball game “make” me delete the photo of his son committing the foul so his son doesn't get a reputation as a dirty player? What about a ref and a coach face to face in an argument? Or what about a girl checking another girl in a hockey game? Am I “allowed” to photograph and publish those things?
The old saying “don’t blame the mailman for
bringing you your bills” fits this situation perfectly. I’m simply the
mailman, delivering the mail. Don’t blame me for what’s inside your
mailbox. In other words, if you don’t want to be photographed throwing
punches at another player…then don’t throw punches at another player!!
If you ride down Church Street naked on a bicycle, you can’t get mad at
people for taking your photo can you? All actions have consequences. If
you get in a fight in a high school playoff game, a consequence is that
you will get a red card and miss two games and chances are it will get
mentioned in the paper and chances are someone will photograph it.
So with that said, I don't know what to do. Do I cave to the "threats" made towards me and take the photos down? Do I hold onto my "journalistic integrity" and keep them up? In all honesty, had I been nicely asked, the photos would have already been down. I'm not looking to make any enemies or embarrass any high school athletes. BUT, I was so stunned by all the “hate mail” and calls I have received about this that I felt compelled to leave the photos online. And compounding my problem is that 100% of the "threats” and “you are a disgusting, pathetic person” emails I’ve received have been from the Burlington side. Not a single negative contact from the Colchester side. So I have to ask myself, what does that mean? And is the argument for me to delete the photos that kids are going to want to fight just so they can get on my web site? That's preposterous. I heard the same argument when I photographed and published the "streaker" at the MMU/SB game a few years back and unless I missed it, there hasn't been an outbreak of streaking since then.
To me, the bottom line is we're dealing with kids here and a lesson can be learned. That lesson is personal responsibility. If you screw up (and BOTH girls screwed up) you have to pay a price. What kind of message does it send if after a fight like that we try to get the red card reversed (according to Free Press reports) and we delete all evidence that the fight took place and try to pretend it didn't happen? I just don't see how it helps teach kids to do the right thing the next time because now they'll know if they screw up again, the coaches will try to get their suspensions reversed and all visual evidence will be deleted from public record. To me that scenario INCREASES the chances of another fight. If there aren't consequences than what's the incentive not to fight the next time?
And one last thing...I would never publish graphic photos of a bloody face or something like that. Those photos are really just a lot grabbing and pushing and to be honest there was far more contact in the game itself than in the fight. I'm NOT condoning fights in games and this is just my personal take but I think everyone should just relax, move on and laugh at ourselves. Life is way too short. I guarantee you 10 years from now...heck, next weekend, both these girls will laugh it off as a lesson learned (of course there won't be a lesson learned if we reverse the suspensions and delete all evidence of it happening).
If you have a comment or suggestion, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org