By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — DeflateGate was a long, hard few years for everybody. It took its toll on some more than it did others. And it nearly cost Peter King his job of nearly 30 years.
King, who’s leaving Sports Illustrated for NBC, spoke on Richard Deitsch’s sports media podcast and said that his reporting error in the throes of DeflateGate led to him writing up a letter of resignation for his bosses.
King lumped in his DeflateGate error with his reporting error during the Ray Rice situation. Here’s what he said:
“If I were a person looking at me, I would say you’ve done two things that have been really wrong, and they both have been in favor of the NFL. And I would understand that. I got a significant fact in the Ray Rice story wrong, when he visited the league office and had his hearing. And then I got a significant fact wrong when I confirmed Chris Mortensen’s story about the footballs being more than 2 pounds under pressure,” King said. “And in both cases, I admit it, I admitted it. In one case — the Patriots’ case — I offered my resignation to [SI editor] Chris Stone, and they said no. But I would’ve resigned. Because that is something you cannot get wrong. I got it wrong.”
King upped the self-flagellation level as he continued.
“I deserve all the criticism for that that comes my way, and I don’t shy away from it,” King said. “And when I think of my career at SI, those are two things I’m ashamed of. Totally ashamed. Because that can’t happen — you can’t get facts like wrong. Was I told something by someone I trusted that turned out to be wrong? Yes. It’s not their fault; it’s my fault. No one cares why you got something wrong. I got it wrong. If the source that I talked to was wrong, it doesn’t matter. I got it wrong.”
For background, on Jan. 23, 2015, King wrote this:
“I am told either 11 or 12 of New England’s footballs (ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported it was 11, and I hear it could have been all 12) had at least two pounds less pressure in them. All 12 Indianapolis footballs were at the prescribed level.”
When the Wells Report was released months later, it revealed that just one out of the 22 readings taken on the 11 Patriots footballs came in at two PSI under the allowable limit. Also, three out of eight readings on the four tested Colts balls came in under the lowest allowable level of 12.5 PSI.
By the time the Wells Report was released to the public, though, much of the national storyline had already been written, and there was no going back.
On Ray Rice, King reported in July 2014 that Rice’s wife “made a moving and apparently convincing case to [Roger] Goodell during a June 16 hearing … that the incident in the hotel elevator was a one-time event, and nothing physical had happened in their relationship before or since. She urged Goodell, the source said, to not ruin Rice’s image and career with his sanctions.”
Some four months later, after Rice’s appeal was heard before a judge, King retracted that report, stating “My source was incorrect. … Janay Rice was asked only one question during the hearing — how she felt — and she cried and said, ‘I’m just ready for it to be over.’ I regret the error, and should have vetted the story further before publishing the account of one source.”
King also corrected himself that year after he reported that the NFL had seen the video of Rice striking his wife — who was his fiancee at the time of the incident — in the elevator prior to TMZ’s release of the video.
Those latter two reporting errors regarding Ray Rice and domestic violence would seemingly be considered slightly more important than inflation levels of footballs. Yet it was the reporting of some slightly erroneous information on PSI levels that drove King to offer his resignation.
Two reporting snafus about a high-profile domestic violence case? Oopsy-daisy. A fractionally inaccurate reporting about PSI? I resign.
Nothing more perfectly encapsulate the nonsensical madness that was “DeflateGate” more than that right there.