Chris Arnold is a radio personality well known among sports fans in the Dallas area. Having been on the air since 1980, Arnold, along with his co-hosts run the show “The Fan’s G-Bag Nation”, a popular midday sports program on a CBS affiliated station and he is also a game night emcee for the Dallas Mavericks.
However, it was his writing duties that landed him the center of controversy.
Earlier this month, Arnold published a piece named “Damn Tony Romo” after a loss by the Dallas Cowboys. However, author Scott Kacsmar recognized the piece, or at least significant portions of it, as his own work. In all, Kacsmar counted some 15 paragraphs of his work in Arnold’s piece, all with only minor changes and updates.
Kacsmar called out Arnold via Twitter, which began a back and forth between the two. Arnold apologized for not crediting Kacsmar saying that he is “truly awesome” and inviting him to come on his show. Kacsmar declined and instead just asked for an apology on the show.
However, that apology didn’t come. Arnold served as emcee at the game that night, but afterward fell silent, not appearing on his show and not posting to his previously-active Twitter account. Many speculated that this would be the end of his career and that he wasn’t coming back at all.
While it’s possible CBS did suspend Arnold and investigate his prior work, the lack of a public statement makes that impossible to know for certain. Furthermore, the lack of public apology or correction gives the impression that CBS is attempting to sweep the matter under the rug.
But while this does a great disservice to Arnold and his station, both of which will have the cloud of unanswered plagiarism allegations over them for a long time to come, it also does a disservice to other sports commentators and sports writers, who work hard to ensure that their craft is treated the same as other forms of journalism.
By treating a serious ethical issue in a way that no respectable newspaper would, CBS is creating a separate ethics code for sports writers, one where ethics violations are treated much less severely. That sends a clear signal that sportswriting is not as serious or as duty-bound as other forms of journalism, hurting its status.
For sports journalism to be taken seriously, it must take its ethics seriously and that means dealing with issues such as this one directly and transparently, something CBS has clearly failed to do.