Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio calls out ESPN reporter

Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio addresses the media about the school’s handling of sexual abuse allegations, Friday, Jan. 26, 2018, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo)

To describe Michigan State’s relationship with ESPN as contentious would probably be underselling it.

Things bubbled up again on Tuesday when ESPN reporter Dan Murphy tweeted out a link to a story he wrote about William Strampel, a former MSU dean (and Larry Nassar’s former boss) who was charged this week with criminal sexual conduct. When Murphy initially tweeted the story out, a photo of MSU’s midfield logo was included. On the particular day that photo was taken, the Spartan logo included the No. 3 to honor former MSU punter Mike Sadler, who died in a car accident in July 2016.

That caught the ire of MSU head coach Mark Dantonio, who called out Murphy directly.

Here is what it initially looked like:

When the MSU fanbase understandably reacted negatively, Murphy explained (five hours before Dantonio’s tweet) that it was a stock photo that can generate automatically when a user clicks on a tweet.

But that didn’t stop Dantonio from calling Murphy out, and the photo was changed to one of Strampel after Murphy reached out to ESPN’s news desk.

As someone who works in online media, I can tell you Murphy’s reasoning is legitimate. For one, reporters at most outlets do not put together the article that actually goes on the website, and that includes selecting a photo. Whoever on ESPN’s news desk chose that particular photo probably thought it was a standard stock photo, but it was not.

This spat was the latest between MSU and ESPN in recent months. Things intensified in January when ESPN published a lengthy report detailing sexual assault allegations against a bevy of MSU athletes, including football players, and the school’s handling of those accusations. The report named Dantonio specifically. Soon after, the coach emphatically denied many of the details in ESPN’s reporting.

“Any accusations of my handling of any complaints of sexual assault individually are completely false,” Dantonio said. “Every incident reported in that article was documented by either police or the Michigan State Title IX office. I’ve always worked with the proper authorities when dealing with the cases of sexual assault. We have always had high standards in this program, and that will never change.”

More recently, John Engler, MSU’s interim president, said ESPN is “probably one of the worst offenders in the nation” when it comes to sexual assault in a March 17 exchange with a reporter. Engler previously called the January ESPN story a “sensationalized package of reporting.”

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Sam Cooper is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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