A dozen top media encounters that rocked the sports world; from verbal spats to physical confrontations

The Tommy Lasorda and Jim Mora outbursts might be funny now; Others like Jim Everett-Jim Rome and Pete Rose-Jim Gray are not


Another month, another feud between sports figures and the media.

On June 23, Mickey Callaway and Jason Vargas of the New York Mets were involved in an altercation with a reporter following a loss to the Chicago Cubs.

The incident caused tensions between the team and the media, and was symbolic of the disarray of the franchise this season, as more reports surfaced about armchair managing by their general manager.

It triggers the thought: How does the interaction stack up against past feuds which range from good-natured to violent?

Here’s a list of the top 12 feuds that involved interviewers individually or media members as a whole.


Jim Mora’s “Playoffs?” (2001, Rant):

Potentially one of the most-referenced press conferences in NFL history. Indianapolis head coach Jim Mora went on a rant after asked by a media member about the unthinkable potential of his team qualifying for the playoffs, following a loss that had the club at 4-6. (Mora: “Playoffs? Don’t talk about—playoffs?! You kidding me? Playoffs?! I just hope we can win a game! Another game!”) The playoff episode was more a tirade and less a fit of directed anger. The were no ill-feelings or lingering antagonism. In 2006, for that matter, Mora’s outburst was used in a Coors Light commercial.

Marshawn Lynch and The Media (2014, Verbal):

Another football figure famous for press conferences was Marshawn Lynch, who was notorious for his reluctance to talk to the media, even though nothing out of the ordinary had occurred in the past between the media and the Seattle running back. During the 2014 season, he had three separate interviews in which he gave the same answer to every question, such as one in which he repeatedly said, “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.”

Lynch faced fines for his reluctance, although he didn’t seem to harbor any particular distrust of the media. In fact, he had some fun with his tight-lipped approach throughout the season. He granted an interview to Michael Silver in 2014 in which he revealed that his reticence came from the fact that he was forced to talk to the media rather than being able to choose to do so.

This was not the first instance of a player not engaging with media members. After Philadelphia Phillies’ pitcher Steve Carlton slumped with 20 losses in 1973, the media began to question his effectiveness. Starting in 1976, he refused to talk to the press for the rest of his time with the Phillies, which ended in 1986.

The New York Knicks were also fined $50,000 last month for refusing access to the New York Daily News for their post-draft press conference.

Stephen A. Smith and Kevin Durant (2014, Social Media):

When Oklahoma City free agent Kevin Durant considered his future during his last stretch with the Thunder, Stephen A. Smith linked him to the Los Angeles Lakers. Durant strongly denied it, saying that neither he nor anyone in his family talks to Smith, so that the talk-show host was lying. Smith responded, suggesting at one point to Durant, “You don’t want to make an enemy out of me.” After he signed with the Golden State Warriors, Smith called the signing, “the weakest move [he’s] ever seen from a superstar,” due to the fact that Durant was joining the defending champs, a team to which Durant and the Thunder had just lost to in the previous year’s NBA conference finals.

During his time with Golden State, Durant responded angrily on Twitter to fan criticism, demonstrating that it isn’t very hard to get under his skin. But the sharp verbal attacks by Durant and Smith struck nerves with both men.


12. Tommy Lasorda and The Nose (1976, Rant):

Former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda was well-known for his expletive-filled rants. In the early 1980s, when the Dodgers were in New York to play the Mets, a New York Daily News columnist who wrote under the pen-name of The Nose, criticized Lasorda for his tendency to hug his players and show emotion on the field. Lasorda was asked about the column and defended his on-field behavior while criticizing The Nose:

11. Bill Raftery and John Thompson (1988, Verbal):

As a fight broke out between players of Georgetown and Pittsburgh in a heated Big East basketball game, CBS announcer Bill Raftery said, “John Thompson (Georgetown coach) has to control his team.” It drew a response from Thompson the next day on a local TV station. Big John took umbrage to the comments and questioned Raftery’s tepid success as a Seton Hall coach. The two later made amends and worked together for years on Final Four radio broadcasts.

10. Gary Dolphin and Iowa Basketball (2019, Discipline):

In February, longtime University of Iowa broadcaster Gary Dolphin was suspended for the remainder of the season for referring to Maryland’s Bruno Fernando as King Kong. The incident occurred after Dolphin faced a two-game suspension the previous November for critical comments about the basketball program, heard on an open microphone during a commercial break, but not immediately on-air. Dolphin said that the comments made about Fernando were meant as a compliment, but he apologized for the connotation that the remark carried. Learfield Sports announced that Dolphin will continue to handle the broadcasting duties for Iowa Athletics next season.

9. Dick Young and Tom Seaver (1977, The Power of the Pen):

Certain news stories have the power to change history, and that’s what Dick Young did in a 1977 New York Daily News column about Tom Seaver’s contract dispute with the Mets. The powerful columnist was known for his frank style and support for team owner M. Donald Grant. Young wrote a set of columns, and the final one called Seaver “greedy.” Seaver had actually agreed to a new contract with the Mets the night before, but after the column appeared, he backed out of his contract and was traded to the Reds later in the day. Young and Howard Cosell had a long ongoing beef. The columnist would invariably refer to the broadcaster as Howie. 

8. Mickey Callaway and Tim Healey (2019, Verbal):

Following a loss to the Cubs on June 23, manager Mickey Callaway was criticized for leaving Seth Lugo in the game during the eighth inning, rather than replacing him with closer Edwin Diaz. In the locker room, Newsday reporter Tim Healey said to Callaway, “See you tomorrow, Mickey.” Callaway took it as a sarcastic crack and responded with expletives and threats. Jason Vargas joined in the spat. Both Callaway and Vargas were fined for the incident. Callaway reluctantly apologized, but Vargas has yet to apologize to Healey. The Mets’ skipper will not be fired as a result of the interaction, but Vargas’ future with the team is reportedly “in doubt.”

7. Ted Koppel and Al Campanis (1987, Eye-popping Revelation):

In an interview on ABC’s Nightline, Ted Koppel asked Dodgers’ General Manager Al Campanis about his thoughts on the racial disparity in managerial positions in baseball. Campanis responded, saying, “They may not have some of the necessities to be a, let’s say, a field manager or perhaps a general manager.” Koppel gave him several chances to retract his comments, but Campanis stood by them. African-American community leaders called for Campanis’ resignation, and the Dodger executive resigned less than 48 hours later. A remorseful Campanis later offered to help in Major League Baseball’s initiative to increase diversity within the league.

6. Tim McCarver and Deion Sanders (1992, Physical):

Tim McCarver criticized Deion Sanders for leaving the Braves during the postseason in order to fulfill his obligations as a two-sport athlete (NFL). Following the remarks, Sanders doused McCarver with four containers of ice water in the Braves’ locker room. The incident drew praise from his teammates and backlash from CBS and McCarver. The shock of the first dousing of water caused McCarver to pull a muscle in his back, and Sanders was fined $1,000 for the incident.

5. Richard Todd and Steve Serby (1981, Physical):

Steve Serby, a reporter for The New York Post, criticized then-Jets quarterback Richard Todd during the 1981 offseason, saying that the team would have been better off sticking with former quarterback Matt Robinson, who had been traded to the Denver Broncos two years earlier. During a scheduled media-availability period, prior to a practice, Serby approached Todd, reportedly to clear the air. However, Todd grabbed Serby by the throat and shoved him into a locker, resulting in a trip to the hospital for Serby and criminal charges against Todd that were later dropped.

4. Jim Gray and Pete Rose (1999, Verbal):

After Pete Rose was recognized for his selection to the All-Century Team, Jim Gray of NBC interviewed him on the field and offered Rose a chance to admit to widespread allegations that he had bet on games while he played and managed. Rose refused and attempted to keep the focus of the interview on his fans and the All-Century Team. But Gray in this post World Series telecast continued to probe doggedly. The interview lasted uncomfortably for over two minutes. Rose’s frustrations grew, saying that Gray “bombarded” him and calling the interview a “prosecutor’s brief.” Gray initially defended his questioning, but later apologized, saying the interview may have taken some of the joy from the situation. Gray’s questioning led Yankees outfielder Chad Curtis to refuse an interview with Gray following Curtis’ walk-off home run in Game 3 of the 1999 World Series.

3. Will McDonough and Raymond Clayborn (1979, Physical):

Another media-player, temper-flaring incident occurred in New England in 1979. Patriots cornerback, Raymond Clayborn, strutted through the locker room consciously shoving media members. Veteran Boston Globe reporter Will McDonough (Sean’s dad), looking after his cohorts, told Clayborn to quit it. After Clayborn allegedly poked McDonough in the eye, Will punched the player, sending him into a locker. Clayborn was fined $2,000 for the incident.

2. Jeff Pearlman and John Rocker (1999, The Power of the Pen):

John Rocker was one of the hottest relievers in baseball heading into the 1999 World Series, and Sports Illustrated’s Jeff Pearlman was assigned to write a feature story on him. Rocker had gained notoriety for his brash personality during the 1999 National League Championship Series against the New York Mets. Following their first meeting, Pearlman wrote a positive profile on Rocker, characterizing the pitcher as misunderstood.

Following the Braves’ loss in the World Series, Sports Illustrated decided not to run Pearlman’s glowing profile because Rocker’s luster was dulled by the team’s loss in the Series. Yet the magazine still had an interest in profiling Rocker, so Pearlman and the Atlanta hurler met about a month later to cover material needed for the revised specs of the story.

Pearlman and Rocker spent an afternoon together in December 1999 at which time Rocker unleashed racist insults covering individuals of diverse nationalities and religions. While the two drove down SR#400 in Atlanta, Rocker allegedly behaved erratically while spewing unflattering xenophobic and homophobic comments.  The pitcher demeaned tollbooth clerks and stereotyped drivers visible on the road. Pearlman detailed these incidents in his profile story.

The story was so incriminating that MLB had to take action. Rocker was given a 73-day suspension, marking the first time a baseball player was suspended for ill-advised speech.

In the years that followed, Pearlman accused Rocker of confronting him several times. Rocker felt Pearlman unfairly profiled him, so Pearlman’s credibility was lost among many players at the time, although he gained more public recognition and in fact has since written eight New York Times bestsellers. Pearlman’s account of the experience can be read in an article he wrote for Bleacher Report. Rocker was traded several years later and exited the league shortly after with a tarnished reputation.

Sports Illustrated piece

Bleacher report follow-up 2014

1. Jim Rome and Jim Everett (1994, Physical):

It’s not every day that an on-camera interview descends into a physical altercation, but that’s exactly what happened when Jim Rome sat down with Jim Everett on ESPN in 1994. The interview started with heightened tensions, as Rome had previously called Jim Everett Chris, for female tennis player Chrissie Evert. Everett confronted Rome about it, but Rome persisted.

Finally, Everett had enough. So he flipped the coffee table situated between the two men on the ESPN set and tackled Rome. Everett said in 2012 that he would encourage young individuals to stand up for themselves as he did to Rome, although he would not condone the physical aspect of it. He also said that he hadn’t talked to Rome since the altercation, but didn’t harbor any resentment toward him. Both parties have expressed willingness to meet with the other, but no such meeting has occurred. 

While the altercation with Everett occurred early in Rome’s career, it wasn’t the last time the talkie would be involved in a heated confrontation. Other contentious interactions include the time in 2016 when Rome mocked Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh. It drew a response on Twitter from Harbaugh in which the coach brought up Rome’s altercation with Everett. In 2012, Rome asked NBA Commissioner David Stern if the 1985 NBA Draft Lottery was fixed (Patrick Ewing to the Knicks). Stern said no. Rome continued to probe and Stern eventually responded by asking Rome, “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?”

Jason Shebilske

Jason Shebilske is an undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying journalism, including an emphasis in sports communication. In addition to Sports Broadcast Journal, he currently writes for RotoWire, a fantasy sports database in Madison, Wisconsin.

Notify of
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Michael Green
4 years ago

If I remember the story correctly, in Tom Seaver’s case, it didn’t help that Dick Young’s son-in-law was a Mets executive. There are a couple of great stories of Young abusing people in his work, and then I think of Red Smith referring to Young as the “tame columnist,” which of course provoked Young. Lasorda really wasn’t berating the reporter when he answered what he thought of Dave Kingman’s performance, but it’s still a classic. Also, I have always felt that Campanis may have had a drink or two and may have been beginning to show some signs of dementia.… Read more »