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Press Council ruling on the complaint of Miles Davis against The Spinoff

In July The Spinoff published a story about a segment on RadioSport which we thought was homophobic. Miles Davis was cited within the story as an example of the broader homophobia within sport. Mr Davis complained to the Press Council about the matter, and the complaint was upheld. Today we publish in full the Press Council’s decision.

ADJUDICATION BY THE NEW ZEALAND PRESS COUNCIL ON THE COMPLAINT OF MILES DAVIS AGAINST THE SPINOFF

FINDING: UPHELD

 

Introduction

Miles Davis complains that an article published on The Spinoff website on July 4, headlined Holy shit, we found the worst 10 minutes of radio, was wrong and offensive in its assertion that he was homophobic.

The complaint is upheld.

Background

The Spinoff’s article was based on a segment of radio from Radio Sport, which was described by the staff writer Hayden Donnell as a ‘whistlestop tour through the ugliest parts of New Zealand’s sickly sports media culture’.

In support of his broader point, Donnell referenced a past statement made by NZRU chairman Steve Tew: “No one has yet said they’re an All Black and gay, one day that will happen and I would hope that New Zealand is more than ready, in fact is welcoming of it.”

To show Tew’s hopes were useless while a homophobic sport media culture remained, the article cited statements by commentators Tony Veitch and the complainant Mr Davis.

Davis’ statements had separately been Tweeted by Donnell and then embedded within The Spinoff article. They were a NewsHub column from Davis questioning whether international footballer Ronaldo’s behaviour was linked to a break-up with a boyfriend, and one of Davis’ own Tweets where he said “I hate faggots. Because they’re offal……” alongside a photo of the offal-based traditional UK dish by the same name.

Complaint

The article asserted Davis was homophobic, which was incorrect and offensive.

He had been an unflinching supporter of gay rights and the article was an unflinching slur on his character.

Examples of Davis’ past reports and social posts, used in The Spinoff article, did not support a claim of homophobia, and nor did additional examples provided subsequent to publication.

Response

The editor, Duncan Greive, argued the large number of examples provided by The Spinoff of Davis using gay slurs and insults were evidence of his homosexual prejudice.

Greive cited the two examples already used by Donnell, along with many others.

The collection of examples included ones where the words ‘ponce’ and ‘fags’ were used.

Discussion

Davis is a sport commentator with a degree of public profile. As such, he can expect some criticism.

The Spinoff article uses only two examples to illustrate its point that Davis is homophobic, but neither can be considered proof of prejudice towards gay people.

The Council can only consider the article on face value, but The Spinoff did provide additional and subsequent evidence.

Had Davis’ use of the words ‘ponce’ and ‘fags’ (although the latter was used to describe himself), provided in the additional examples, been reported in The Spinoff article, the Council would be ruling differently.

The Spinoff article did not include any evidence of Davis being homophobic and the complaint is upheld.

It is worth the Council noting that the subject of sport media culture was worthy of The Spinoff’s comment and analysis. Had the article stuck to the Radio Sport example, without involving Davis, the Council’s decision would have been different.

Press Council members considering this complaint were Sir John Hansen, Liz Brown, Chris Darlow, Sandy Gill, Jenny Farrell, John Roughan, Marie Shroff, Vernon Small, Mark Stevens, Christina Tay and Tim Watkin.

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