Perhaps the management of the Windsor Express is afraid someone will take them for a professional franchise.
Hard to imagine just what they were (or more to the point weren't) thinking when they asked veteran London Free Press reporter Morris Dalla Costa to leave the building before tip-off between the London Lightning and Windsor Express.
Big game. Game seven between the two heated rivals and there's apparently been some bad blood, even a bit of a reported chippiness before tip-off.
Dalla Costa, a longtime sports reporter for the Free Press and a regular on the National Basketball League Canada beat, was apparently asked to leave just before Tuesday night's game was about to begin, announcing that it was so on Twitter, although he seemed to believe it was an April Fool's prank.
No joke, however and then reality started to sink in.
Then, Dalla Costa indicated that he'd asked for an intervention from National Basketball League Canada Commissioner Paul Riley but basically got a shrug. Riley told the Windsor Star:
"The owner here (in Windsor) had told him he thinks this reporter has taken some personal shots and has gone beyond the role of a reporter and wasn’t acting in the role of a reporter or journalist with some of his personal attacks on every other team except London."
It was very quickly after that that the twittersphere lit up with criticism of the Windsor Express and their decision to ask the respected Dalla Costa to leave, basically because they didn't like the tone of his reporting. At least, that was the sense given by Bob Duff, a reporter with the Windsor Star.
Duff quickly added to the roaring chorus of displeasure on Twitter, although his criticism was tempered in comparison to some others.
As mentioned, there was a storm of crticism on Twitter, with many lamenting the bush league move by someone making decisions with the Express. The hashtag #FreeMoDaCo began to spring to life. Here's a sampling of that displeasure (full disclosure: I voiced my own):
Very quickly, this has become a story that is grabbing interest both nationally and internationally.
The Express has a lot to answer for here. If, indeed, they asked Dalla Costa to leave merely because they didn't like his coverage of the series, they blew it and completely so.
This is a league looking for media attention and a foothold in a very crowded and competitive Canadian sports market.
Well, the Windsor Express just got them some. Plenty, in fact.
Certainly, though, not the kind they were looking for.
Answers need to come from the Express and their President and CEO Dartis Willis Sr. The league's commissioner, Riley, has some answers to give as well.
For instance: Why would a league allow such a monstrous mistake to be made? Off-loading the problem by saying that member clubs control their own buildings is just not good enough.
When you check another quote of Riley's - again from the Windsor Star - you get the sense that he agreed with the decision while sidestepping repsonsibility for it.
Being a commissioner and being a former journalist as well -- in fact I still teach journalism ethics -- I had some questions about his coverage as well and I made that known to Mr. Dalla Costa," Riley said to the Star. "I’ve told him I don’t think he’s treated the league fairly or professionally or ethically. He doesn’t agree with me and that’s his prerogative."
Whether the Express and the league disagreed with Dalla Costa's coverage is a bit immaterial here.
While the Express - or any other sports team - certainly has the right to keep people out of - or remove them from - their building, that right ought to be reserved to cases of inappropriate behaviour.
Writing things that they don't agree with? That doesn't rise nearly to the standard.
The Windsor Express and the NBLC should be ashamed of themselves.