Luke's Gospel: Sports Teams Should Respect a Free Press

It's been more than 20 years since Miami New Times columnist Jim DeFede wrote a series of columns that called Miami Heat owner and Carnival Cruise Line chief Micky Arison "a greedy corporate pig." Since then, the newspaper has written hundreds of stories about Heat championships, charities, and kind acts.

But Arison won't let the grudge go. New Times reporters are denied access to players and team execs, including yours truly.

Heck, a few years ago, Heat brass shut down a New Times profile on fan-turned-team-fixture Banana Man. What were they afraid we were going to do? Expose that he's actually a plantain?

Sports organizations should respect this country's first amendment rights.

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The Heat's refusal to grant New Times access is a prime example of how major sports organizations — including the Heat, Dolphins, Marlins, and collegiate athletic programs at the University of Miami and Florida International University — make a mockery of the fourth estate.

Last year, FIU denied press credentials for the football team's home opener to David J. Neal, the Miami Herald reporter covering the school's athletic program. Pete Garcia, FIU athletic director, never gave an explanation. Neal told Deadspin he suspected it was because of his reporting about lackluster attendance at the school stadium and the school allowing a registered sex offender to throw the first pitch at a baseball game.

Sports organizations should respect First Amendment rights. Instead, clubs and universities issue credentials to only a few selected members of the press they deem worthy. By holding the threat of denying access, the teams limit reporters' ability to speak the truth. They report spoon-fed information from the team's public relations department.

Recently, the beat writers covering the Dolphins for the Miami Herald, the Palm Beach Post, and the Sun Sentinel wrote similar stories about quarterbacks for the first six teams Miami will play. When team coaches and general managers want to criticize a player, they manipulate the beat writers.

It's time teams stop acting like Venezuela's Hugo Chávez or Ecuador's Rafael Correa.

Follow Luke on Twitter: @unclelukereal1.

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