Grantland editor-in-chief Bill Simmons acknowledged Monday evening that serious mistakes were made in the decision to publish “Dr. V’s Magical Putter” which received widespread condemnation for posthumously outing golf club inventor Essay Anne Vanderbilt, as transgender.
“I don’t remember the exact moment when I realized that we definitely screwed up, but it happened sometime between Friday night and Saturday morning,” Simmons wrote in an apology on Grantland. “On Sunday, ESPN apologized on our behalf. I am apologizing on our behalf right now. My condolences to Dr. V’s friends and family for any pain our mistakes may have caused.”
Simmons explained that the story, which was written by Caleb Hannan, was reviewed by “between 13 and 15 people, including every senior editor but one, our two lead copy desk editors, our publisher and even ESPN.com’s editor-in-chief.”
“Don’t blame Caleb or anyone that works for me,” Simmons urged. “It’s my site and anything this significant is my call. Blame me. I didn’t ask the biggest and most important question before we ran it — that’s my fault and only my fault.”
Simmons noted that the biggest mistake made in the editorial process was not allowing someone “familiar with the transgender community” to read Hannan’s final draft. “This never occurred to us,” Simmons admitted. “Nobody ever brought it up.”
In addition to Simmon’s lengthy mea culpa, Grantland also published a piece by ESPN’s Christina Kahrl, a transgender sports writer, who pointed out many of the critical missteps the publication made in running with the story.
“It was not Grantland’s job to out Essay Anne Vanderbilt, but it was done, carelessly,” she wrote. “Not simply with the story’s posthumous publication; that kind of casual cruelty is weekly fare visited upon transgender murder victims in newspapers across the country. No, what Hannan apparently did was worse: Upon making the unavoidable discovery that Vanderbilt’s background didn’t stand up to scrutiny, he didn’t reassure her that her gender identity wasn’t germane to the broader problems he’d uncovered with her story. Rather, he provided this tidbit to one of the investors in her company in a gratuitous “gotcha” moment that reflects how little thought he’d given the matter.”
ESPN released a statement over the weekend in response to the controversy.
“We understand and appreciate the wide range of thoughtful reaction this story has generated and to the family and friends of Essay Anne Vanderbilt, we express our deepest condolences,” the statement said. “We will use the constructive feedback to continue our ongoing dialogue on these important and sensitive topics. Ours is a company that values the LGBT community internally and in our storytelling, and we will all learn from this.”
Hannan has not tweeted since January 17. Nieman Storyboard’s Paige Williams spoke with Hannan over the weekend, “He told me he has been following the reaction to the story, and that he is working with his editors, to prepare a statement.
Deadspin’s Tim Marchman reports that Vanderbilt’s partner was seeking possible legal action over the story. “I have spoken with an attorney,” she wrote in an email to the site, “and we are gathering information for potential legal action.”