Black Sports Online is a website whose watermark you may have recently seen on ESPN, splashed across the video of James Harden partying in defiance of COVID-19 protocol (again). This resulted in an official NBA investigation and a $50,000 fine—nice scoop. The low came just days after the high, however, because on Dec. 27, BSO published a post with the headline “Photos: Larsa Pippen In Bronny James’ DMs?” The outlet shared the link on Twitter with some extra exposition: “Two Reports Say 46-Year-Old Larsa Pippen Has Been Exchanging DMs With Bronny James; Larsa Who is Still Married to Scottie is Currently in Minnesota With Malik Beasley Who Left His Wife and Mistress For Her.” Somehow, a post engaging with the idea of a romance between the 16-year-old son of LeBron James and estranged wife of NBA legend Scottie Pippen attracted several high-profile responses.
Addressing BSO directly, Larsa Pippen wrote that she would “sue the fuck out of you for writing some disgusting lies you weirdo.” Bronny’s parents did not name a particular outlet, but made their displeasure with the general discourse clear. Savannah James wrote, “he’s a child and the bullshit needs to stop,” a sentiment LeBron reshared while adding, “UH-OH Y’ALL FUCKED WITH THE REAL ONE NOW GOOD LUCK! IT WON’T BE CUTE!” The original BSO post has since been deleted. A follow-up BSO post about Bronny’s response to the rumor has been deleted, too, though partial archives of both posts remain.
Defector asked Robert Littal, the editor-in-chief of BSO, about the events that led up to the deletion of the original post. Littal said he removed the post because it was being misunderstood; he intended to debunk the rumors which had been reported by three other outlets, not to validate any of their claims. Littal said he was targeted unfairly and directed me to posts from sites called VladTV and Awesemo (the latter has also been deleted). His email read in part:
People were accusing me of being irresponsible, while attributing quotes to me that I never said or ever appeared in print.
I have great respect for LeBron and his family, I was simply trying to debunk a rumor which I have done plenty of times before when I see things reported that appear to be wrong. Somehow I was accused of started the rumor which if anyone did any type of research would see did not come from me. I would never accuse a 16-year-old of “shooting his shot” with a 46-year-old woman.Robert Littal, editor-in-chief of BSO
Words to live by, Robert. An archived version of the first slide of the original BSO post—the site specializes in abstracted, fragmentary slideshows—begins with the sentences, “Anything is possible in 2020. It is just a few days left, but it wouldn’t surprise me,” which, it must be admitted, doesn’t sound like debunking, especially when it follows the headline “Photos: Larsa Pippen in Bronny’s DMs?” That post goes on to quote several sentences from the website MediaTakeOut, linking out to an article which itself has been deleted and scrubbed from the Wayback Machine, a courtesy the Internet Archive says they extend on written request. At least someone’s lawyers were thorough.
Now that we have enjoyed a face-first slip ‘n’ slide through the blog-waste treatment plant, the question persists: Where did any of this originate from? Is it just “Turtles (PICS/VIDS)” all the way down? Is it an ouroboros of aggregation, lacking beginning or end? The VladTV post, which appears to be the last one standing after an unseen barrage of firmly worded emails, merely observes that Bronny James “liked” some Instagram photos posted by Pippen, and that’s it. It also includes this perfect sentence: “Rumors have surfaced, noting that Bronny has allegedly been in Pippen’s DM, and now Bronny has been seen liking a few of her more recent photos.” When the Rumors are Surfacing, Noting the Alleged behavior, that’s when it’s time to click Publish.
Well, thank you all for reading. Billions of people rely on this same informational ecosystem to make basic decisions about their welfare.