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I grew up in New York and New Jersey, so I “bleed blue” every Sunday in the fall watching my New York Football Giants.  Turns out Giants All-Pro defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was likely bleeding real blood following a fireworks accident over the Fourth of July weekend.
By last Sunday night the Giants were still trying to get information on what exactly happened and how bad Pierre-Paul’s hand was, but a team source indicated the injury isn’t as bad as the team initially feared.
That seemed like good news, though I’m not sure what the Giants’ front office “initially feared” — every Giants’ fan knows to always fear the worst.  We were probably right to do so.
On Monday, as Pierre-Paul remained in Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami with injuries to his hands and fingers. He reportedly had severe burn damage on his palm and three fingers, with one finger possibly having nerve damage.  Still, the Giants were said to have been “pleased” with his initial prognosis.
So, it seems the Giants sent someone to Florida to get a better idea of what was going on with their star defensive end but could not.
THEN, later still, word came that while the Giants couldn’t find their player, the sports network ESPN had done so and was reporting that he had his right index finger amputated and pins inserted in his hand. Later STILL, not only was ESPN reporting the amputation but its reporter had actually tweeted a picture of JPP’s hospital chart!
Social media (and water coolers) were buzzing with the kinds of question I hear all the time as a lawyer: “Is that legal?” “Can he do that?”  And the answer, as usual, was: “It depends.”
Noted sports law attorney Mike McCann said of ESPN’s actions that: “It may be lawful to [disclose the chart publicly] — and it is. HIPAA doesn’t apply to media entities. They’re not the custodians of the medical records. They have a newsworthy goal of getting this information. But just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should.”  I agree. On the other hand, McCann, in a series of tweets made clear that the person who gave the records to [the ESPN reporter], presumably an employee at Jackson Memorial Hospital, could be in some hot water.
The hospital has said that it has launched an “aggressive internal investigation.
Quite apart from the legality of an ESPN reporter posting a medical chart on Twitter, I wondered about the ethics of it.  Was it simply good, aggressive journalism? I think not.  I believe the reporter in question, whom I will not even name, crossed a line. Mr. Pierre-Paul, in my view, did not foresake his privacy simply because he is a famous athelete who did something he regrets terribly. I don’t see why it was necessary or even helpful to post a picture of Mr. Pierre-Paul’s private chart on Twitter.  I also wondered, should the level of intrusiveness we will tolerate from the media differ depending on what type of public figure is involved? For example, should we put up with, or even encourage, greater scrutiny of politicians and government officials, whose policy decisions affect our day-to-day lives than sports figures and entertainers?
I wish JPP all the best.  This couldn’t have happened at a worse time for him.  The 26-year-old had until a July 15 deadline to hammer out a long-term contract with the Giants.  That’s not happening now.  After that date, he’d have to play the 2015 season under the so-called “franchise tag.” If a new deal isn’t reached by July 15 – and it won’t be – the two sides can’t begin negotiating again until the end of the season.  As a “franchise player,” Pierre-Paul would receive $14.8 million in 2015, but he and the Giants were both looking for that long term deal worth many, many millions.  Those were some very expensive fireworks.


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