Tennessee Vols catcher Evan Russell, who is out of eligibility at UT, is threatening legal action against ESPN over a false report from earlier this month.
If you somehow missed it, Russell was ruled out for the Vols regional matchup against Alabama State in early June. Tennessee didn’t announce why Russell was missing the game, which led to plenty of rumors and speculation.
One of the rumors was that Russell failed a PEDs test and had been suspended. Additionally, the rumor stated that the rest of Tennessee’s team would be tested the next day.
The rumor was repeated on ESPN during a broadcast.
So, ESPN announcers decided to say Tennessee’s Evan Russell was suspended for PED’s according to “reports and speculation” and that the NCAA would now be testing the whole team.— Trey Wallace (@TreyWallace_) June 4, 2022
Where is this report that stated this about Russell? pic.twitter.com/HnsG0GfciZ
The truth was that Russell missed the game due to anxiety and stress — it had absolutely zero to do with PEDs.
Thrilled to update that Evan Russell is feeling better and back with the team. Sad that over the last 24 hours this young man has had to endure speculation and criticism. In the future I hope that the media will prioritize the health of our student-athletes over unfounded rumors.— Danny White (@AD_DannyWhite) June 4, 2022
ESPN eventually apologized for the remarks, but the damage was already done.
On Wednesday, Russell told Outkick.com’s Tomi Lahren that he’s considering legal action against ESPN.
“Just because it was out there on national television that people can make an argument, even if for some reason I end up playing, you know, 10, 15 years from now with some success,” said Russell. “You know, people always have an argument of, ‘well, he took steroids, he took PEDs. Of course, he’s going to have success.’ … I’ve been a walk-on as soon as I go on campus. So to put myself in a position to be a draft guy and to have a chance at the draft, to have any sort of blemish, even if I’m not projected first-round or anything, to have a blemish to prevent me from having opportunity kind of worries me a little bit.”
Russell has every right to be upset. And he’s right — the comments from ESPN could definitely impact his reputation (though I don’t think they’ll prevent an MLB team from being interested in him…they’ll do their homework).
However, I’m not sure how fruitful a lawsuit against ESPN would be. This isn’t the first time ESPN has screwed up and it won’t be the last time. ESPN has a lot more resources than Russell. And unfortunately, they have the upper hand in almost any legal battle.
Now, to be fair, I’m not a lawyer. And I don’t think the one semester of business law that I took in college gives me in any real insight into what kind of options Russell has in this situation.
Either way, it’s unfortunate that Russell has to deal with this. Hopefully, it won’t be a major issue for him moving forward.
Featured image via Jamar Coach/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK