Sportswriters Explain Their Approach to ‘Cleaning Up’ Athlete Quotes

It's a very common practice.

In today’s The Noise Report, Sports Illustrated writer Richard Deitsch picks up on the recent controversy over the Houston Chronicle failing to massage quotes from Houston Astros outfielder Carlos Gomez.

The incident has prompted the paper to review its editorial policies when it comes to remarks made by article subjects whose first language is not English. Deitsch checked in with some colleagues about how they handle this issue. Among those responding was New York Daily News NBA columnist Frank Isola:

“There was a Knicks player who would often say, ‘with the way with how we played…’ I thought it was right and respectful to edit that. I think it would be mean-spirited not to. There was another player who would say ‘flustrated,’ which I took as a combination of flustered and frustrated. I would print frustrated.”

“There are times when I do believe quoting someone verbatim is proper and impactful. When I read J.A. [Adande]’s [The Undefeated] story, I automatically thought of Micheal Ray Richardson’s ‘The ship be sinking.’ That’s a classic. Plus, I loved the guy as a player. Also, players will use ‘ain’t’ in a lot of their comments. I use it myself in tweets. Most of the times I leave it. It comes across as slang, as opposed to poor grammar. The Knicks have had Italian and Spanish players and a majority of the times I would touch up their comments unless it read better verbatim. Same thing with Latin baseball players…”

Also commenting to Deitsch about this topic: Newsday New York Jets beat writer Kimberley A. Martin, ESPN NFL reporter Mike Reiss, ESPN Deportes reporter Marly Rivera, Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and Yahoo Sports hockey writer Greg Wyshynski. Rivera’s examples relating to some of the Spanish-language interviews she has conducted with native English speakers are especially interesting.