OTL

#OTL25 offers perfect time for reporters to reflect

EDITOR’S NOTE: During the past quarter century, Outside the Lines has presented news-breaking investigative pieces and award-winning story telling. Some OTL reporters reflect on their most memorable accounts prior to tonight’s 25th anniversary special (7 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Paula Lavigne

Paula Lavigne interviews South Florida Youth Football League president Michael Spivey who said he wasn't aware that gambling was such a problem until Outside the Lines showed him video shot at some of the games.
Paula Lavigne interviews South Florida Youth Football League president Michael Spivey who said he wasn’t aware that gambling was such a problem until Outside the Lines showed him video shot at some of the games.

My most memorable story had to be uncovering the gambling on little league football in South Florida. It was great to break a story like that because it was so egregious – fans, including many with a history of drugs and other crimes, wagering thousands of dollars on little boys playing football, even paying the kids themselves to incentive performance. These kids already had so many odds stacked against them, and it was just made worse by having something like this sully the sport they loved.

We got such great undercover video of the guys swapping money in the stands. But the defining moment was when we sat down in an interview with one of the coaches who told us there should be a “zero tolerance” for gambling, and then we showed him the video we had of him exchanging money in the bleachers with men who clearly appeared to be gambling. I think a lot of people would see that as a “gotcha” moment, but when I look back on that now, I see it as a prime example of the complexities and challenges of those neighborhoods and the struggle to change a system from within.

Every journalist desires to ‘make a difference,’ and in this case, I certainly think our reporting accomplished that. It led to a county sheriff’s investigation that resulted in several people being arrested and the league being completely overhauled. We heard from several parents that the fear of us being back there with cameras kept a lot of the ‘bad actors’ away, and for those kids’ sakes, I hope that’s still the case.

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