Opinion: Mike Shumann’s mea culpa over jacket theft raises more questions than answers

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Mike Shumann has one big thing going for him: He’s a very likable guy.

And, so, when Shumann penned a lengthy, 600-word account of what he says actually happened the night he was caught on security footage taking a jacket belonging to a Golden State Warriors staff member, it was easy for journalists and viewers to believe. After all, this is a guy who had a “spotless” record working more than two decades for Disney’s KGO-TV (Channel 7) in San Francisco before he became embroiled in controversy that, as he tells it, was largely stoked by the Wild West that is social media.

It has worked so far. After giving an interview with San Francisco media blogger Rich Lieberman where he found a sympathetic ear, his public relations restoration project has found dozens of sympathetic Facebook fans buying into his assertion that everyone — literally, everyone, even Warriors players themselves — got the story wrong.

But Shumann’s account of what happened raise more questions than it answers.

Shumann says everything was a misunderstanding: He admits picking up the jacket that belonged to a member of the Warriors’ security team, but said it was always his intention to return it to the rightful owner.

Shumann acknowledges waiting a full day before this happened. Which is unusual, because in the surveillance video released online, it is clear there are several other people in the building at the time Shumann left. Presumably, some of those other people in the building were staff members, any number of which Shumann could have handed the jacket to if his concern really was reuniting it with its rightful owner.

Shumann goes on to say that “the video made it’s way onto social media and the story was published online,” making it seem as if the story was predicated on the video being out in the open. But that wasn’t the case.

The story was first reported by the Athletic website, a news outlet that charges subscribers for access to its articles. The video wasn’t widely seen by readers outside of the Athletic’s audience until ESPN picked up the story and obtained the video separately.

Shumann likely didn’t point out that ESPN was the main source of the video that was repurposed on social media because it wouldn’t serve his argument of a social media smear campaign. ESPN is majority owned by the Walt Disney Corporation, which also owns KGO — Shumann’s former employer. While ESPN and KGO’s editorial operations may be separate, broadcast companies do tend to handle matters involving employees of co-owned units more sensitively than matters involving the general public. There would have to be one hell of a conspiracy against Shumann for ESPN to publish such a reckless, misleading story.

Shumann goes on to decry how he was “convicted in a court of public opinion” and that his entire “career (was) boiled down to 45 seconds of footage.” But the footage doesn’t lie. It clearly shows Shumann picking up property that does not belong to him. And, by his own admission, it was property he kept overnight into the next day. Nothing stopped Shumann from returning the property to any member of the team’s staff, any employee at the stadium, or any law enforcement officer around. And if he didn’t feel comfortable doing that, he could have opened his cell phone and contacted any one of his sources that no doubt he’s amassed during his 25 years as a sportscaster — or during his previous career as a professional athlete.

Shumann did none of those things. And he’s offered no clear explanation as to why.

Nor has he explained why the Warriors didn’t back him up when the proverbial shit hit the fan. Shumann said he went to “players and the owner of the jacket, their head of security” and apologized “for picking the hoodie up and creating the incident.” Shumann goes on to say that members of the Warriors’ press relations staff had to correct information that was erroneously published in news accounts of the incident.

Shumann is a career broadcaster — not a rookie sports journalist — and he has deep connections to the team and to the community. He’s known to many of the players and many of the staff. If everything really was just a simple misunderstanding, why would the Warriors not want to clear things up? Why would the Warriors not want to back the guy who was simply trying to do the right thing?

Reporters from a number of news outlets reached out to the Warriors for reaction to the incident. Instead of backing the guy who was trying to do the right thing, they said “no comment.” It would be highly unusual for both a company with ties to his employer and an organization Shumann had a good working relationship with to conspire against him, and also unusual for not one employee of KGO or the Warriors to publicly contradict the viral narrative if he really did have good intentions given how well-liked and well-respected Shumann was — and still is.

Shumann ultimately did himself in. In his statement posted to Facebook on Thursday, he writes that “the Warriors and ABC had to make a decision and neither turned out in my favor.” (In an early morning Facebook message on Friday, Shumann told me he was “terminated.”) But KGO wrote that it was Shumann who both admitted taking the jacket and who offered his resignation. In a statement released by the company — one that he echoed on his Twitter account where he continues to tweet in a personal capacity — he wrote that his “recent actions do not reflect the high standard of conduct expected at KGO. Nor do they represent the integrity with which I have conducted my professional sports and broadcast careers.”

An unusual statement for someone who was trying to do the right thing — someone who was the victim of a complete and total misunderstanding fueled by the renegade beast that is social media.

Shumann complained on Facebook that his period as an unemployed broadcaster has been tough on his career, his family and himself. So far, he has found a sympathetic audience — as of this writing, there are over 150 comments from fans, former viewers and even journalists who have expressed sympathy over what happened. Worse, there are a number of people who are buying his explanation of what happened without any question.

And it’s easy to see why. It’s hard to believe that someone like Mike could make such a critical mistake — one that he didn’t think he’d get caught making, until he did. It’s hard to believe because Mike is a very likable guy. I know this from personal experience: When I worked at KGO several years ago as a weekend web producer, Mike would often stop by our office on his way to the news studio. He’s joke around with us. He’d talk sports. He’d talk about how he really didn’t understand all of this web stuff. He’d compliment our work and encourage us to keep going — which, coming from Mike, was an honor and a recognition. Once, when I was by myself on a weekend, he stopped by the office to ask me about my background. He told me about his career playing with the San Francisco 49ers. I didn’t know much about sports, but I liked our conversation. It made me feel a sense of validation that Mike would stop whatever he was on his way to do so he could simply shoot the breeze with me. I was not unique in that respect — Mike did this with a lot of people.

Mike is a nice guy. A nice guy who admits doing something wrong and is now suffering the consequences. His attempt at damage control now doesn’t absolve the serious questions surrounding the incident, and his integrity may wind up in worse shape after his Facebook statement than before. Because while I spent eight months at KGO getting to know Mike as a nice guy, I also spent two years living among men whose trademark game was exploiting naïveté and compassion. I know a confidence trick when I see it.

(Disclosure: The author of this post once worked for KGO-TV)