Doctor: Media coverage of Rotnei Clark injury crossed the line
The Butler Bulldogs' win over Dayton has been overshadowed by the injury of top scorer Rotnei Clarke. TV images of him crashing into the goal post were scary and, to some, disturbing.
Butler athletic department officials and its team doctor claim the network's live coverage crossed the line and let fans hear things they shouldn't have.
Fans say Rotnei Clarke's head-first, full-speed collision with the backboard's goal post was heart-stopping.
"As soon as I saw his neck hit the back of the goal post," student Zack Walter said, "I thought it was definitely a spinal injury."
The injury occurred right in front of a TV camera, with close-ups and the microphone turned up broadcasting live Clarke's despair.
"I can't move, I can't move," he said to the medical staff around him. "This is hurting bad."
"It was a little awkward," student Michael Dean said, "because it's a very personal moment for him and the trainer."
Athletes playing in a packed house are public figures with no reasonable expectation of privacy. What if that athlete is flat on their back talking with a doctor about a possible life-changing injury?
Viewers heard a trainer or doctor ask Rotnei, "Did you feel numbness in your hands?" Then telling him, "Don't move, don't move." Later a doctor is heard saying, "He's got tenderness in C5 - C6."
Butler Team Dr. Thomas Fischer is seen at Rotnei's side, accessing his patient for possibly paralyzing injuries.Watching the broadcast later, he was angry.
"If that was your kid on the floor, how would you want it handled?" he asked. "People watching television knew more about it than the parents did."
Fischer isn't as concerned with the pictures as he is with the open microphone eavesdropping on a critical assessment of an injured patient.
"It's just morally, ethically and maybe legally wrong. I don't know," he explained. "To me the privacy of a patient is one of my biggest concerns."
Butler is sending its concerns to the Atlantic 10 Conference. It expects conference officials to establish some privacy policies with the network. A message left with the NBC Sports Network wasn't returned.
Viewers say Rotnei wheeled from the court on a gurney, giving a thumbs up to fans. He rode the team bus home. How is he feeling and when will he play? We expect to hear from him and Coach Brad Stevens Tuesday.