In one of the stranger Sept. 11-related stories you’ll hear this week, a reporter was reportedly barred from interviewing crowd members at a high school football game this past Friday, after the school’s administrators learned that he was working for Al Jazeera.
Gabriel Elizondo, the reporter in question, was on a two-week assignment for the television news network, which is based in the Arab state of Qatar, to drive across the U.S. and talk to Americans about the impact of 9/11 on American life. While driving last Friday, Elizondo decided to stop at a Texas high school to interview people. After all, he later wrote, “what better a setting to immerse ones self into Texas rural life than high school football.”
Elizondo got into the game without a hitch, and even introduced himself to the school’s principal, who was “all grins and good cheer,” according to him. There was only one problem. Once Elizondo handed the principal one of his Al Jazeera business cards, she reportedly did a complete about-face, asking him how he’d “spin” the story.
The principal then left to briefly consult with the district superintendent, who happened to be attending the game. The superintendent, Michael Lee, then approached Elizondo, and the interaction unfolded as follows, according to the reporter:
I am pretty sure he said: "I think it was damn rotten what they did." "I am sorry, what who did?" I say, not sure exactly if he was calling me rotten, the terrorists rotten, Al Jazeera rotten, or all of the above. "The people that did this to us," he says back to me with a smirk, still glaring uncomfortably straight at my eyes. "Well, I think it was bad too," I say. "Well, do you think, sir, we can film a bit of the game and talk to some people here about just that?" "No. You can't film, you can't take pictures, or interview people."
He said Lee wouldn’t give him an explanation of
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.