You Cannot Take “Statements Out of Context” When You Say Them On Air

By Gregory Moore
Updated: March 22, 2005

SAN ANTONIO – Wayne Hagin is in big trouble and he knows it. So what does he do? He resorts to the famous line of “my words were taken out of context” statement in regards to what he told the St. Louis ESPN affiliate the other night about Colorado Rockies outfielder Todd Helton. So what words did Hagin say that were taken out of context? Well courtesy of the Internet, here are his words on this web page: “I want to say something that is the absolute truth — now he will be mad at me for saying it if it gets out but . . . he tried it. I know he tried it because (former Colorado manager) Don Baylor told me, ‘I told him to get off the juice — you’re a player who doesn’t need that. Get off it. It’s made you into a robot at first base defensively’ and may have altered his swing. He got off it. He is not unlike so many other players who have tried it because they wanted to get on that level playing field.” Hey Wayne let this 13-year veteran of the sports world help you out with something. In this day and age there are transcripts of all the key interviews made these days. It is not that hard to get someone to listen to the DIGITAL audio tape of what you said, run it through either some very sophisticated software that can transcribe on the fly or get a stenographer to do it for you. In other words, his words weren’t taken out of context; his brain was totally out to lunch.

It’s hard to believe that in the current realm of things with the steroids talk being what it is that Hagin would even make such a statement. Do I blame Helton for wanting to sue Hagin? Hell naw I don’t blame him. As a matter of fact Todd where can I send a small donation for your legal fund because I think imbeciles like Hagin deserve to get ran out of the business. Hagin should have known better and what he should have done was kept his mouth shut on talking about topic that has been so centered in St. Louis for months now. Instead of him talking about how punkish Mark McGwire’s appearance in front of a Congressional hearing was, here is a play-by-play announcer trying to be a journalist. It would be laughable for the fact that Hagin used the word “juice” in relation to Helton working out some years ago. It would be down right comical had he just said that there are numerous guys used Creatine back then. And let’s make something perfectly clear on what the word “juice” means in the sports world; it has and still means anabolic steroids. It has never been referred to anything like Creatine because Creatine is a powder and can be bought in such places like GNC stores across the country. It’s a legal to take and use.

So what can be said of Hagin’s comments and what should the St. Louis Cardinals do about their play-by-play announcer? Simply put this man needs to find some other employment because he has maligned a professional baseball player. You want the definition of slander? Read Hagin’s words again for yourself and those words fit this definition from the online dictionary: “slander n. oral defamation, in which someone tells one or more persons an untruth about another, which untruth will harm the reputation of the person defamed. Slander is a civil wrong (tort) and can be the basis for a lawsuit. Damages (payoff for worth) for slander may be limited to actual (special) damages unless there is malicious intent, since such damages are usually difficult to specify and harder to prove. Some statements, such as an untrue accusation of having committed a crime, having a loathsome disease or being unable to perform one’s occupation, are treated as slander per se since the harm and malice are obvious and therefore usually result in general and even punitive damage recovery by the person harmed. Words spoken over the air on television or radio are treated as libel (written defamation) and not slander on the theory that broadcasting reaches a large audience as much as if not more than printed publications.” So why is Hagin trying to hide behind the ‘out of context’ statement now after he was so certain of Helton’s intake of Creatine? Because somebody probably told him that he would be sued and he better find a quick remedy to not losing his job. What gets me is the fact that Hagin actually believes that his words were taken out of context. I’ve been doing interviews for thirteen years and I have always been able to discern when a subject is on the record or not and I have always asked, “Can I quote you on that?” A good journalist does his homework and knows how to craft words to make sure that they are said in the proper context.

In a radio interview you cannot be taken out of context and Hagin knew that from the beginning. What he is trying to do now is cover his backside and hopefully think that Helton will forget all about his slip of the tongue remark. Well Helton hasn’t forgotten what was said about him and nobody should. At the very least this should be a lesson in keeping the truth in any statement you make but if you slander somebody, then you need to pay some price; even if that means a civil judgment against you.