Police spokesman Sgt. Donald Stone’s cell phone would not stop ringing the day the news broke of LSU senior quarterback Jordan Jefferson’s alleged involvement in a fight outside a bar Aug. 19.
Stone said he received at least 40 calls from the news media that day — and that might be an understatement.
“I spoke to people from ESPN, USA Today,” Stone said.
This story has been the talk of the town ever since it came out — and the intense media scrutiny might have made portraying the truth a difficult game to play.
The fight — around 1:30 a.m. Aug. 19 at Shady’s bar on 623 E. Boyd Drive — sent four people to the hospital, police have said.
How it started isn’t so clear.
One person injured in the fight, Andrew Lowery, told police he was trying to help someone out of the fray when Jefferson and sophomore linebacker Josh Johns started to attack him.
Shady’s employees, however, said Lowery “threw the first punch,” according to The Associated Press
Jefferson allegedly kicked Lowery in the face during the brawl, according to the Police Department’s initial report on the incident.
Jefferson’s attorney, Lewis Unglesby, says otherwise.
Two other LSU football players have been directly implicated in the fight: freshman wide receiver Jarvis Landry and sophomore offensive lineman Chris Davenport.
Other players, however, may have been associated with the fracas.
The public’s interest got so intense last week that, on more than one occasion, police issued news releases trying to dispel rumors or deflect media attention.
“There is a rumor going around that Jordan Jefferson has been arrested; this is false information. He has not been arrested nor has a warrant been issued for his arrest,” Stone said Thursday in a news release.
Jefferson and Johns were arrested and bonded out of East Baton Rouge Parish Prison the next day.
That’s beside the point.
The point is, this story seemed like it would not stay quiet until Friday’s arrests.
Few developments have broken the past few days, but there’s still more to come, with court proceedings ahead for Jefferson and Johns.
“It has kept the media on their toes,” said Andrea Miller, an associate dean for undergraduate studies and administration at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication.
Miller worked as a TV producer in Dallas in the 1990s, when Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin pleaded no contest in 1996 to second-degree felony cocaine possession.
“That was a whole big mess — and that led the newscast,” Miller said.
Miller said it’s difficult to compare college athletics with professional sports, but there’s just as much media competition in a college town like Baton Rouge, where LSU football is king.
“As much as we complain about the over-saturation, people are always looking for the next coverage,” Miller said.
After all, no media outlet wants to be scooped on the biggest story around.
“The pressure to stay on top of it sometimes can be overwhelming in a town that is so football-focused,” Miller said.
That has lead to an over-saturation of local media coverage, Miller said.
“I realize that the story is important to the community. But I feel like the media in general brought this story to a level, I wouldn’t say unprecedented, but I would say a little extreme,” Miller said.
Robert Stewart is a general-assignments reporter for The Advocate. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.