First Amendment Advocates Urge Rosenberg to Change Policy

Cartoon by Guido Gonzalez

By: Joshua Ceballos/Investigative Editor


After years of tense relations with the Athletic Communications department and months of missed calls and unanswered texts, PantherNOW released a column on Aug. 29 stating that they would cease coverage of FIU football.

PantherNOW resumed football coverage when the Athletics Department provided full press credentials after the column was published, but shortly afterwards, First Amendment activists picked up the story because they weren’t satisfied with letting the issue die there.

The Student Press Law Center read about Student Media’s issues with gaining access to football players and how they had been denied equality with other media organizations like the Miami Herald and wrote an article in which they interviewed PantherNOW Sports Director Tevlin and Assistant Director for Athletic Communications Tyson Rodgers to get both sides of the story.

Rodgers says in the article that Athletics had reservations about PantherNOW’s coverage of football player Shawndarrius Phillips who practiced with the team while facing a domestic battery charge. The timing of the article was strange because it came months after Phillips was arrested according to Rodgers. Tevlin says he thinks this incident soured relations with Athletics.

Less than a week later, and three organizations that advocate for press rights are urging University President Mark B. Rosenberg to change FIU’s athletic media relations policy.

In a letter addressed to the president, The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the Student Press Law Center and the Society of Professional Journalists say that the policy is “inconsistent with the University’s First Amendment obligations and must be revised.”

Screenshot of letter cosigned by SPJ, SPLC, and FIRE.

Their issues lie with Athletics requiring media organizations to get credentials before getting any media access, and the ability of the department to revoke credentials at any time without cause.

They say that this policy create ripe ground for more issues to occur in which organizations like Student Media are denied access to cover FIU sports impartially.

Michael Koretzky, a regional director for SPJ, spoke to PantherNOW on the Golden Hour news talk show, saying that FIU handled the situation with Student Media very poorly.

“FIU didn’t even offer a plausible explanation that wasn’t revealing about how stupid they were,” says Koretzky. “There’s no reason to try to exclude your campus media unless you just didn’t like them.”

Koretzky’s is one of four signatures on the letter, in which the three organizations close by asking for a response from Rosenberg by Oct. 4 about changing the University’s policy to better conform with constitutional obligations.

As of the time of this writing, no response has been sent.

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