Tennessee catcher Evan Russell is mulling over his options when it comes to legal action in response to ESPN’s blasphemous misreport from the Knoxville Regional in June.
After Russell was not present for Tennessee’s opening game against Alabama State on Friday, June 3, ESPN reported a fake and troll news source on live television that claimed that Russell was suspended for performance-enhancing drugs.
The report, however, was completely fabricated as Russell returned to the action on Saturday.
“It was pretty crazy, failed a drug test so Evan Russell is suspended for the rest of the season, so Tennessee is going to have the whole rest of the team tested tomorrow, or the NCAA is. So it’s going to be interesting to see if that’s just a one-player thing or throughout that whole entire program. Performance-enhancing drugs is what it was said,” former Arkansas outfielder and ESPN color commentator Troy Eklund said.
See Also from RTI: Evan Russell Opens Up on Anxiety, ESPN Misreport in Recent Interview
On Wednesday, Russell participated in an interview with Tomi Lahren on Outkick’s Tomi Lahren is Fearless show. During the interview, Russell did speak about potential actions that he may take against ESPN and/or the commentator. While Russell did not give away any specifics, details, or plans, he did talk about the impact that the entire situation has had on him.
“Me and my legal team, we are pursuing many options,” Russell said on the Tomi Lahren is Fearless show. “In a sense, it’s kind of to prevent it from happening again. There’s a lot of people, a lot of college baseball players, college athletes that are really trying to make it. Trying to make a career out of it. So to have any one professional get up there and in front of millions of people say something derogatory towards anyone is kind of a tough thing to do. I’m all about boosting people and supporting people because there’s no player that’s out there that’s not trying to do well and not trying to have a good reputation and stuff like that. So I think emotions kind of got the best of the guy. I’m sure he’s a good – a pretty good – analyst and stuff.”
“Did [Troy Eklund] call you or apologize to you?” Lahren responded back. “Did he reach out personally at all?”
“That’s the thing,” Russell said. “He didn’t reach out personally to me. I watched the [televised] apology [during a live broadcast]. I wasn’t necessarily looking for an apology, from him in particular, but he didn’t reach out to me personally.”
“He just wanted to cover his a**,” Lahren said. “That’s what he was doing. He had to put that out there, ESPN said oh boy, you should put that out there, have a little apology, and then it’ll all be good and we can cover ourselves. I am not your legal team. I think you should go after them with everything that you’re worth and everything that they’re worth and I think that you should put them in their place. Because you aren’t the first person that this has happened to – in sports, news, and politics – and I think you should shut it all the way down. And I think Tennessee would be behind you in a big way.”
Whether Russell, his legal team, and his family decide to take legal action against the misreport is still to be seen. However, give credit to Evan Russell and how he is handling this situation. While Russell knows that he is at the center of this particular story, he candidly spoke about wanting to prevent this sort of treatment for other players.
Elsewhere in the interview, Russell bravely opened up about dealing with stress and anxiety during that weekend, which is what caused him to miss the first game. Russell spoke about the pressure of switching positions and the amount of outside noise that eventually began to affect his mental state.
“Ironically, it kind of came from media,” Russell said during the interview. “Kind of looking for fulfillment with people’s opinions, about how I was playing, just a lot of stress and anxiety had built up over the season and a lot of people had felt that since I had changed positions, learned a completely new position, that I was the weakest part of the team. And I was the chance for other teams to take down a really good team, a really talented team. A lot of that pressure was building up. I didn’t handle it correctly of missing a game. I’ll have to live with the decision of running from the pressure and bailing on my teammates. But I really think it’s a good thing that we won the games after that because if I didn’t show that I was able to play, there would be a lot of people that would still be convinced I was suspended for PEDs (performance-enhancing drugs).”
Evan Russell’s full interview on the Tomi Lahren is Fearless show can be found below.