Men’s basketball: Clarke’s injury causes controversy

Sports injuries can be a scary thing for athletes, family and fans.

The Butler community realized this when standout senior transfer Rotnei Clarke flew headfirst into the base of a hoop in a win against Dayton on Jan. 12.

Clarke was fouled hard by Flyers defender Matt Derenbecker and hit the basket, suffering a neck sprain. He was taken off  the court on a stretcher after nearly eight minutes in front of a packed arena and a national TV audience on the NBC Sports Network.

The entire country heard him  tell trainer Ryan Galloy and team doctor, Tom Fisher, “I can’t move.”

Doctors told Clarke not to move after he said he felt numb.

This was all heard on national television, and this didn’t sit well with Butler officials.

The university filed a complaint with the Atlantic 10  conference and the NBC Sports Network because fans watching the broadcast knew more about his status than his family and team did.

Galloy said he wasn’t paying attention to the cameras at the time but later learned about the situation.

“I thought it was rather unorthodox that they recorded everything,” Galloy said.

Jim McGrath, Butler sports information director, learned about the situation when Fisher contacted him after returning to Indianapolis. McGrath forwarded Fisher’s concerns to A-10 officials, who, in turn, contacted the NBC Sports Network.

Drew Dickerson, A-10 director of communications and media relations, said they contacted the network, as well as every institution in the conference.

“We contacted the NBC Sports Network, and they apologized,” Dickerson said. “They assured to contact production teams.”

Dickerson said each institution’s game management personnel was instructed on the importance of managing TV crew during games.

Normally during an injury in any sort of game, cameras will focus on an injured player but not record sound.

McGrath said NBC was in agreement that the coverage went too far and it should have backed down on the audio coverage.

Fisher’s main goal was to make sure something like this never happens again, McGrath said.

Analyst Jay Bilas said it’s a “hard sell” to convince him that television shouldn’t cover an event as it’s happening live.

“(This is) something that everybody should talk about and decide what’s the right thing to do because those are important issues that need to be discussed in a serious manner,” Bilas said.

McGrath also said this is an important issue in the world of sports.

“It raises an interesting question,” McGrath said. “In a public place, where is the line drawn that the public is not allowed to find out what is going on?”

Clarke said he doesn’t think much of the controversy but understands the situation.

“I was just in the moment and worried about and thinking about my health at that point,” Clarke said. “It was a little bit of invasion of privacy, but it wasn’t that big of a deal.”

Clarke is ruled out for tonight’s game at La Salle but is expected to return Saturday night against Temple.

“I’ve progressed daily,” Clarke said. “I think I’m doing well and ahead of schedule.”

Clarke said he wasn’t feeling pain the day before the Gonzaga game, and he was able to get in the gym and take a few shots.

Tonight’s game is televised on WNDY, and Saturday night’s game will be on ESPN2. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.


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