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What are we entitled to see?

In a world increasingly saturated with media, the debate over coverage of injuries goes on.

Denmark v Finland - UEFA Euro 2020: Group B
The Danes form a protective wall around their teammate.
Photo by Friedemann Vogel - Pool/Getty Images

If you have read here long enough or listened to our podcast at all, you may be aware that all of the staff here are big fans of soccer/football. Recently, that has meant watching the European Championships. The big story there has been the collapse and subsequent resuscitation of Christian Eriksen.

If you aren’t familiar with the story, Eriksen is a Danish soccer player who went to receive a throw in in the 42nd minute of a first matchday game between Denmark and Finland. The ball struck Eriksen in the shin and he immediately fell to the floor, clearly in substantial duress. It was later revealed that Eriksen’s heart stopped as he lay on the ground. 13 minutes of CPR and one application of the defibrillator later, Eriksen was taken to the hospital, where he is recovering well.

The UEFA camera feed broadcast images from the pitch for 17 minutes before releasing back to studio shows. Danish players realized what was happening and, led by their captain, Simon Kjaer, formed a wall around Eriksen and the doctors working on him. Derek Rae and Efan Ekoku, commentating on the game, stridently refused to speculate on what was happening and urged those watching (and those running the feed) to respect the privacy of the obviously stricken Danes and Eriksen’s wife.

That raised the eternal question of what fans are entitled to see. This ties into college basketball because the same situations arise there. When Keyontae Johnson fell this season, cameras took it all in. When Kevin Ware suffered his horrific injury, cameras watched until they were shielded and CBS even went so far as to run a replay. Hank Gathers death was documented by cameras and, in far less dramatic circumstances, every injury is dutifully reviewed, replayed, and watched in minute detail.

Eriksen’s case was an extreme one. There should really be no debate as to whether fans should be able to see someone fight for life in front of his loved ones. The answer is no. Taylor Twellman’s disgusting and inexcusable performance in the studio was made possible partly because the cameras lingered and forced hosts to say...something. Twellman took wild guesses as to what had caused the issue, criticized the medical staff that saved Eriksen’s life, and speculated some more as he desperately tried to seem an expert on everything. He was replaced at the commerical break by an appropriately somber Tim Howard. (Twellman, by the way, should be suspended for quite some time.) What of the less dramatic scenes, though? Should fans have seen Ben Stanley writhe and yell on the ground after his knee went?

Those are questions that each producer has to wrestle with as the game goes on. At what point does the public’s understandable desire to see what is happening get outweighed by the athlete’s right to privacy? When does reporting the story become an invasion? The UEFA producer said that there was no playbook for something like this, and he was right. He said that the only close ups (and the cameras were careful to never zoom anywhere near Eriksen) he used were of Danish fans to try to show the impact of the moment. Is that ok? Should people’s emotions be part of a television production?

Injuries, and, unfortunately, even worse events are part of the game. They happen in a public space in the public eye. At some point, though, the seriousness of injury or a fight for life supersedes the production. The show doesn’t always have to go on. What, exactly, are we entitled to see?