Over the years, I’ve been on the receiving end of many, many uni-related leaks. By “leaks,” I mean confidential or privileged information that was provided to me by well-placed sources. That’s how I recently got the story of the Bucs’ new uniforms and the story of what the Browns had in the works prior to their unveiling, along with lots of other big stories over the years.
During one semi-recent discussion with a leaker, the leaker said something like (I’m paraphrasing from memory here), “I’m not even sure why I’m telling you all of this. But it’s a big adrenaline rush!” By this time he and I had established a good rapport, so I felt comfortable saying, “Yeah, the psychology of leaking is pretty interesting. Maybe I should do a story on that at some point, to describe the situation from the leaker’s point of view.”
This is that story. I’ve written before about the psychology of leaking, but this story is different, because it’s straight from the sources’ mouths. I was interested in hearing what motivated these sources, why they chose to share sensitive information with me, and how they felt about the experience. So I contacted a bunch of people who had leaked info to me over the years and asked if they’d be willing to answer some questions, anonymously, for an article about leakers. Every single one of them said yes. So I emailed the same set of questions to all of them; about half of them responded. You’ll see their answers to my questions in a moment.
Some quick notes:
• To simplify matters, I’ve referred to the leakers simply as Source A, Source B, and so on. (The guy I mentioned above, whose quip prompted this story, is Source C.)
• To make it easier to follow a given source’s train of thought, I’ve color-coded each source’s responses to my questions. Source A’s responses are all in orange, Source B’s are all in blue, and so on. Unfortunately, due to the number of respondents, I was forced to use purple. (Apologies to our colorblind readers — hopefully you’ll still be able to follow along even if all the text looks the same color.)
• As you’ll see, some sources answered every question I posed to them; others skipped some of the questions. Some responses have been edited or condensed for clarity.
Ready? Here we go:
Question 1: How did you have access to the information you leaked to me? In other words, did you work for a team, or for a league, or for a retailer? Or maybe a friend of yours worked for a team/league/etc.?
Source A: I work for an arena where I am privy to certain discussions.
Source B: I was the licensed apparel and headwear buyer for a large chain of sporting goods stores.
Source C: I previously worked for the team and had received images from a friend who is a current staff member of the team.
Source D: I leaked a photo from a friend who works at Dick’s Sporting Goods. He had told me that it was one of several pictures that managers were sharing concerning [a particular product line].
Source E: I had done a focus group survey conducted by [a team, which showed a series of new uniform options]. I guess they got my name because I bought tickets online. It was completely random, and I had heard through social media that such surveys were being sent out. I was happy when I got one.
Source F: Worked as a team employee. A work colleague who “gets it” shared the info with me.
Question 2: What made you decide to offer that information to me? Please try to be as honest with yourself as you can. For example, did you do it because it made you feel important? Did you do it because you like attention? Did you do it because you’re a fan of Uni Watch and wanted to help me? Did you do it because you had a grudge against a team/league/outfitter and wanted to stick it to them? Any other reason(s)? Again, try to be as honest with yourself (and with me!) as possible.
Source A: I have been an avid Uni Watch reader and felt it was the least I could do as a sort of repayment for all of the enjoyment I get out of reading the daily postings and [Twitter] feed. To be honest, I want no part of any attention, but it did feel good to feel like I was playing a small part in helping the cause!
Source B: I did it because I’m infatuated with licensed apparel and goods. I grew up in the business — my family owned the weekly magazine/newspaper for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (you know, when people actually bought magazines), which then developed a mail-order business out of a spare bedroom in our house, which then grew to a 6,000-sqauare-foot store in Tampa selling only licensed goods. I liked leaking the information, as I liked to see online chatter about leaks from uniform geeks and fans alike, whether it was a positive or negative reaction. If it was an overwhelmingly positive reaction (which rarely happens nowadays), I would use that as customer feedback and scale up orders if I could. If the reaction was negative, I would then temper our sales expectations.
Also, I kinda got a bit of excitement seeing my leaked information get out there before someone else’s. I feel like so much regarding uniforms gets leaked via video games these days, so I wanted to beat it to the punch. Plus, leaking info would occasionally lead to learning of other information that I may not have had. For example, my Nike rep typically only shared info on stuff relative to my business, so sometimes he wouldn’t share information on teams that he knew I didn’t purchase.
Source C: I jotted this down one night shortly after we had our discussion about the potential for an article on this subject. This was how I felt at that point, so it is rather raw. It was late at night when thoughts were free-flowing through my head and I did my best to capture them:
I still cannot put my finger on any specific reasoning for the desire to be an informant. Perhaps it is a societal learned trait that drives us, in these instances.
Because it really almost feels like we are trying to sell pictures of Bigfoot to The National Enquirer. We hold some kind of belief that what we have is valuable. Probably because there has been an attached value placed on this information, especially in the last 25 years, or so. The industry has put these uniforms and unveilings on such a pedestal that anyone with that guarded information feels a sense of power. A sense of smugness, almost. That we have something over the “commoners.” It is not anything tangible, but rather something constructed in the corporate industries to drive ethos and market desires.
Once the rush wears off, there may be some remorse, or there may be a sense that an addict is chasing a rush and needs to deliver the next piece of hidden information.
Most of us presumably came from similar backgrounds and upbringings, in that we were (or still are) fans. Fanatics. We have a shared passion, with little to separate us other than presumed knowledge of the industry. In an arms race to showcase one’s knowledge, a major card that can be played is often that of inside information. Whether it be betting on games, the X’s and O’s of a playbook, knowing a coach, player, owner, front office personnel, or even just having the closest season tickets — all of this is a giant pissing contest in an attempt to pound our chest as the “biggest fan.”
Source D: The first time I shared that photo was about two days after I received it. I first posted it on a Facebook fan page, and people dismissed my posting, which was fine — I honestly didn’t care. But a couple days later the picture on Twitter, as a response to a teaser video that the [team in question] tweeted. I wasn’t expecting any reaction from the picture — I figured it would go unnoticed, as most of my tweets eventually are — and I certainly didn’t do it to spite anyone or any organization.
Source E: You are a uniform expert — you’ve turned an obsession into a vocation. I enjoy your work, and I thought you would definitely be interested — not to break a story or make news, but because you would really want to know about it.
Source F: Big fan of Uni Watch, but more importantly the person behind it [this source and I were already friends — PL], and wanted to help. Quite honestly, I thought you may have already have had that info. There was also a bit of sticking it to “the man.”
Question 3: Were you at all conflicted about sharing the information with me? Did you go back and forth in your own mind about whether you should do it? What were your biggest concerns or reservations?
Source A: I was a bit concerned. I had no clue how many people knew [what I was telling you], so it was a leap of faith for sure.
Source B: No reservations at all. If you were just some Joe Shmoe, then yeah, I’d probably have had some reservations, but you run Uni Watch — can’t get any more accredited than that.
Source C: Personally, I felt a great conflict in sharing any information with anyone. I weighed a lot of factors and wrestled with the decision for days. My concern was mostly about who might be impacted by my actions and what negative effects there might be. The fear that people could lose their jobs, their livelihoods, or just face professional repercussions were weighed in my mind. Once I realistically weighed the risks of the circumstance, I felt much more at ease and decided to move forward.
Source D: The only conflict I had after the picture went viral was that I did not want my friend who sent me the picture to know how it quickly caught on fire. I didn’t want to break that trust, because he just sent me the picture to show it to me, not to expose anything. There was no malicious or even breaking news intention behind my posting of the photo. I honestly thought people probably would already have seen it.
Source E: I wasn’t conflicted. Yes, I signed an NDA, but I’ve worked with those before and know what they are intended to do. I wasn’t going to profit off this info and neither were you. [Actually, I think I could fairly be said to have profited off the info, since I got a scoop out of it. — PL] I wouldn’t have just shared that info with just anyone. I didn’t have any concerns, especially since I was in literally the last focus group (last group of sessions, last day of sessions, last session of the day) and a bit of info had already leaked out.
Source F: No reservations about the initial share. But I did have a bit of nervousness that the storm the info set off would somehow get back to me or my employer’s IP address and how that might affect my job status.
Question 4: When I looked at the information you provided and asked you various questions about it, did you feel that those questions were fair and reasonable?
Source B: Of course.
Source C: Absolutely. And I expected to be vetted and the information to be challenged. But at the end of the day, I knew what I was sitting on and felt secure in the process.
Source E: Totally.
Question 5: Once I went ahead and wrote something about the information you provided, did you think I was fair in the way I described the information? Did I keep any promises I may have made to you (involving your anonymity, or anything else)?
Source B: Always kept your promise, and I was surprised to see exact quotes sometimes used.
Source C: 100% yes, on all points here. All promises were kept and complete anonymity was provided. I had trusted that this would be the case — otherwise I wouldn’t have moved forward with the passing of information.
Source E: You were very fair and accurate. In fact, I think you double-checked on something I said and then got back to me to confirm.
Source F: Completely fair, as I recall. I wouldn’t expect anything less.
Question 6: Once I wrote something about the information you provided, did you feel excited? Relieved? Let down? Scared? Anything else?
Source A: Probably a little scared, to tell the truth. I don’t think it’s a secret that I read Uni Watch first thing in the morning when I am in the office, so I worried about potential blowback.
Source B: Always felt excited. Only had a small group of buds who I would share the articles with and mention that I was one of the sources. My wife got angry at me after the first instance, so I stopped telling her about it!
Source C: It was a mixed bag of emotions that were processed immediately after reading your article. Mostly excited, I would say. There was some fear in trying to see if my phone would blow up about the leak, or if anyone would trace it back to me or question me about it. It certainly was amusing to watch it take off and go viral as quickly as it did. It was difficult to not chime in on social media to the people who were skeptical of the information!
Source D: When the photo I tweeted went viral and you got in touch to ask me more about it (how I got it, etc.), I was extremely excited to know that you were going to write about it on Uni Watch. What followed, with your article and lots of other media coverage, was pretty exciting and fun.
Source E: Excited. It felt good to provide something useful.
Source F: I was certainly excited that it got out and became big news for those of us who get it.
Question 7: Do you feel any regrets about sharing this information with me?
Source A: I do not. I feel like it would be hypocritical of me to regret sharing information that I normally can hardly wait to get into the office to read on most mornings.
Source B: None. Wish I had more to share!
Source C: Only slightly. Just the aforementioned fear of being found out and jeopardizing relationships or even careers, to a lesser degree.
Source D: I feel no regrets at all. But when my son and I watched the official unveiling, it sort of took the excitement out of the event for me.
Source E: None.
Source F: None.
Question 8: Did anyone ever figure out that you were the source of the leak? If so, were there any consequences of that?
Source A: I don’t think anyone figured it out. If they did, I never received any consequences.
Source B: Nope.
Source C: I don’t believe so. If they did, nobody ever confronted me. It probably helped that the pandemic was just getting crazy, so the leak blew over really quickly and the team did its unveiling shortly thereafter.
Source D: Well, people like you found out! But I had no consequences from this.
Source E: No.
Source F: Not at all.
Question 9: If you were in a similar situation again, would you once again share privileged information with me?
Source A: 100 times out of 100.
Source B: Totally.
Source C: It would depend on the situation, but probably.
Source D: Yes without a doubt. We live in the age of spoilers — I’m the type of guy who likes to read the plot of movies on Wikipedia before I go to watch them.
Source E: Yes.
Source F: In a New York minute.
Question 10: Some people say that it’s not fair to leak uniform information to reporters, because it messes up the marketing plans that a team may have carefully constructed. What do you think of that?
Source A: They might be right in feeling that way, but to be honest a lot of this information gets out there anyway if people are looking in the right places. For me, I hate waiting until Christmas morning to open my gifts, and I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who feels that way.
Source B: I’ve yet to see a team/league/brand execute a launch without a leak of some sort. I think it adds excitement, especially if only parts are leaked. If the whole thing is leaked, then it sucks for the launch. But if people love it, then people buy it immediately.
Source C: There is likely some validity in that line of thinking. But the other side of that coin is that all of this is done for greed anyway, and none of it really matters much on the grand scheme of things. The truth, as with most things, likely lies somewhere in the middle. If a leak can be provided without the risk of major chaos and loss of livelihood, then is it really hurting anyone?
Source D: I agree, but then again we live in an era of massive communication and information. Sports teams need to adjust how they release and unveil logos and uniforms, because it’s hard to maintain secrecy.
Source F: If it’s such a big deal, marketing and design teams should keep a tighter lid on it. Maybe more leaks will force major sports leagues to be more nimble and flexible with their ridiculous lead times and uni-change rules. But I understand how much planning goes into an unveiling on the team side, so I certainly feel for those of us who work hard and have plans spoiled. We are just adhering to rules that the leagues set out, however. I’m sure a majority of folks on the team side would love to tweak and change things each season.
I’ll say this: I wish I still had my hands on some of the content I saw from working on the team side during that phase of my career. Stuff that would absolutely blow fans’ minds. I feel like it should be a gift to the uni-verse — not buried in some graphics/video department’s cloud. I’m still holding out hope some of it will surface at some point.
Question 11: I’ve often thought that leaked information is a lot like gossip. We all know what it’s like to have a fun secret and want to gossip about it with someone else. Would you agree that the experience of leaking uniform information to me was a lot like gossiping? And in general, would you say that you’re a gossipy person?
Source A: Ha-ha, yeah, that might be true. I think for the most part I am not much of a gossiper, especially when I am focused at work. To be honest, I stumbled upon the info innocently and felt like I sort of owed it to you, as I haven’t contributed much else as of yet. If I am reading the site and didn’t play this small part, I feel like I would be a sort of hypocrite.
Source B: I’m a bad secret keeper in general. I just enjoy sharing fun/new things with others.
Source C: I do not consider myself to be a gossipy person at all. In fact, I would likely say that I am the one who a lot of people confide in with all sorts of information. But I would agree that leaking a uniform is essentially gossiping. So in this particular instance, I would say that I stepped outside of my norms and participated in gossip — which honestly surprised me as much as anything. When I decided to tell some close relatives that I leaked the information, I was met with the same question from each: “Why?” My response to each of them was the same: “I don’t know.”
Source D: Generally speaking, I don’t like to gossip. But I honestly don’t think that leaking information is like gossip, especially when the information is accurate.
Source E: I’m not a gossipy person and I only consider something gossip if it’s slanted and/or untruthful. That said, I work with information — I’ve worked in journalism, marketing, PR, and corporate communications for 20-plus years — so I know how to use information correctly and discreetly.
Source F: I never thought of it like that. But I’m sure that’s why sites like Reddit web forums exist on some level. Sure, I like a good nugget of information and am happy to share in the right moment.
Question 12: Anything else to add? Anything you want me to know that I haven’t asked you?
Source B: When it comes to the vendors, some do a better job than others at keeping info quiet. Adidas handles it the best — they usually don’t show retailers images until the uniform launches. The last thing I saw from them in my old job was the launch product for FC Cincinnati — they showed me blank silhouettes in the final colors. Nike would show everything. They’d have PowerPoint presentations, videos, stories, marketing, the whole shebang. They tried to get cute with some of the NBA jersey launches by showing all of the jerseys in succession, but you saw them for maybe a quarter of a second before it went to the next team. Under Armour rarely ever launched product, so there were rarely leaks for them. I did leak CADs of USF’s first Under Armour kits back in 2008, however. I did that to stir up hype, as my company at the time handled the e-commerce business for their athletic dept.
Lastly, some of the games that teams and vendors play with “secret” product hurts their chances at retailers buying more. They may keep something super-amazing under lock and key, and a retailer will underbook it. Atlanta United, for example — Adidas kept their King Peach jersey secret, and the market was sold out immediately because retailers (besides Fanatics, who saw it, because they own the license) didn’t know how good it was.
Paul here. Fascinating info, no?
Two additional notes, just for clarification’s sake:
• If someone leaks something to me, I don’t just go ahead and publish it. For sources who I’m not previously acquainted with, I vet them to establish how they acquired the information they’re sharing with me and how solid the info is. If I’m satisfied that the source and the info are legit, I go ahead with a story; if I’m not satisfied (which has often been the case), or if the info is just unsubstantiated hearsay, I don’t publish.
• While I have often reported on solid info that was leaked to me, I have never leaked anything myself.
I want to thank each of these sources for participating in this article, and also for entrusting me with sensitive information.
Odd place for Wahoo to resurface: On Wednesday morning, ESPN published a really well-reported piece about the logistical challenges that MLB is facing in its attempts to play ball this year (recommended reading!).
The article prominently mentioned Angels outfielder Mike Trout (because his wife is due to give birth to their first child this summer) and Cleveland pitcher Carlos Carrasco (because he’s immuno-compromised and is therefore in a high-risk category for the coronavirus), so the article was accompanied by a Photoshopped image of those two players, along with an umpire wearing a mask, with a background of empty seats. That image was also the lead item on ESPN’s home page for a good chunk of yesterday.
It makes sense that they’d choose to depict Carrassco. But showing him wearing a cap with a controversial logo that was retired from on-field use in 2018 — that’s a head-scratcher.
Meanwhile, in a vaguely related item, reader Alexander Kinkopf notes that the scorebug for yesterday’s MLB Network rebroadcast of the 1997 ALCS used Cleveland’s script “I” logo:
I’m pretty sure that logo didn’t even exist in 1997 (it debuted as an alternate logo, not a primary, in 2002), but I guess the MLB folks are trying to avoid using Wahoo.
ITEM! NYT raffle: My New York Times account comes with two bonus digital subscriptions. The Tugboat Captain uses one of them, and last November months ago I raffled off the access to the other one to reader Jake Yaerget. Jake’s six-month term as my subscription beneficiary is now ending, so I’m going to give the gift of journalism to someone else for six months.
Obviously, I can’t control who enters this raffle. But if possible, I’d like the digital access to go to someone who wants to read the Times but doesn’t have the financial resources to do so. Please take that into account when deciding whether you’ll enter.
This will be a one-day raffle. To enter, send an email to the raffle address by 8pm Eastern tonight. One entry per person. I’ll announce the winner tomorrow.
Meanwhile, speaking of raffles, the four winners of yesterday’s membership raffle are Scott Chamberlain, Nick Lineback, John Horn, and Joanna Zwiep. Congrats to them, and big thanks to readers Logan Irons, Jeremiah Allyn and Ben Garner for sponsoring this one.
’Skins Watch: A senior civil rights official at the U.S. Department of Energy who also happens to be a Native American has received a discrimination settlement for retaliation after raising concerns about the ’Skins team name (from Timmy Donahue). … Slowly but surely: RHAM High School in Hebron, Conn., is the latest school to drop its Native American team name and will now be known as the Raptors. Although that article doesn’t mention it, the teams had previously been called the Sachems, a reference to Algonquin tribe chiefs (from Timmy Donahue).
Working Class Wannabes™: ESPN writer Marcel Louis-Jacuqes says that the U. of Iowa football team and the Buffalo Bills have a lot in common because “The Bills and Hawkeyes feature blue-collar coaches,” among other things. Footnote: Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz has an annual salary of $4.5 million (from Kenneth Traisman). … In a related item, a shop in Buffalo is selling a Bills T-shirt that says, “Blue Collar Buffalo Football.” … West Virginia football commit Treylan Davis says of his high school team, “We’re a running offense, and I play tough and physical. We’re blue collar boys.” … Arkansas head football coach Sam Pittman says, “We’re going to come in here and recruit the right kind of players. We are a blue-collar team.” … New Hiram College football commit Johnnie Eckart is described by his high school coach like so: “He is an extremely intelligent player with a blue collar work ethic.” … UNC Charlotte assistant head coach Marcus West says defensive lineman Alex Highsmith will be a good fit for the Steelers, who selected Highsmith in the third round of the recent NFL draft, because “What I know about the Steelers from watching them from the outside, it’s a steel town, blue-collar mentality. I think that’s what you want when you want to draft somebody. You want to draft somebody that’s going to play Steeler football, blue-collar, steel-town defense.”
Baseball News: Classic pandemic filler: a ranking of the best MLB team nicknames (not official names) of all time, and a look at the origins of MLB team names (thanks, Brinke). … I appear as a talking head in this NBC Sports Chicago TV report about the White Sox’s 1976 shorts. … A Phillies/76ers mash-up uni? Sure, why not (from many readers). … The Indians’ social media staff hid the face of actor Nicholas Cage in 39 of their “starting lineup” graphics last season. You can scroll though the responses to that tweet to see many of them (from many readers).
NFL News: Former Bengals QB Boomer Esiason says the team needs to redesign its “horrific” uniforms. … New Bucs QB Tom Brady is instructing his new center, Ryan Jensen, on exactly how to fold his towel to avoid a sweaty butt (from Kary Klismet).
Basketball News: Here’s a graphic showing all the jerseys Michael Jordan wore in competition (including some non-basketball jerseys), from his JV basketball team in 1978 through the Wizards in 2003 (nice job by Conrad Burry). … Did you know that the Jacksonville men’s hoops team used to have a logo featuring a basketball-playing dolphin wearing a uniform — including sneakers? I didn’t, until Erik Morris told me! … Great shot of then-Nuggets stars David Thompson, Dan Issel, and Alex English in Superman costumes (from Kary Klismet). … Cross-listed from the baseball section: A 76ers/Phillies mash-up uni? Sure, why not (from many readers). … Reebok’s Kobe Bryant sneakers, which were supposed to launch at the NBA’s All-Star weekend but were cancelled due to Bryant’s death, have surfaced (from @brianspeaksnow).
Soccer News: The NWSL’s Portland Thorns have revealed their new primary and secondary kits. … Earlier this week we reported that Korean side FC Seoul had put sex dolls in the stands in lieu of fans. Now the team has been hit with a big fine for that stunt. … Manchester City’s third kit has leaked. … And so has the new Club America away kit. … New home and away kits for Scottish side Aberdeen. “That link also mentions a new Scottish number/NOB font for next season,” says our own Jamie Rathjen.
Grab Bag: The rock band Kiss had to change its logo in Germany due to Nazi comparisons. … Here’s a weird one: The logo used by Apollo High School in Kentucky appears to be a straight-up poach of the Anheuser Busch logo. And yes, they’ve apparently used it on their uniforms (from Jeff Curley). … Chicago Tribune sports columnist Paul Sullivan showed his collection of random sports mementos he’s amassed during his years on the beat (from Mike Chamernik). … Horry George Technical College, a two-year school in South Carolina, has a new mascot: Chomp the Gator (from Timmy Donahue). … Also from Timmy: New logo/mascot for Crown College in Minnesota. … No, I don’t think advertising culture has gotten out of hand, not at all (from several readers). … During a White House press conference yesterday, White House Communications Director Alyssa Farah wore a mask with an upside-down presidential seal (from jayappletree). … New logo for the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum.
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What Paul did last night: Pre-pandemic, we almost never watched TV (well, aside from sports and Turner Classic). But in mid-March the Hulu gods gave me a free one-month subscription for my birthday, and then I forgot to cancel it after the free month was up so we got another month. During that time we’ve watched a lot of Hulu-vision, including Better Things (loved it — we watched all four seasons), High Fidelity (some good moments but also a lot of bullshit — we bailed after three or four episodes), Normal People (flawed but never less than interesting, so we ended up watching all 12 episodes), Mrs. America (hated it — obvious, formulaic, predictable, all the worst things about television), and, because I’m a Lindy West fan, Shrill (started out promisingly but got completely ridiculous early in the second season, so we bailed).
Anyway, I was about to be billed for another month of Hulu, but I cancelled my account yesterday because it didn’t seem worth it. So yesterday on the porch we talked about the various shows we’d been watching, the annoying conventions of television storytelling, and whether we can get a friend to give us their Netflix password now that we don’t have Hulu anymore. (Answer: Yes, as it turns out, we can.) Later, after dinner, we just worked and read — no TV. And that was fine.
The branch is still there.
As always, you can see the full set of Pandemic Porch Cocktails™ photos here.