Selena Roberts, the distinguished sports journalist who broke the 2009 landmark story revealing that Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids, discussed the controversy with Montclair State University students in a special appearance on campus at a Sports Media and Society class on March 11.
A senior writer at Sports Illustrated, Roberts made national headlines last year with her investigative reporting that resulted in the Yankee superstar—baseball’s highest-paid player—to acknowledge he used illegal performance-enhancing drugs. Four months after her story rocked the baseball world, Roberts’ book, A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez was published.
For more than two hours, Roberts spoke and answered questions for the students in the class, which is co-taught by New York Times sports columnist Harvey Araton (a former colleague of Roberts at the Times), and Dave Kaplan, director of the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center. Roberts also gave an interview to staff members of The Montclarion during her visit.
Roberts’ investigative reporting triggered a huge backlash, as she was subjected to a widespread smear campaign and was accused by Rodriguez of being a “stalker.” Rodriguez later called Roberts to apologize. Despite the veracity of her story, she was greeted with vile reaction in the blogosphere and other media, and even received death threats.
Noting that she was no stranger to controversy, Roberts told the students what mattered the most was that she reported the truth. She said she got the story the right way, by solid reporting with due diligence, and had no regrets. What she did not expect, however, was such a hostile and organized attack on her character and gender.
Roberts also discussed her controversial columns on the Duke University lacrosse scandal, while at the New York Times. Those columns, in which she scrutinized the culture of the lacrosse program, also brought her much animus, especially when the rape charges against the Duke players were dropped.
When Roberts, who worked at the New York Times from 1996-2007 before joining Sports Illustrated, was asked to reflect on the most impactful story of her career, she told of the time she covered NASCAR for the Orlando Sentinel in the early 1990s. She took on the smoking industry, which was trying to circumvent the ban on cigarette advertising by marketing at race events.