Why We Will No Longer Cover Major League Rugby Games Involving the New York Ironworkers at Mount Vernon Memorial Field

Why We Will No Longer Cover Major League Rugby Games Involving the New York Ironworkers at Mount Vernon Memorial Field

NEW ROCHELLE, NY (February 27, 2023) — Talk of the Sound was credentialed Sunday to cover the inaugural game of Major League Rugby’s New York Ironworkers at Memorial Field in Mount Vernon. It will be our last.

The game itself was a 39-3 route of the Toronto Arrows.

As a bit of background, I am permanently relocating to West Cork in Ireland this summer. Following my favorite teams — the Yankees, Giants and Fighting Irish — is a problem from 5 time zones away. I decided to take up rugby, in particular IRFU (Ireland National Rugby Union, Munster). I have been watching the Six Nations and hoping to land a ticket to the 2023 World Cup in France this fall. So covering a local Major League Rugby match was a good local story and an opportunity for my first in-person experience with the sport — on the pitch, along the sidelines.

It was a great experience right up until the morning after when everything went sideways.

Between myself, as the print reporter, and my photographer, we had zero minutes of combined experience covering a rugby match.

There was a lot to think about to be in position to follow the ball and otherwise see and photograph the action from the sidelines. The sport is highly photogenic with many players pulling, pushing, tangling and untangling as they struggle to move or prevent the ball from moving down the field. We decided to focus on getting photos of scrums and especially kicks and catches and throw-ins (line-outs in rugby) where players would be high in the air stretching for the ball.

At 13:12 into the match, a short New York kick resulted in two Toronto players colliding with one, Cole Davis, suffering a serious injury that required he was removed from the field (called “the pitch”). Play was stopped for about 15 minutes.

The break afforded an opportunity to skim through photos on the camera. We were happy to see we had a series of photos of a scrum. a kick and an attempted catch resulting in a collision. This was the sort of rugby action we hoped to capture.

She took several photos of the medical staff attending to Davis. We waited to get a photo of Davis being lifted onto a gurney. We had to wait a while. Before anything more happened, a member of the Ironworkers staff walked from the injured player to my photographer and asked her to not take photos of Davis and the medical staff. My photographer readily complied with that request and did not resume taking photos until play resumed.

Overall, we ended up with over 80 high-quality images.

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We published our story last night.

Talk of the Sound: Major League Rugby Arrives in Westchester; New York Trounces Toronto, 39-3 ran a story of 447 words with 11 original photos and no photos provided by Rugby New York, so none related to the Cole Davis injury. There were 69 words (15%) words on the Cole Davis injury. There were three original photos, two from a second or two after the collision and one immediately after the medical staff came onto the field to attend to Davis.

The game was significantly delayed when Arrows players Ciaran Breen and Cole Davis collided in midair with a resounding smack heard all around the stadium. Davis landed hard, his head bouncing off the turf field, and lost consciousness. Cole Davis eventually regained consciousness and was placed in a neck brace then strapped into a board before being lifted onto a gurney and taken by ambulance to an area hospital.

A Google search shows three other accounts of the match online: Canadian Press. Americas Rugby News and CJCoil. We are going into some detail here for reasons we will soon make clear.

Americas Rugby News: Ironworkers blast through hamstrung Arrows in New York ran a story of 491 words with no original photos and one photo provided by Rugby New York, but none related to the Cole Davis injury. There were 39 words (8%) on the Cole Davis injury.

Soon after, a nasty aerial collision between Ciaran Breen and Cole Davis saw the latter bouncing his head off the turf. Davis regained consciousness but was stretchered off during a long delay. When play resumed, Richardson’s kicking woes continued…

DJCoilRugby: Rugby New York Raises Shield to Repel Arrows ran a story of 844 words with no original photos and one photo provided by Rugby New York, but none related to the Cole Davis injury. There were 166 (20%) words on the Cole Davis injury.

In the 11th minute, the match was halted after Windsor’s high ball led to a head collision between Toronto wing Cole Davis and fullback Ciaran Breen. Davis was carted off the pitch and taken to the hospital, and Toronto reported his status below later in the evening below. Avery Oitomen replaced Cole Davis and the match resumed 10+ minutes later, after another ambulance arrived at the field, as required.

Along with 97 words in a tweet:

Canadian Press: Toronto Arrows soundly beaten by New York Ironworkers in Major League Rugby play ran a story of 704 words with no original photos and one Canadian Press file photo from 2022; there are no photos provided by Rugby New York and therefore none related to the Cole Davis injury. There were 111 words (16%) on the Cole Davis injury.

Arrows backs Cole Davis and Ciaran Breen were involved in a heavy collision in the 13th minute.

Arrows backs Cole Davis and Ciaran Breen were involved in a heavy collision in the 13th minute as both looked to corral a high New York kick. Breen continued, but Davis, a 25-year-old Canadian international from Calgary, left on a stretcher after a lengthy delay.

Davis, who was replaced by Avery Oitomen, was taken to hospital but discharged later in the day.

“Cole will travel back to Toronto with the team (Monday) and will rest at home under the care and supervision of club medical staff,” the Arrows said in a statement.

The percentage of reporting on the Davis Breen collision in these 4 articles ranged from 8% to 20%.

  • DJCoilRugby 20%
  • Canadian Press 16%
  • Talk of the Sound 15%
  • Americas Rugby News 8%

There was nothing disproportionate about the amount of column inches we gave to the Davis Breen collision. More to the point, the other media outlets all reported on the collision just as we did.

One media outlet had one file photo of the Arrows from 2022, two had photos provided by New York Rugby. We had two journalists at the match from before it began until after it ended, took hundreds of photos, shot video and, overall, did the only original reporting from the pitch.

We had plans to run a second article to promote next Sunday’s match at home versus Old Glory DC, both to promote the match and make use of some of the best photos that did not make it into the initial article.

After a series of truly bizarre emails, phone calls and text messages from executives with the New York Ironworkers we will not be promoting that match nor covering it either. The communications amount to a sports franchise seeking to dictate media coverage of the team — in particular seeking to control what journalists can report about what takes place on the field and what photographers can shoot on the field.

We have no intention of allowing the subject of our reporting to control what we report.

From my perspective, the Ironworkers showed their appreciation for our making the effort to not just cover the match but attend and cover the day as a new beginning for professional rugby in New York State — the only local and New York metro media outlet to do so — by haranguing us and harassing us with baseless allegations about our integrity — basically calling us liars — demanding we take down our article, remove our photos, then rewrite the article to their liking before re-publishing it.

For our loyal readers over the past 15 years, you can already guess that we did not remotely consider their absurd demands for one second, but here is what took place today.

This morning, we received an email from Walker Tice, Director of Business Development for Rugby New York.

Hi Robert,

Thank you for attending and your coverage.

I do want to address some major concerns we have with the article. Mostly centered around the collision. While rugby is absolutely a tough sport, it is extremely inappropriate bring highlight to this, let alone publish multiple pictures of players injured on the field, one ultimately needing transport. This comes after the photographer was told to stop photographing the injury. It appears that the article is already posted and needs it taken down immediately for revision.

Please reach out with any questions.

Walker Tice

Director, Business Development

Rugby New York

My reply to Walker Tice:

My photographer stopped taking photos when asked to do so; your complaint in that regard is unfounded

While I found the request odd — and solely directed at my photographer, as other photographers and videographers around her continued to shoot uninterrupted (let alone fans) — the photos I published are from the seconds after the collision and the immediate medical response.

Admittedly brand new to covering rugby, I fail to see what is inappropriate about taking photos of what is occurring on the field, including collisions that result in injuries (as this seems to happen constantly) or medic response to an injury (not infrequent).

This particular injury was newsworthy as it stopped play for a significant period of time.

Your request seems akin to thinking there should have been no media coverage of Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin, who went into cardiac arrest during a game. As you may know, the opposite was the case.

I did a superficial Google search and see literally thousands of images of player injuries during Rugby matches, including the actual contact, the medic response and removal of the injured players.

Here are just a tiny few of the many examples from media outlets around the world.







Given this, I see no reason to remove any images in my article.

If you have a policy against taking photos or shooting videos of contact resulting in injuries or any resulting medical treatment, I was not made aware of it. I will not be bound by policies not noticed to me. If you have such a media policy, please provide it and I will either agree to abide by it or not request media credentials for future Ironworker matches.


Robert Cox



Publisher and Managing Editor

Talk of the Sound

Member, New York Press Club

I could have added to my reply this article, which is about a high-profile World Rugby match. This collision was widely covered and photographers did not stop shooting because the player was injured.

Rugby Pass: Faf de Klerk knocked out in horror first-minute collision

The idea that media outlets do not run photographs of injured players is disconnected from reality.

I also received several phone calls, a voice mail and a text message from Steve Lewis.

Hi Bob. Steve Lewis here, GM with Rugby New York, can you give me a quick call please? Left you a couple of messages this morning.

I called him back, fully expecting he was reaching out to apologize for the Walker Tice email. When we spoke on the telephone this afternoon, he started off by saying the email from Walker Tice was “a bit too aggressive”. But it was soon apparent that he had called not to apologize for the content of the email but the tone, to reinforce the points made in the email — that the franchise wants me to remove the photos and not publish about the Case injury — because there is some “unwritten rule” about not taking pictures of contact that results in an injury or injured players on the field.

I explained my policy, that if I am going to accept a press credential, and it comes with certain conditions, I am either going to honor those conditions or not accept the press credential. Just tell me what the policies are and I will abide by them or not accept the privilege of being credentialed for an event.

He kept returning over and over to the entirely false claim that my photographer was shooting photos after she was asked not to shoot photos. Of course, she would have every right to shoot photos regardless — the game was played in a publicly owned park, not Lewis’ living room — but she chose not to. In the second half, she and I stood with the same person who asked my photographer to stop shooting. We chatted for a good long while. She never raised any concerns, and the next day, wrote a pleasant email about the article.

I pointed out that we published three photos related to the collision: two are in the split second after contact and one is a moment later after the medical staff went on the field.

Here are the three photos Lewis and Tice are going on and on about:

Lewis is operating under the delusion that my photographer was shooting continuously for the entire time play stopped, apparently oblivious to the fact that not much happened between the collision and the player being removed from the field. Because she was asked not to, she did not take any pictures of the player being lifted onto the gurney, being taken off the field, being put in the ambulance, or the ambulance driving away. For that reason, we did not publish any such photos, not that there would be anything wrong with that but we had none to publish.

I explained to Lewis that there was no attempt to photograph an injury but to try to capture images of the ball having been kicked and about to be caught, as we had planned at the start of the match. No one had any way of knowing there would be such hard contact at that moment. Having gotten the photos, we are not going to delete them, they are newsworthy photos of an incident that stopped play for a good long time.

I said multiple times that I could not fathom why I would not run the photos and was very surprised that anything was said about it.

I noted that there were a dozen or so people immediately around us with their video cameras running or taking pictures the entire time and nothing was said to them. Lewis denied that anyone was shooting video near us on the sideline. As will soon be clear, this is demonstrably false.

Perhaps the most absurd point in the conversation came when he claimed the “unwritten rule in our sport”, and other sports,  is that the media does not focus on a serious injury, particularly a head injury.

“If you watch any NFL game you watch any major sporting event, the camera pans away” unlike my article which “dwelt on the unfortunate incident”.

He never explained how 69 words of text and 3 photos is “dwelling” on the contact and resulting injury.

I told him it seemed to me that my photographer was being singled out on the field, and now I am being singled out after the fact for doing something that I would consider pretty normal. I brought up the example of the Buffalo Bills player who literally had a cardiac arrest on the field and the camera remained on him for a long time (while clinically dead). ESPN replayed the video of him falling to the ground many times. I said, it’s not the case at all, that when players get injured on the field, that the camera pans away, I've watched a pitcher being hit by a batted ball in a baseball game where the ball hits him in the head, and they'll show that video over and over again. I asked him what sport he was referring to where when players get injured. the cameras pan away and does not show the injury.

When he said we'll have to agree to disagree, I asked him to provide me an example where it's the case, that I would be happy to take a look at it, but Exhibit A seems to be the Buffalo Bills player. The guy literally had a heart attack, ESPN remained on the game, and they provided their live feed to other news outlets throughout the evening.

He kept pushing the idea that I failed to be “sympathetic” or “understanding” of the situation.

When I asked him what he expects when a ball is kicked in the air. No photographer knows anything about the nature of an injury that has yet to happen especially when they are concentrating on photographing the ball coming to the ground.

I finally gave up and told him I think that maybe it's just better that I don't cover rugby because it seems I don't understand what he wants, that he has a sort of unwritten rule of a policy that I don't understand.

At this point, he returned repeatedly to his false claim that my photographer continued to take pictures after she was asked not to take pictures. This is plain stupid on multiple levels because not only did she not continue to take pictures, but I did not publish any such pictures — and the original complaint was to remove photos I published and nothing about photos I did not publish (and do not have). Despite this and despite saying he accepted my answer, he went back to this same lie again and again, seeming to have lost the thread of the original complaint.

He said, if you say, their recollections is different, you say that she stopped immediately. I'm happy to accept that, but I'm just having a conversation about when she was asked to not take pictures.

I once again replied that she did not take pictures after she was asked not to and once again explained that if he looked at the three photos I published, two of them are the immediate aftermath of the collision within about a second. And the third photograph is the immediate medical response. I think Case was probably down in the field for maybe 15 minutes or so; we don't have 15 minutes worth of photos.

Lewis then said something which suggested he had prepared for the call by doing research on me before calling, he said, that for a man who writes extensively on ethics and journalism, he did not understand why I was being so “combative”.

I have written about ethics in journalism, and a key point is you do not allow a subject to dictate their coverage. That is puffery and propaganda. I told him in the bluntest terms that I am being what he calls “combative” because I don't like people telling me my job. I said there's a legitimate purpose to the photos that we shot and that we published, and I cannot fathom the basis for the email earlier and now the phone call. I told him I am always going to react very negatively to people telling me how to write my stories, shoot photographs or what I can or cannot publish.

The call went on for a while, with him piling on the lies and insults until I had enough.

I told him, if you want to have a sport, and you want to have a league, where the reporters cannot report what they see directly in front of them on the field, fine. I didn't go into the locker room. I didn't go to the hospital or force my way into the ambulance. This collision happened 25 feet away from me on the pitch. What am I supposed to do, avert my eyes? I asked, did you make an announcement to the fans with all the people with their iPhones? “Please don't take any pictures”.

I ended with, Good luck with your team. Good luck with your league. Good luck with your sport. I don't want to be involved with something where it's so controlling, that the people involved are telling me that I can't take a picture of something that's 25 feet away from me in the middle of the field. It's just bizarre to me. So good luck. Goodbye.

During the call, Lewis’ absurdities got me wondering how the Ironworkers TV partners handled the collision, the injury, and the subsequent medical treatment. Fair to say, the broadcast team of Matt McCarthy, Mike Petri and Pago Haini did not avert their eyes. During the roughly 16 minutes when play was stopped, the Rugby Network zoomed in on the injured players, replayed the collision from a different tighter camera, “dwelt” on the medical treatment of Cole Davis, Pago Haini provided two medical updates from the pitch (the second one likely a HIPAA violation) the cameras followed every move of the treatment, the gurney and the ambulance from every camera angle including the video camera next to me which kept rolling the entire time.

So much for the “unwritten rule of rugby”.




Injured Players

Injured Player

Injured Player

Replay of Collision, Different Camera Angle (closer)

Medic Response

Medic Response

Pago Haini Medical Update 1

Injured Player Lifted onto Gurney

Injured Player Moved on Gurney

Injured Player Moved on Gurney

Injured Player Moved from Gurney into Ambulance

Pago Haini Medical Update 2 (likely HIPAA violation)

Injured Player Driven Away in Ambulance

Read more