Just as quickly as she burst onto the scene in the starring role of one of the most intriguing, stunning stories to hit the internet... Sarah Phillips disappeared back into the shadows. Last week, after Deadspin's initial expose, Sarah Phillips became a household name for the way she conned ESPN into a writing job and several individuals on the internet out of thousands of dollars. We then did more research into her taking control of a popular Willy Wonka parody account from its owners in a shady deal and the restoration of the account in the frantic wake of the scandal. Phillips' connection to her boyfriend/partner-in-crime Nilesh Prasad has also been well documented.
But what about now? In the 24/7 cycle, it seems like it has been an eternity since we've heard anything new about the great mystery regarding the former ESPN columnist. (In reality, it's just been a handful of days.) For as captivated as the internet was in the hours the Sarah Phillips story broke, we've moved on to other things. The NBA & NHL Playoffs, concussions in the NFL, and Bryce Harper are what we're talking about now. But, that doesn't mean there hasn't been developments in the case of Sarah Phillips. Here's various updates from around the web on where her story has gone since she vanished from the headlines and where she is right now...
ESPN Responds (Larry Brown Sports)
During an online chat, ESPN Executive Editor John Walsh answered a question about Phillips' hiring at the network with a lengthy response on the network's actions:
We need to remember she was a freelance contributor, not an employee or full-time staffer, or part-time staffer, or contractual contributor. As such, she was properly vetted for the normal hiring standards for per-piece contributors, which is common not just at ESPN, but throughout the media industry. For those unaware, there is a big difference in these job descriptions. As the name implies, freelancers without contracts are free to work anywhere, for anybody. There is no obligation on the part of the individual or the company to continue the working relationship. When she first started, she provided the information necessary to contribute to us (obviously, since then we were aware only of the contributions she was making to ESPN). This week, when we became aware of other information, we promptly ended our per-piece relationship with her. We are continuing to review this instance and examining our process for potential changes.
As Larry Brown points out in his synopsis of Walsh's comments, the defense of ESPN rings a little hollow. The differences between freelance columnist Sarah Phillips and multi-millionaire columnist Rick Reilly aren't made clear when they both appear in the same manner on ESPN.com. In fact, Phillips even had her own column (Lies, Damned Lies, & Statistics) and her own mailbag feature. If ESPN had truly and properly vetted Phillips, they would have asked questions about her changing appearance at Covers and a lot more smoke around her questioned persona. Instead, that was evidently overpowered by the prospect of a smart, attractive, young, female columnist under the ESPN.com banner.