U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

University staff member interrupts student journalist’s coverage at SEC Tournament

Incident Details

USA TODAY Sports/Christopher Hanewinckel

A member of the University of Arkansas coaching staff sports Razorbacks sneakers during the SEC Tournament on March 10, 2023.

— USA TODAY Sports/Christopher Hanewinckel
March 10, 2023

While covering the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 10, 2023, student photojournalist Jack Weaver’s coverage of men’s basketball was abruptly interrupted by a University of Arkansas staff member following the university’s loss.

Weaver told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he was on assignment for the Kentucky Kernel, the student newspaper of the University of Kentucky. He went onto the court after the Arkansas-Texas A&M game to photograph the player and coach reactions, as he had done with previous games.

“As [Arkansas coach Eric Musselman] started making his way toward the tunnel, I took out my phone to grab a video of the team coming off the court. And that did not go as planned,” he said.

Weaver said that just as he began filming, Arkansas’ Director of Internal Operations Riley Hall grabbed the phone out of his hand and threw it.

Weaver said that the three-second clip he posted to Twitter was all that his phone captured before it hit the ground and stopped recording, but that the phone was not damaged.

“I was wearing my press credentials, I had my camera around my neck and I was standing completely to the side by the rail with plenty of room to move there. I wasn’t in anyone’s way and was in an approved area,” Weaver said.

“Obviously I’m fine, all he did was grab my phone and toss it. It’s not like he pushed me or broke my camera,” he said. “But still, nonetheless, you can’t do that. And I think people kind of understand that that’s not acceptable.”

Weaver said the newsroom as well as professors at the university have been supportive. In a statement on Twitter, The Kernel said it was appalled by the incident.

“Jack Weaver always embodies professionalism on the job and no journalist, especially a student journalist, should be subjected to violence for simply doing their job,” the statement read.

Hunter Yurachek, the vice chancellor and director of athletics at the University of Arkansas, posted a statement on Twitter the following day apologizing for the incident, which he characterized as accidental.

“Mr. Hall expressed his regret that while leaving the floor his engagement inadvertently resulted in knocking the reporter’s cell phone from his hand,” Yurachek wrote. “While, based on our discussion, I do not believe there was malicious intent, I have addressed the issue with Mr. Hall and he agrees his actions were not appropriate or reflective of our program.”

Weaver told the Tracker that Hall also called him to apologize, reiterating that it had been unintentional. Weaver said that when he challenged that claim, Hall simply repeated that he was sorry and that it was an accident.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].