Welcome to the curious case of a photo on a basketball card of the Menendez brothers at an NBA game — a story that won’t die.
Ben Collins, a journalist with NBC News, said it all began last summer with a writer named Steve Zerance.
According to Collin’s post on slamonline.com this week, “Zerance, who writes crime novels, began looking at old photo archives for proof. Nothing. Maybe someone had uploaded a picture or video somewhere else? No luck. When Getty Images didn’t have anything, it was like a light bulb,” he said. “There are so many junk cards on eBay.”
On August 12, Zerance Tweeted the first image of the card with the caption ““Mood: my Mark Jackson basketball card with cameos from the Menendez brothers in the background.”
The story didn’t go viral until John Rosenberger’s Tweet in December:
Reddit is mostly bad but the other day I learned on that website that the Menendez Brothers are in the background of this basketball card and that logistically this would be between when they killed their parents and when they were arrested and I cannot stop thinking about it.
Rosengerger’s original tweet received 37,000 likes!
The story exploded over the next three days; sports business reporter Darren Rovell Tweeted “eBay has started to pull listings of the Mark Jackson-Menendez Brothers cards, telling sellers their items violate policy because they are “affiliated with a known murderer.”
The reporting of the story was everywhere – even the Washington Post jumped in.
The story faded from the media radar until last Monday when Erik Menendez’s wife, Tammi, Tweeted that “Erik says that is NOT him in the photo on the card.”
But a few hours later, the Daily Mail posted a story with the headline “EXCLUSIVE: It IS us! Lyle Menendez confirms he and brother Erik are in viral basketball card.”
Why am I bothering to write more about this?
All of the stories about the basketkball card referred back to an outdated 29-year-old prosecution theory that the Menendez Brothers were “a pair of greedy rich kids who were on a spending spree.” The reality is that this wealthy family had always spent money freely. The brothers were nationally-ranked tennis players and their parents had given them credit cards with large limits.
I covered the 1989 investigation for the Miami Herald as well as both trials for People and Playboy.
Here are some facts:
- An L.A. County grand jury heard evidence of murder for financial gain in 1992 and did NOT return an indictment on those charges.
- The story that should be getting a spotlight is the fact this was a case of manslaughter – not murder.
- Did you know that Jose and Kitty Menendez were both sexually molested when they were young kids (Jose by his mother)? I’ve got that and other scoops in my book The Menendez Murders.
I wasn’t really sure about the basketball card after comparing pics from the seven months between the killings in August, 1989 and their arrest in March of the following year, but Lyle has now confirmed that it’s them, and I believe him.
(P.S.: I’m happy for you if your basketball card’s value increased $20 but it’s time to let this non-story go to the viral internet hall of shame.)
IT’S ALL IN THE BOOK! CLICK TO ORDER FROM AMAZON.