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Response to Rocco Commisso’s attack on VN’s Mike McCormack

The Fiorentina president leveled a number of false statements at one of our writers. Here’s his answer.

ACF Fiorentina logo is seen printed on the corner flag... Photo by Andrea Staccioli/Insidefoto/LightRocket via Getty Images

At the Fiorentina press conference on Tuesday, 6 September 2022, Rocco Commisso made several false statements about me. Rocco stated that I followed him around New York and approached his house to take videos of him. He then claimed that I followed him to the Serie A Gala for the same purpose. He called out Mario Tenerani for being friends with me and implied that a friendship with me had negative consequences for him and any journalist covering Fiorentina, justifying his claim with a purported email from me as his proof. He said that I, along with other journalists, have never previously defended him in the press from racist or other attacks made by national media. These statements are all entirely false.

In May of this year, I attended the Serie A gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a guest of Serie A to help them publicize the reopening of an office in the United States. At the press conference on Tuesday, Mr. Commisso characterized my attendance as an effort to see if he was dead or alive. He initially claimed that I followed him to his house and filmed him, although he later walked back that part of the story.

I did indeed see Mr. Commisso outside the gala. As we were waiting to enter the venue, Mr. Commisso arrived, greeted Joe Barone, and entered. As a Fiorentina fan and reporter, I took pictures for the brief period he was outside the museum, as well as during Mr. Commisso’s speech at dinner. I later posted the pictures and video on Twitter here, here, and here. The tenor of those messages was overwhelmingly positive, and other Italian journalists used those pictures and video in their reporting. At the end of the event, I joined some friends for a drink and then returned to my hotel.

The claim that these tweets were an effort to confirm if Mr. Commisso was, in his own words, “dead or alive,” is plainly false. I did not attend this event in the hopes of photographing him. I attended because I am rarely afforded the opportunity to interact with the larger calcio community. The only other time I shared images of Mr. Commisso on social media was in 2019 and was at his encouragement. Furthermore, I have never followed Mr. Commisso to his house or anywhere else. I have never been to his residence and do not know where it is. Any statement to the contrary is, to use a phrase popularized in Florence by Mr. Commisso, “fake news.”

Next, Mr. Commisso claimed that I sent him an email stating that Mario Tenerani and I are friends, insinuating that any such association with me would have negative consequences for him and other journalists. I have met Mr. Tenerani twice, and only briefly: first when he was interviewing fans outside Red Bull Arena for the Intercontinental Champions Cup in July 2019, and in December 2019 in the press lounge at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.

Until this press conference, I had never corresponded with Mr. Tenerani, whom I reached out to on Tuesday in order to apologize for my name being used in Rocco’s attack on him and clarify the truth along with supporting documentation. Mario then read aloud my communication on Lady Radio. In all my written communication with Mr. Commisso and Fiorentina, I never mentioned Mr. Tenerani. Mr. Commisso’s comments about me are an unexpected and unfounded attack on my work and my character. This is Rocco making up more fake news.

I have remained uncomfortably silent about this matter until now. After taking some time to evaluate my response and seek advice, I reached out to the club and to Mediacom, asking for clarification on Mr. Commisso’s comments. I asked for the email which Mr. Commisso used as the basis of his unfounded attack on Mr. Tenerani, as well as any other evidence of my close relationship with Mr. Tenerani. I asked for the origin of this story–that I traveled to Mr. Commisso’s residence–as well as that I followed him to the Serie A gala. I received no response.

I have reread every email I have sent to Mr. Commisso, to Fiorentina, and to Mediacom. Mr. Tenerani’s name appears in none of them. In fact, I only mention any journalist by name in one: in 2019, I introduced one to Mediacom so they could discuss the company’s acquisition of the club and options for the stadium. This was done with Mediacom’s and the journalist’s prior notice and approval. Mr. Tenerani has my utmost respect as a journalist, but I have not and would not claim his acquaintance to advance my own interests.

Finally, I have been unwavering in my support of Mr. Commisso since his involvement with Fiorentina, as evidenced by my writing on Viola Nation (examples here, here, here, and here). I have supported him through attacks against him by other members of the press and by fans, through anti-American and anti-southern Italian discrimination, through thick and thin. I helped establish the Rocco Commisso Fanclub. I have, in both my public and private interactions with the press and the public, defended Mr. Commisso. The narrative he uses in EVERY press conference that no journalist has supported Rocco from bigotry is once again, fake news.

I have emailed Mr. Commisso twice in the past two years, offering advice on the club’s relationship with the media and with fans, but that has been the extent of our communication. I offered to serve in some capacity as a bridge between them. Previously, I had spoken with him about the team as well, obtaining occasional access to players and staff for stories on Viola Nation, but that aspect of the relationship ended when the global coronavirus pandemic began.

I am married, have four children, and have a career which includes managing offices in two different cities. I have neither the time nor the desire to follow Mr. Commisso around New York City or anywhere else, as he suggested. I do not have any interest in eroding his relationships with the public or the media. However, I will not allow him to insult me with impunity, or to lie about my actions and motivations to a room full of journalists while I am working 4,000 miles away and not even watching. I hope other journalists in Firenze and throughout Italy now realize that they don’t have to take this abuse each and every press conference. You may never get respect, but don’t allow for disrespect.

When I first met Mr. Commisso in September of 2019, he asked me why an American with an Irish surname was talking to him about Italian soccer in his office. My answer has not changed. I love this club, our fans, and the city of Firenze. I know that the heart of this club is not the ownership group or the management, but rather the love of the fans for the badge. Were the club sold tomorrow, I would continue to support the shirt; I wonder how many others at the club can say the same.

Forza Viola!

Io sto con la Fiorentina!