In the April 30 Media Watch column I misidentified the deletion of Twitter posts related to a story on AJ "Ace" Thakore's PointGuardU website related to a story his site got wrong about basketball recruit Damion Lee. Lee eventually accepted a scholarship with Louisville. Rather than deleting Twitter posts, Thakore deleted a series of about 20 message board posts, many of which contradicted the information he reported on Lee.
The web has no shortage of sites dedicated to college athletics, and most notably recruiting. Coverage of UA athletics and UA recruiting is no exception. Numerous sports networks have sites and affiliations and reporters who are assigned to cover the Wildcats. Most of the time, the sites get along. Sure, they're competitive, but generally speaking there's a reasonable professionalism displayed among those responsible for compiling information.
Over the course of its nearly 10-year existence, PGU and some of its followers have managed to badger, harass and attempt to intimidate pretty much every other Wildcat site on the web.
Thakore's response to my misidentifying the posts is an example. On the Sunday following the column, Thakore left five messages in succession on my answering machine, each increasing in tenor and rage as the machine cut him off every 60 seconds. By the third message—this could get confusing, so bear with me—Thakore threatened to fire someone he was about to hire for a customer service position with his veterinarian design website company, DVM Multimedia.
How does that affect me? Thakore had become aware I was in line for a job as the replacement for the soon-to-be customer service rep, so his idea to retaliate was to threaten to fire the guy he had known for 15 years, the guy who he was offering twice the salary, as a way to make sure I wouldn't get this job.
"(He's) in a very precarious position, because I don't feel like hiring him," said Thakore on the answering machine.
It appears likely Thakore will hire the individual after all, but not after inflicting torment to a supposed friend who had nothing to do with this incident whatsoever.
All told, Thakore left 10 messages over a seven-day period. Among the valuable insight he provided:
Thakore is a millionaire. This was reiterated about a half dozen times. "I don't mind looking dumb. I make millions, kind of, so what do I care. You guys have fun with your $15-20 an hour jobs. I'm going to go check my bank account."
Thakore is a man of power. He was sure to mention this three or four times, including but not limited to, "I'm a man of power," and "I think you're going to realize the power I have, and I'm going to come after you if you want to start a war with me," and "You're going to make $5 an hour," which is really powerful because it shows Thakore is capable of usurping federal minimum wage legislation.
Thakore says "buddy" a lot, when I don't think he means buddy in the friendly kind of way. Fifteen times in 10 messages, by my count.
Thakore does PointGuardU for a hobby. "I run PointGuardU in my spare time, like eight minutes a day. I post something in the forum, I go on with my life. I hire people to do that stuff."
Yet Thakore, a self-proclaimed millionaire (so he reiterated on about a half-dozen occasions), seemingly has plenty of time to leave multiple vitriolic messages on answering machines and/or voice mails.
Until he moves onto someone else.
On May 16, Thakore berated Gabe Encinas, a writer for the website azdesertswarm.com, in regards to a story Encinas wrote for that site. In his twitter messages to Encinas through PGU, Thakore lashed out at the writer for stealing material from PointGuardU in regards to an upcoming recruiting visit.
"I stumbled upon a story about (high school recruit) Markelle Fultz," Encinas said. "I saw it on two sources, I saw it on PGU and 247Sports. This looks good, I'm going to write a piece on it, it was published and PGU tweeted at me first and said I was a hack."
In all modes of journalism, and certainly in the sports realm, attribution is often handled in a very laissez-faire manner. If somebody else breaks a story, a reporter has a few options: run with someone else's story without reference, give credit to the outlet that ran it first or make your own calls to confirm the information. In sports, ESPN does an excellent job with attribution. It will have its reporters place calls, but when a story was first reported by another outlet, ESPN gives that outlet credit.
Thakore isn't the only offender, but as outraged as PointGuardU gets about others allegedly lifting their information without attribution, let's just say PGU is a far cry from ESPN on the issue. And in other ways, their offenses run even deeper.
"They tweeted out (UA assistant coach) Damon Stoudamire was leaving (for a similar position at the University of Memphis), and that was first reported by Jason Scheer, and there was no credit," said Encinas. "They steal information all the time. I was marketing director at Zona Zoo last year, and all our graphics from facebook and twitter I'd see on their website. I just find it very funny that they're the ones to call out people for not giving credit."
Encinas responded to PGU's initial tweet claiming attribution infringement.
"My thought was, thanks, whatever. I tweeted them back with a smiley," Encinas said.
Thakore apparently is not a fan of the smiley emoticon. Shortly thereafter, his retort was a lot more unpleasant. In a tweet directed to azdesertswarm, Thakore said, "You stole our info and that article was written by a racist." The tweet included a link to a website, gabeencinas.com, which hyperlinks to a white supremacist website, whitepower.com.
Now how coincidental is it that Gabe Encinas, a guy who writes for a UA sports website, should share his name with some white power zealot with a Hispanic last name? Not coincidental at all.
Thakore bought the domain for gabeencinas.com. How do we know Thakore bought the website gabeencinas.com? Because a domain registration search shows that gabeencinas.com was purchased that same day by Ajay Thakore through DVM Multimedia.
It's not the first time Thakore has purchased domain names of reporters who work for competitive websites.
He did the same thing to Gary Randazzo, who works for 247 Network affiliate wildcatsportsreport.com. In addition to leaving a series of blistering voice mails, Thakore purchased garyrandazzo.com and linked it to a porn site. Following a threat of legal action, Thakore changed the website path. It currently links to pointguardu.com.
Said Thakore during an answering machine tirade, "You want to make it my life's work to make sure you don't work, that I have a vendetta against you, I will. There's nothing illegal about that because I stay within the law, buddy."
At the very least, Thakore certainly has more experience with the law than most, if not all, members of the local media. And definitely more than anyone else operating a website that covers UA sports as a hobby.
Scheer, the editor of wildcatauthority.com, filed a restraining order against Thakore last year following a slew of messages directed at Scheer's wife. Scheer says Thakore also called TUSD while he was a substitute teacher, claiming Scheer wasn't utilizing his time in the classroom properly, instead stealing information from PointGuardU.
And this is just a sampling. It doesn't account for the vitriolic messages he's left on the voice mails of other competitors, or the number of times he and his PGU associates have flamed message boards with offensive, juvenile trolling posts, or the many occasions witnesses have endured verbal outbursts in gymnasiums while reporting on recruits.
"This guy's a clown," said Encinas. "To me, since he attacked me I guess I must have made it."