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Steve Nash is not running for mayor of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, despite a story by the Phoenix New Times claiming otherwise. (Credit: YouTube, detail from screen shot)

The Phoenix New Times published a fake story about NBA Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash.

The hoax story – reporting that Nash intended to retire next week so he could pursue his goal of becoming Canada’s prime minister – may seem believable at first glance.  It claimed that Nash planned to run for mayor of Victoria, British Columbia, as the first step in his political career.

The phony report is more than 4,000 words long, presented as news and supported by numerous fake quotes and detailed information about the Canadian-raised NBA player. The paper states a 92,000-reader circulation.

CBS-affiliate KPHO reported that the Phoenix New Times writer who penned the story, Barry Friedman, claims the story is “real’ to him, his sources and the newspaper. But, he has written hoax stories before.  “I knew (the Suns) would say it was a hoax and I mentioned in the article that they would deny it to the very end, so that doesn’t surprise me at all,” Friedman is quoted as telling KPHO.

Nash himself “confirmed that the story was a hoax,” KPHO added.

The Suns said in a statement that “A humorous article has been published by the Phoenix New Times joking that Steve Nash is retiring to enter Canadian politics. We want our fans to rest easy. THIS IS A HOAX!! Happily, Steve continues to be a member of our team.”

Victoria mayor Dean Fortin, who is (falsely) quoted in the article, also debunked the story, explaining that he didn’t speak with the Phoenix New Times about the story, the Times Colonist reported.  Besides, Victoria’s mayor’s seat isn’t up for election until fall 2012, The Montreal Gazette added

See the Nov. 4 Phoenix New Times article here.   It announced Nash would leave the team Nov. 15.   The story quotes (falsely) the Suns’ CEO, Victoria’s mayor, and others.  But some tip-offs that the story is a fake include tongue-in-cheek descriptions such as

“Nash is more popular in Canada than bacon and is substantially lower in fat” and

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“At this point, Nash began aging better than a French cheese.”

CBS Sports’ Royce Young also blogged about the fake story, noting that “people believed this” story.

“There were quotes, confirmations from Jerry Colangelo, Robert Sarver and Alvin Gentry. There was no hint that it was a joke or no reason for it to be fake,” Young explained.  Further, the New Times “isn’t a site that’s prone to make up stuff.”

Nash joked about the hoax this week:  “I mean, obviously, I’ll be prime minister one day.  But I wasn’t going to do it until after I finished playing basketball,” The Toronto Star reported.

In a follow-up post, the Phoenix New Times continued to push its hoax, stating its “story is true’ and that sources have re-confirmed the story.

Friedman’s author page on the New Times site only contains two posts from 2010 – the two posts about Nash becoming prime minister.  But, a 1992 Friedman post on the New Times website carries an editor’s note explaining that Friedman has “perpetrated a number of memorable hoaxes” and has written for comedians.

iMediaEthics wrote to the Phoenix New Times and Nash’s representation for comment and will update with any response.

UPDATE: 11/09/2010 10:28 AM EST: Nash’s agency, BDA Sports, responded to StinkyJournalism’s e-mail inquiry for comment that “Right now, we’ll just stay mute on the issue.”

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Phoenix New Times Hoax: NBA Steve Nash not quitting Phoenix Suns to run for Canadian Prime Minister

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