Recording of Obama’s Sloan conference speech leaked by Reason magazine

Attendees, including credentialed press, were prohibited from sharing contents

An attendee at a panel talk given last Friday by former President Barack Obama at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference leaked an audio recording of the event, although press reporting was banned and attendees were told they could not disseminate information of any kind on any platform. The recording was published online Monday evening by the libertarian magazine Reason.

Obama focused a good portion of his hour-long talk on his love of sports, including his career as a high school basketball player. He joked about how his life might have been different if he had concentrated on basketball as a student, saying in the leaked recording, “I probably could have been a benchwarmer on a mediocre Division I [NCAA] team, like a walk-on kind of guy.”

The theme of the conference did not cause him to shy away from social issues entirely, however. He went on to call social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook “a public good as well as a commercial enterprise” and noted that they have helped to furnish social spaces where people can assume worldviews based on completely different sets of facts.

He also commented on the lack of major scandals surrounding his administration, which limited the “drama” in his White House, and stressed the importance of creating safe environments for women in the workplace.

The relative mundanity of these remarks for an Obama speech, however, led Reason to comment “the most newsworthy thing about [the speech] is the simple fact that the public wasn't supposed to hear it” in the article which included the recording.

The SSAC Media Team sent an email the day before Obama’s speech notifying press members who were covering the conference that “the sharing or reporting of its contents on public platforms, including news outlets and social media, will not be permitted.”

This announcement led The Boston Globe to publish a piece headlined, “The first rule of seeing Barack Obama in Boston is don’t talk about seeing Barack Obama in Boston.”

The Globe wrote that the notice included the warning, “Those who fail to adhere to this policy will be subject to removal from the conference and denied tickets to future SSAC conferences,” though the email The Tech received did not contain this sentence.

Both the Sloan Sports Conference and the Office of Barack and Michelle Obama did not respond to The Tech’s requests for comment on why the talk was off-the-record. The talk was open to anyone who bought tickets to the conference or received press credentials.