– Christian Fuentes (Sports Journalist for Metro Puerto Rico)
This one is a doozy. For some time now, my partner and I have gone back and forth over this topic. Since Super Bowl Media Day came and went without a hitch, we thought it was a good idea to visit this subject. For the past two Super Bowls, the Media Day story was Marshawn Lynch not making himself available to speak; conduct that he dragged from the regular season and that cost him several thousand dollars’ worth of fines. That was followed by the infamous Kevin Durant “the media stinks” expletive filled rant and ensuing mashing of the reporters. This has raised the question of if athletes should be required to speak to members of the media. I am going to be blunt about this: YES!! The leagues, whether it’s MLB, NFL, NBA or others are image conscious. It’s contractually mandatory for players to make themselves available to media, especially if you’re a STAR player. Most of where I’m coming from is from my actual job as a sports journalist and having experienced Lynch-ish athletes. We have jobs to do, too. Here’s some food for thought: it makes my job harder. Editors ask for a quote from the top player of an important game and I don’t get it because he didn’t feel like speaking. Imagine this: If Marshawn Lynch scored the winning touchdown in last year’s Super Bowl and won the MVP, was he NOT going to do the interviews and the pressers? I could not imagine covering the game and having that happen. It takes away from the luster of the storytelling.
Now, I will recognize some of the reasoning behind players being reluctant to talk to the media. There are some media members who resort to asking stupid questions or deviate from what matters when conducting an interview or a press conference. I’ve seen my share of those guys and even I have to roll my eyes and go: “Really?” But they don’t have to apply the “guilty by association” card for the rest of us! It’s part of the deal. Professional athletes in the major sports leagues get paid millions to play. I don’t think it’s hard to answer questions from 10-15 minutes. Yes, I can relate to when they have bad games and the team is losing, but it comes with the territory. I know my partner here would HIGHLY beg to differ and will point out that the pro athlete’s job is to play and forget the rest. In the era that we live in, it becomes more important that the athletes have an image and project themselves well. Then, there’s the other extreme…the Richard Shermans, the Greg Hardys, the Draymond Greens…guys who blurt out things and sometimes might not look good. It’s just as ridiculous for an athlete to sit up there and reply: “No comment, next question” or “I’m just here so I won’t get fined”, as it is to not show up as it’s contractually mandated. Look, I get on LeBron James for many things he does and even sometimes says, but that man handles the media beautifully. This is the most popular athlete IN THE WORLD. He answers questions and won’t shy away. It’s a responsibility and it’s part of the job. What happens if you don’t do part of your job? You get fired or you get docked of your pay. Same goes for pro athletes.
– Darío Vázquez
This is a topic my partner Christian and I have gone back and forth more than we should and here’s to finally put this one to rest. Should professional athletes be required to speak to the media? I’m sure my buddy’s answer will be a big YES but I don’t see this as a must. I believe professional athletes should be paid to perform on the field. I understand that the media has a job to do and that they are asked to interview and quote the top athletes but we all know members of the media can be brutal on an athlete for the right and sometimes the wrong reasons. Players like Marshawn Lynch refuse to talk to media because of past situations with reporters who try to make a name by creating controversy. On an age where information is so accessible to any person who owns a phone or a computer, the media today is torn between delivering the news correctly and being the first. Some value more being the first to break a new than to get all the facts straight and that’s why some athletes assume that attitude regarding the media. There is no bigger fuel to sports chatter than rumors and everybody loves to hear rumors regarding their favorite team or athlete. Athlete knows this comes with the territory but as human beings we all get fed up with having to read or listen to every piece of nonsense that is written or said about them. Is every reporter in the world guilty? Absolutely not! Is it easier for athletes to just avoid any situation instead of nitpicking who’s giving the media a bad name? No doubt! This is the route athletes take nowadays. If an athlete doesn’t talk he gets criticized like Lynch and if he talks more than he should then he also gets criticized like Lynch’s teammate Richard Sherman.
This is a no win situation for athletes who lack the personality of guys like Derek Jeter. Not everybody is good at speaking to the masses and some people just like to be left alone. We tend to forget that athletes aren’t any different from us putting aside their bank accounts and athletic abilities. We all have bad days, we all have to do something at our profession that we hate to do and some of us do our best to avoid them. As long as an athlete performs on the field, his only obligation off the field should be to avoid any situation that will affect his performance and that includes distraction on social media, press members and their personal lifestyle. The NFL,NBA, MLB and the NHL have the right to fine an athlete for not complying with any rule the league has established and we all know talking to media is one of them so the fines will keep on coming but I won’t be surprised if the athletes continue to stop talking to media members as frequent as those fines come.