Depending on who you ask in sports media, Marshawn Lynch is a man of many descriptors. To some, he’s a stubborn brat making their jobs harder. To others, he’s a private, introverted guy who sees no personal value from speaking with the media.
Either way, TV, print, and radio journalists alike gathered around Lynch last week at Super Bowl Media Day, hoping to be the lucky soul that Lynch actually gave an interview to. Except, that didn’t happen, as it hasn’t happened so many times this NFL season and in previous seasons.
Instead, Lynch made it perfectly clear why he was there, and even lectured the media members in attendance about continuing to seek him, knowing he won’t offer anything usable.
On one hand, it’s understandable that media members are frustrated with Lynch. It is part of the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement that athletes “make themselves available” to the media.
And Marshawn Lynch does that — just not in the way sports reporters want.
As the bridge between fans and athlete, it makes sense that sports journalists want to get sound from one of the most popular athletes in the league.
But at what point does the media bring this frustration on itself?
It would be different if Lynch was the only player available to talk and refused to cooperate, but he isn’t. He’s on a team full of other athletes who willingly speak to the media, like Richard Sherman, who routinely gives great interviews.
And furthermore, despite not giving the media what it wants in the literal sense, Lynch still provides the media with clicks, likes, and views, the currency that drives media conglomerates. Fans flocked to social media and traditional news outlets to see what Marshawn Lynch didn’t say more than they did to see other athletes’s canned, generic responses. That’s because sports, at its core, are an entertainment medium. And what’s more entertaining than an athlete saying “I’m thankful” or “I’m just here so I won’t get fined”? I mean, the memes are endless!
So if Lynch’s antics still drive viewers and readers to content, do the ends justify the means? And even if they don’t, does his refusal to speak to the media define his character?
To say “yes” is shortsighted, and places the media on a much higher pedestal than is deserved. Lynch is great at his job in spite of his unwillingness to speak about himself, and his actions off the field tell you everything you need to know about who he is at his core. He’s a humble, private man using his platform to give back to his community, one that is underserved and largely ignored by the mainstream media.
also: lynch basically said not to try to talk to him about his community work if they won’t come to that side of town. well played.
— Bomani Jones (@bomani_jones) January 29, 2015
And one more thing — one cannot condemn Marshawn Lynch as petulant for his silence and not feel that same ire for head coaches Gregg Popovich and Bill Belichick, who are often ruthless with the media in a similar fashion.
Sure, it would be nice to know Lynch’s thoughts, especially after the way the Super Bowl ended Sunday night, but the fact that he isn’t inclined to promote himself or question his coaches for their decisions doesn’t make him a bad person.
It doesn’t make him a “thug” — a word increasingly being tossed around by modern-day bigots — because he isn’t as articulate as other athletes. It doesn’t make him anything except a man of few words who just wants to let his play on the field and his community involvement off the field speak for him.
But we keep asking Lynch to do more than that, and he keeps refusing. And as long as we continue to click, view, retweet and otherwise share his silence, Lynch has won the game, and the media has sanctioned him to play by his own rules.