It came as a surprise to many when the National Football League (NFL) fined Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks $50,000 for not talking to the media for an extended period of time (Schefter 1). However, according to the NFL, participation of its personnel and interaction with the media is part of their role because it contributes to the financial wellbeing of the sport and the league. Without this, the league would not be what it is today. This debate is bound to continue, with some of the league’s players feeling that players should not be fined for talking less because they are also fined if they talk much (Smith 1). However, the major argument in this debate is that the media represents so much more value in sports and for the public good in general and that when players refuse to talk to reporters, they disregard their responsibility in assisting the media perform its functions and should, therefore, be punished. One of the major arguments against NFL athletes being forced to speak to journalists is that the game is a high-tension one where emotions run high. This paper provides arguments in support of the proposition that NFL players should not be forced to talk through the media.
First, athletes open up differently regarding occurrences in the game or in their personal lives. Some prefer to express themselves in different ways such as through gestures, through their game or through social media. This is made simple by the fact that people’s characters are inherently different. Some people may love talking while others are more introverted and would rather keep to themselves (Shaughnessy 1). The NFL should not punish players for not using the preferred means of expression of their views. In addition, there will always be players who are having a rough time and exposing them through the glare of the cameras does not help their situation. Some players also prefer to keep their private business out of the public limelight. The media, on the other hand, does not keep private business as such and does not focus on the game. This is a form of invasion of privacy by the media. Punishing players who avoid the media for the sake of their privacy is unethical and should be stopped. With information technology causing news to travel fast and spread wide, athletes find themselves unable to cover up their privacy and that of their family and friends. This kind of exposure does not help the game and may even distract players. Today, social media sites such as facebook and Twitter are the preferred means of acquiring information for many sports fans and the general public at large. This is because there are numerous other ways through which they can get the information they want from them. Punishing players for failure to talk to sports interviewers is tantamount to stifling their freedom as athletes and as human beings.
Secondly, communicating on national television while representing an entire team calls for great caution and skill. Forcing football players to talk when they do not want to or do not feel qualified to do so does not improve the information received from them and may even lead to irresponsible comments. NFL athletes are role models to many people Watson (1). Young people look up to them for inspiration and guidance. The younger generation idolizes football players to the point of worship. This means that they ape most of what these athletes do. In the world of today, information travels fast. Irresponsible comments may paint the wrong image regarding athletes or cast aspersions on their character and this may in turn mislead the many people who look up to them. In addition, NFL athletes are accorded the responsibility of driving their teams to victory and performing well on the field. With this comes the greater responsibility of representing their personal brands and that of their team. They are not experts in communication and should not be forced to do what they are not good at. One wrong comment may lead to disagreements between team mates or different professionals in the team. This may jeopardize the work done on the field of play.
Thirdly, the media often misrepresents ambiguities in comments made by players or responses given during interviews. Information regarding player transfers from one team to another or disagreements within the team is often rumored based on ambiguous comments made by a player or coach. This kind of information, if misconstrued, leads to the questioning of the character of the player and may lead to unwanted tension for them and those around them. To avoid this, only those players who are comfortable opening up about themselves on the media should do so. Those who are apprehensive about it should not be victimized. To solve this problem, teams should have designated players appointed to speak on behalf of the others. The players chosen should be good at communication and public relations so that they can represent the best interests of their teams and brands (Grasgreen 1).
Fourth, interacting with the media is not the only way in which football players can show appreciation to their fans. Agreeably, fans part with a lot of money to pay for game tickets; pay for television subscriptions and buy sports merchandize. In addition to this, fans cheer for their team even when it is not performing well. The onus is on the players to show their appreciation to the fans by making themselves available to the media. This is because they owe the fans so much more. The income of the players is paid in part by the fans through tickets, merchandize sales and attention from sponsors. The best way in which NFL players can underline their unity and appreciation of the efforts and support of fans is through great performances on the field of play. For example, Marshawn Lynch has obviously succeeded on the field as a running back for the Seattle Seahawks, he should not be forced do more in talking to the fans through the media. This is because he has already done well for his team and the fans love him. It would be wrong for the NFL to ignore this fact.
Participation of players in media coverage of sports is crucial. In the NFL, like for other sports, the cooperation between personnel and the media is important for the financial survival and popularity of the sport, its players and teams. However, the fining of Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks has sparked public debate on whether NFL players should be forced to speak to the media. When players talk to the media, they create attention and hype around the sport. This type of attention is important because it raises the relevance of the sport by drawing increased viewership. Increased viewership in turn draws the attention of companies who may wish to advertise using the sport. Sponsorship deals and endorsements that result raise the value of the sport. However, even with all the merits associated with having NFL players talking to the media, those who prefer to remain in the background should not be forced to talk. There are four main arguments against doing this. First, athletes open up differently regarding occurrences in the game or in their personal lives. This results from their inherently different characters. Some prefer to express themselves in different ways such as through gestures, through their game or through social media. Secondly, forcing football players to talk when they do not want to does not improve the information received from them and may even lead to irresponsible comments. Communicating on national television while representing the image of an entire team calls for great skill and caution (Grasgreen 1). Thirdly, the media often misrepresents ambiguities in comments made by players or responses given during interviews. Most players fear this and should not be victimized for a problem in the way the media handles news. Fourth, interacting with the media is not the only way in which football players can show appreciation to their fans. They can do so better on the field. These are just a few of the reasons why NFL footballers should not be subjected to forced interaction with the media by the league.
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