Marshawn Lynch Drama Shows How Close Ties Between NFL, Media Have Become

| by Will Hagle
Screen Capture.Screen Capture.

By helping propel the Seattle Seahawks in to back-to-back Super Bowl appearances, Marshawn Lynch should be an NFL superstar for his on-field ability.

If it were up to him, the football field is where everything would stay. The Seahawks running back is “about that action, boss,” and he doesn’t find the NFL’s endless media scrutiny worth indulging. Lynch’s hilarious one-word, fine-avoiding press conference responses have been taking place all season, but they’ve reached new heights during media coverage of the Seahawks leading up to the Super Bowl (video below).

Lynch’s repeated responses — “yeah,” “no,” “thank you,” and “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” — are a calculated protest of the NFL’s media policy (video below). These rules are laid out specifically by the league:

“Players must be available to the media following every game and regularly during the practice week as required under league rules. Star players, or other players with unusually heavy media demands, must be available to the media that regularly cover their teams at least once during the practice week in addition to their required post-game media availability … Each club will open its locker room during the normal practice week (based on a Sunday game) on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to all accredited media for player interviews for a minimum of 45 minutes.”

Lynch has been able to circumvent these rules by inventing his own short, dismissive responses, but the rules apply to him, nonetheless.  

The main argument against Lynch’s media protests has been that communicating with the media is just part of his job. While this is true, much of that criticism has come from people whose job it is to get answers out of him — analysts at ESPN, Fox Sports and the other networks that have close economic ties to the NFL.

“When you condone folks disregarding rules and regulations, you are sending the wrong message. Not just to the present generation, but to a future generation,” ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said in response to the question “Should the NFL stop forcing players to speak to media?”

Of course Smith would say something like that, but his statement fails to acknowledge some of “rules and regulations” in place are ridiculous, some would say. They have nothing to do with the game of football, which Lynch has repeatedly shown he is both good at and enjoys playing, and have everything to do with making money off the players for a league that loves exerting control over its employees. 

Aside from just requiring employees to speak with the media — with whom partnerships bring immense revenue each season — the NFL also issues fines for other minor transgressions like wearing a hat with the wrong sponsor logo or name. Lynch, again, faces a fine for wearing his Beast Mode hat at Super Bowl Media Day.

His teammate Richard Sherman faces a fine for wearing Sony headphones when Bose is the official NFL sponsor. As the The Washington Post notes, Chicago Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher was fined $100,000 in 2007 for wearing a Vitamin Water hat. 

These fines and the drama surrounding Lynch’s press conferences demonstrate, some say, just how far the NFL has moved away from the game and how closely it has become entwined with its corporate sponsors.

Last year, the league’s 32 teams split $6 billion in revenue at the end of the season, the majority of which came from television rights. The NFL does not disclose its finances, but it’s widely understood to be the world’s most profitable sports league. With that profitability comes control — over players, fans and the media.

Forcing players to talk to the media even if they just want to do what they were hired to do — play football — is an unfair form of exploitation, some believe. During his most recent media appearance, Lynch took the time to actually speak to give an honest assessment about the intrusiveness of the media.

In what could potentially be the running back’s last season, Lynch should be commended for protesting the rules that only benefit those in positions of power above him. Of course, as the video (below) of Lynch in high school shows, he does have some entertaining insight when he decides to speak up.

Sources: NBC Sports, ESPN (2), The Washington Post, USA Today Photo Credit: YouTube Screen Capture