This week has continued the on-going conflict between the the National Football League (NFL) and Seahawks Running Back Marshawn Lynch. This is not about what Lynch has said but what he refuses to say.
Lynch was recently fined for a crotch grab on national television. However, he is more reticent off the field where he avoids media. The NFL has fined him to force him to speak with media — a rule that in my view is moronic and counterproductive. Rather than just encouraging players to speak with media (some cannot be kept away from the cameras and social media like Lynch’s teammate Richard Sherman), the NFL actually fines players who simply have nothing to say. Now Lynch is being criticized for going to the compelled press conference and just repeating the same line over and over: “I’m here so I won’t get fined.”
Admittedly, I have long been a critic of the NFL, which remains one of the most greedy and thuggish organizations in the country in dealing with host cities and citizens, including shaking down artists. The fact that it has been allowed to retain not-for-profit status is a grotesque triumph of money and lobbying in our country.
Now the NFL is reportedly considering another fine to go with the earlier $500,000 to force Lynch to speak with media. It strikes me as completely bizarre and troubling to have compelled speech outside of the game that he plays. Lynch clearly wanted to convey his legitimate objections when he showed up at the conference and asked “When does my time start? Oh, it’s started.” He then said “Well, let me say, I’m just here so I won’t get fined.” He then repeated that line as a mantra to every question. I must admit that I liked it. He repeated it until four minutes and 51 seconds later when he declared “Time” and walked out.
Obviously, these players agree to be subject to NFL rules, but that does not mean the the NFL should be able to run roughshod over players in this way. Moreover, the media should not want forced interviews with captive players at press conferences.
Lynch is a great player. Let him play. I have no problem with fining him and other players for obscene or juvenile antics on the field. But compulsory speech outside of the game is in my view as excessive as it is counterproductive. Press conferences should not be NFL versions of forced public confession hour at a Pol Pot prisoner camp. Most players (and their agents) want to speak to media to fuel public personas for marketing value. Some just want to play the game. So be it. I will tell you what. When the NFL is forced to disclose details of its own operations (and forced to pay taxes), we can discuss when they should be able to force others to speak.