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As NFL Hits Marshawn Lynch with $100K Fine, It’s Not Right to Penalize Athletes For Freedom of Silence

marshawn-lynch-media-elite-dailyThere was a time, especially for sports journalists, that it made sense that pro leagues required their athletes to make themselves available to speak to the media. Reporters need someone to quote.

But in the wake of the NFL fining Marshawn Lynch $100,000 for “violating the league’s media policy,” it resonates that there is little reason to force someone to talk when he does not want to talk.

Let’s call it Freedom of Silence.

The NFL media policy mandates that players must be available to the media during the practice week at the team facility and in the locker room after all games. The NBA has similar guidelines.

There are enough players who love a microphone in their faces to fill broadcasts, newspapers and web space. Holding a fine over the head of Lynch and others who have no interest in speaking to the media reeks of a personal violation against them.

Worse, Lynch, who had two $50,000 fines for separate cases, Wednesday actually spoke to the media. But he did not provide answers related to the questions, which is actually kind of funny.

Instead, when asked about his back, Lynch said:  “My cleats, it’s a nice feel. Right here in my inner sole, they put some heaters in here. It’s pretty nice. It’s a great feeling. And they put this little squiggly line here that looks like an M and an L for Marshawn Lynch. It’s pretty nice. I like to play in these. These are nice cleats.”

Other football-related questions were answered with answers about rap artists and songs by Lynch. Admit it: Funny.

Asked if he had any input into the design of his shoes.

“No, in this league you really don’t have a lot of input in nothing, just your play,” Lynch said. “That’s about it.”

He’s not far from right. Robert Griffin III, who ran his mouth so much in his first two years in the NFL that his standing as the Washington Redskins’ franchise quarterback is in jeopardy, tried what Lynch and Carolina QB Cam Newton have done—provide the same answer.

“I’m just looking forward to playing the San Francisco 49ers,” Griffin said (or some variation of that) nine times yesterday during his session with the media.

Is that fulfilling “media requirements?” Apparently not, at least for Lynch, who has been fined three times this season. He had previously spoken to reporters only once this season, after the Oakland game in Seattle on Nov. 2.

Here’s the thing: Most people probably do not even care if Lynch talks about reading blocking schemes or picking up the zone blitz. Fans care about what he does on the field.

If all players took Lynch’s position, then it would be an issue. But most players want the attention, want someone to care enough to interview them. Lynch, apparently, does not need to hear his voice on the radio or see himself interviewed on TV or read his words in articles. And he should be commended for that in a time when show-boating and a look-at-me-I-just-made-a-tackle mentality permeates sports.

If you ever participated in the media sessions during Super Bowl week, you’d wonder why all athletes didn’t say “I have no comment.” The volume of questions and level of idiotic inquiries make a thinking person cringe. That’s why many players have accepted the NFL fines rather than participate in that madness.

The other way to look at it is that it’s not that difficult to stand (or sit) and talk about your job, something that has made you millions and is supposed to be your passion. It’s not like Lynch or anyone is asked to change the oil on someone’s car. And that’s why the NFL is so hellbent on making players accessible: Talking about the game enhances the stature of the game. In theory, at least.

Bottom line: Lynch has rushed for 246 yards in the last two games and was a main reason the Seahawks won the Super Bowl earlier this year. That speaks louder than anything he can articulate.

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