Media Day is a long and largely fruitless exercise for both media and players, but it feeds the NFL’s publicity beast by making players available to all. Reporters from the major print and electronic outlets are present (they might get fined if they aren't), rubbing notepads and camera cables with their peers of a lesser ilk. Players are required to sit at tables scattered around a large venue and answer stupid questions, primarily from those credentialed media members from one-lung radio stations, bloggers and weekly newspapers who do not have daily access. When I was spokesman for the NFL owners during the 1982 Player Strike, it wasn’t the New York Times or CBS reporters who made my life difficult. It was the guy from Morristown, New Jersey, who wanted to impress his heroes with off-the-wall questions and claims. But you have to treat them with the same attention, if not respect.
Open access to the media has been an NFL tenet since Pete Rozelle, an old PR guy who understood the value of good press, became commissioner. Not that Lynch ever heard of Pete Rozelle, but he is in store for a major shock, probably next week after the game, when the NFL does, in fact, fine him for not cooperating with the media. Lynch has already been fined $100,000 by the league for refusing to speak to the media after games and has been fined twice this season for making an inappropriate gesture after touchdowns. Based on that, it would seem that his Sphinx imitation this week was an IQ test he failed in magnificent fashion.
Lynch’s actions exposed him to another likely fine, for violating the NFL equipment code by wearing unsanctioned gear during his appearance. His cap bore the logo of “Beast Mode,” which happens to be Lynch’s nickname, and is selling for $33 on the company's website. Ask Brian Urlacher if the NFL fines players for not wearing approved brands. The Bears linebacker was fined $100,000 for wearing a Vitamin Water hat during Media Day at Super Bowl XLI in 2007.
Not surprisingly, the players have rallied around Lynch, tweeting comments that his reluctance displays his own right of free speech or that he’s a guy who is uncomfortable speaking in public so why make him do it? Even some pundits have taken his side, claiming if the League makes players accessible to the media, then it’s only right for Commissioner Roger Goodell to take his turn in the media barrel with a weekly press conference.
Other than being irretrievably old school, I guess my distaste for the likes of Lynch and his loudmouthed (but refreshingly interesting) co-conspirator Richard Sherman is that we lose focus of other team members who play the off-field games as required without complaint or demonstration. QB Russell Wilson is thoughtful, bright and projects a positive image. But we seldom see him, because of guys like Lynch who make guys like me hope the Patriots win 50-0.