The Marshawn Lynch Conundrum
Last week, in advance of Super Bowl Sunday, Seahawks’ running back Marshawn Lynch was up to his old tricks. He is constantly and persistently doing whatever he can to avoid talking to the media. Any media at all. The NFL took action by fining Lynch $50,000 last year and later imposed a second $50,000, letting it be known his antics wouldn’t be tolerated. Except Lynch seems to have found a loophole and he’s running with it.
He is making himself available to the media, but has nothing much to say at all in response to questions before or after games. One Sunday, after defeating their rival Arizona Cardinals, Lynch continued to answer the same question with one word: “yeah”. The following week, he changed it up a bit, replacing “yeah” with “nope.” Most recently, during the media day coverage for Super Bowl 49, Lynch arrived wearing a hat not approved by the NFL (which can, in itself, be cause for a hefty fine), only to repeat the same words to every question: “I’m only here so I don’t get a fine.”
Technically, he’s still showing up for interviews and complying with the rules, where before he would just bail out of the locker room before saying a single peep. He’s still not honoring the seemingly simple spirit of the rule—to just share a few tidbits about the game.
The NFL would prefer Lynch be more respectful to the public. More specifically, the league says any more defiance may result in further disciplinary action, though the league is walking on eggshells as the situation is fairly delicate. Those close to Lynch, fellow teammates Doug Baldwin and Richard Sherman, shredded the league at a midweek press conference for its decision to fine Lynch for his antics. In the eyes of NFL, it would appear that continuing to punish Lynch is counterproductive if other players are going to get involved.
The worst-case scenario could come to pass if other players later decide to follow Lynch’s footsteps and say absolutely nothing to the media. There are other players and coaches, like the New England Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick who notoriously offers nonsensical and odd press conferences without sharing anything worthwhile with the media. Most famously, Coach Belichick chanted “on to Cincinnati” as a response to every question, though this behavior isn’t a constant problem for the league.
The challenge for the league is to figure out how to bring about a balance. The NFL enforcing its media policy against the reality that there are some players who just do not want to interact with the media or have much of anything to say. At the same time, players like Lynch are rare. He is the only player currently active who desires not to speak to the media and it’s forcing the league to think about alternative solutions.
Even though Marshawn Lynch’s silence has drawn much ire from the media (and in some cases celebration), this is another in a series of PR speedbumps (or, in some cases, nightmares) that the NFL has faced this past season, beginning with the Ray Rice domestic abuse scandal, Adrian Peterson’s child abuse case, and the case charmingly nicknamed “deflategate” which saw the New England Patriots allegedly cheating in the AFC championship game that would send them to Super Bowl 49.
Rumors circulated earlier in the season that the Seattle Seahawks were considering letting Lynch walk after the season is over, despite the fact he is one of the best running backs in the league. Some even believe Lynch will hang up his cleats after this season if the Seahawks win Super Bowl 49 in Arizona on Sunday.
No matter what happens, Marshawn Lynch is not a talker. It’s not who he is as he chooses to let his game (BEAST MODE!) speak for him. Nothing the NFL does will make him talk, as he seems fairly content in just walking away, tired of the excessive fines and attention. The best thing the NFL can do in this situation is make certain concessions to players who do not want to speak to the media and prevent any further controversy. Unlike the other PR issues the league has faced this season, with Lynch, they have a chance to control the situation and be proactive. They are currently fumbling and the situation is awkward for all parties. The need to take the opportunity to change their policy and run with it all the way to the end zone.
About Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations. He is an experienced leader in the public relations industry with over 20 years of experience. Ronn Torossian has been named as Public Relations executive of the year by the American Business Awards, and has run countless award-winning Public Relations programs.