BY Art Thiel 06:19PM 01/27/2015

Thiel: For Lynch, new position: Designated mute

The mockery Marshawn Lynch makes of NFL media policy is sufficiently foolish to seek an amendment to the collective bargaining agreement: An exemption called designated mute.

Marshawn Lynch did have a little time for former player Deion Sanders, working for the NFL Network, as he helped kill Lynch’s mandatory minimum five-minute session at Super Bowl Media Day. / Art Thiel, Sportspress Northwest

PHOENIX — Two podiums down from Marshawn Lynch, teammate Cliff Avril had a different view of Super Bowl Media Day at U.S. Airways Arena Tuesday.

“This is one of the most fun parts of the situation,” he said. This is cool.”

As it should be for players. Say what you will about the absurdity of the event — as I and thousands of other journalists have for nearly the entirety of its 49-year existence — the staggering attention garnered for feats at the pinnacle of American sports should be fun for the players. At the least.

For Marshawn Lynch, it is not. Yet he has manipulated his disdain for interviews into his own cottage industry, spinning off a parody commercial for his favorite candy, Skittles.

By repeating Tuesday for five minutes the same non-answer answer to any question — “I’m just here to avoid a fine,” he said 29 times — he has figured a way to do the mandatory minimum that avoids a fine as high as $500,000, while sticking hard to a mostly senseless position that even some of his otherwise-adoring teammates think is foolish.

To people not invested emotionally in Lynch’s football success, he looks like a jerk. The situation makes the NFL look ineffectual. His union looks lame. And to the members of the media for whom the slight is intended, some laugh, some condemn and some wonder, like me, why does this situation persist unresolved?

But rather than join the complainers, I propose a solution.

Amend the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the union to create a new category: Designated mute.

Make the classification applicable to not one but three players per team, chosen by the team and a player representative at the beginning of each season. The three are exempt from the current collectively bargained agreement to cooperate with media.

Some players may be willing to fight to be so designated, but that is a secondary consideration to the primary purpose:

To relieve an obligation that a few players, such as Seahawks LG James Carpenter, with which he genuinely is uncomfortable (anyone else out there shun public speaking, hmmm?), or, as with Lynch, are conscientious objectors.

That is Lynch’s stance. He is not shy, has no anxiety disorder or other condition that armchair psychologists post about on blogs, nor is he unfriendly or stupid. His main issue is, as coach Pete Carroll put it last summer, “Marshawn does not like to be told what to do.”

Who does? But Lynch is among those rarest of people whose actions speak well for themselves. As he told, semi-immortally, NFL Networks schmoozer-in-residence Deion Sanders a year ago at the same event in New York: “I’m all ’bout that action, boss.”

Annually designating three players off-limits takes pressure off players, coaches, front office, NFL and media. Nobody loses. How about that?

Sure, it would be nice to have Lynch talk, because in the times when he has spoken, he has often proven funny, irreverent and wise. His words have weight with teammates, although they sometimes require interpretation, as also often happens with shamans, oracles, prophets and mystics whose meanings are not plain and direct.

Carroll, whose dealings with Lynch, particularly around the time of his preseason holdout when he sought more money, have been tense on occasion, does not let that obscure the bigger picture.

“I just know that Marshawn is an extraordinary character,” he said Tuesday at his podium. “He is the most giving, the most loyal, one of the great teammates that you can want on a team because of the way he takes care and looks after people.

“He’s got a remarkable sense about that. His sense for loyalty runs extraordinarily deep. His teammates know that.”

Obviously, Lynch has no such sense for media members he doesn’t know. That’s OK. The best he can do for us is not waste our time. Presumably, that goes for him too.

But I spent an hour staked out at his podium just to verify that he would do what everyone expected — a one-sentence filibuster repeated for as long as it took to get to the five-minute requirement.

At one point, a woman reporter / model / whatever handed him a bag of Skittles. He smiled and nodded in her direction.

“You sexy,” he said. There you have it — the one moment he went off-script. Otherwise, he was as disciplined in words as he was with his deeds at running back: Patience, followed by an abrupt burst through an opening.

Make Lynch a designated mute, along with a couple of teammates. Make it so for every team. Unless the NFL and the union really think this new Super Bowl tradition is worth keeping in a time when Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are how Lynch and many others connect with fans.

It was another football oracle from another era, former Seahawks coach Chuck Knox, who said it best: “Your actions speak so loudly I have no need to hear your words.”

Bill Belichick dispatched his media day duties and headed to daylight. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest


  • Chanel #12

    You’re quoting Ground Chuck? I guess you’re playing the hand you’re dealt.

    Can we also have Designated Muted Media Jerks? Boomer Esaison comes to mind.

    • Will

      The more relevant question, how many of the talking heads are worth listening to?

      • art thiel

        See above.

        • John M

          I like your suggestion, Art, but it may be too reasonable for the NFL lackeys who have become so obsessed with the perfectly scripted cash cow they’ve created they couldn’t possibly accept anything that sounds fair and logical and not completely within their control.

    • art thiel

      I do believe you have that option in the remote control that sits in your hand.

  • Sub 4.0

    Besides Marshawn’s not wanting to talk to the media, the only other thing I could care less about is the media’s opinion of Marshawn not talking.

    • art thiel

      I get that. Which is why I suggested a solution.

  • 1coolguy

    Given the reporters are professionals doing their jobs, which includes Art, who stood there for an hour prior, I simply find Lynch’s antics disrespectful to the writers and their profession. It really is a poor way for Lynch to treat these reporters and extremely selfish. I do not have any interest in listening to what he has to say, yet it’s part of the “deal” of being an NFL player.
    I’m all for the NFL fining him, as he has taken this jive behavior way too far.
    I cannot imagine how much he has lost in sponsor money – if he watched Wilson or Sherman, he is certainly smart enough to hold a press conference and it would raise tons of money for his charity. Very odd, especially since he won’t have this soap box for many years, another 1 or 2, and once it’s gone, poof, it’s over.

    • Matt712

      Quite the contrary, Coolguy. Lynch’s interview boycott has sponsors clammoring for him like Beattles groupies. This did not happen, nor would it have ever been likely to happened prior to his pressing the mute button.

      Fortuitous irony or pure marketing genius? If his goal is to be left alone, it’s a complete backfire. If it’s to create a compelling marketable persona, it’s pure gold. Ask Art about that hour he waited. Couldn’t help yourself, could you, Art?

      But you’re right – in one or two years… poof, it’s over.

      • art thiel

        By doing his workaround, Lynch is mocking media and the NFL, so he’s winning. But we can’t now yet if that will backfire. Some kinds of media love badass contrarians.

    • art thiel

      It is a little disrespectul, but I did choose to be there. If he stiffed me on a one-on-one interview, I’d be pissed. I proposed the exemption because people on either side shouldn’t be trapped by such rules.

      Don’t worry about endorsements: Lynch will always find brands who like outlaws.

  • davechase

    Lynch seems to have a sense of humor and so do many journalists (obviously the NFL doesn’t). Let’s come up with a new gameshow called “Marshawn Jeopardy”. For each mandatory interview, Marshawn & his peeps come up with the answer and let the media know ahead of time. Then creative members of the media come up with the questions that Marshawn gives the same answer to. The media & Marshawn can have fun and the silly NFL rules are adhered to. First Marshawn answer can be “NFL” — some sample questions “Marshawn: Who has the most hypocritical executives?”…”Marshawn: Which professional sports league has the silliest rules?”…I bet some comedians could come up with some hilarious answer/question combos. Sherm or Bennett could be Alex Trebek. This would be more fun for all involved than the current scenario.

    • art thiel

      The answer: When I grab my crotch. The question: When do actions speak louder than words?

      • davechase

        You have a future as sports’ Alex Trebek! Love your writing and the site. It’s the only “sports section” I read in Seattle now.

  • Estip

    I like the designated non-participant idea. There are plenty of players who love to talk and like the attention.

    • art thiel

      Isn’t part of labor management about accommodating diversity in the workplace?

  • Matt712

    How about a change in the CBA to a ‘reward’ system instead of a ‘penalty’ system? The NFL can work with sponsors and media conglomerates to come up with a pool of money to be paid out to individual players on a per ‘exposure’ basis.

    “Hey playa, wanna make some extra cash? Talk to reporters. …What? Reporters don’t wanna talk to you? Play better.”

    • art thiel

      Paying for interviews? Isn’t TMZ already doing that?

  • notaboomer

    to build on davechase’s idea:

    art: is it true that a judge sentenced you to do community service in glendale, az?
    lynch: i’m just here so i don’t get fined.
    art: did you expect to do jail time after multiple drug possession convictions?
    lynch: i’m just here so i don’t get fined.
    is it true that roger goodell and the nfl team owners consider nfl players to be slaves who must conform to the whims of their masters?
    lynch: i’m just here so i don’t get fined.

  • David Rice

    Art Thiel’s commonsense solution aside, this is mostly about white media folks who are offended by Lynch’s defiance of authority. It reminds me of the 60’s, when the Establishment frothed and fumed when they couldn’t make hippies behave. I’ve heard Lynch called variously arrogant, ignorant, disrespectful, and his behaviour characterized as crap, garbage, and clown-like. Wow, really? Was there really anything disrespectful about Tuesdays Lynch press conference? He gently explained that he would be answering every question the same way and was there to avoid being fined, and then invited the press to proceed if they wanted to. Sorry, but this is mostly about the reaction of people to Lynch rather than anything at all about Lynch himself.

  • woofer

    Anyone who manages to piss off the NFL poobahs and media toadies in one quick swipe is a true hero. No real Hawks fan holds this against him.