This is my Thursday column on Marshawn Lynch.
Should you care that Marshawn Lynch refuses to talk to the media?
Yes, you should. He’s not honoring his contract, the standard player contract which mandates talking to the media.
I understand not caring. Fans don’t like the media. If Lynch wants to bail on interviews, that’s his business. He earns $5 million per year. He can afford to pay the fine. But he’s giving you the shaft and passing his responsibility to teammates who now have to talk endlessly about him. That goes for Super Bowl Week and that went for the entire season.
Lynch took a vow of silence this season, did not talk to the media at all. The NFL fined him $50,000, but rescinded the fine hoping Lynch would participate in interviews before the Super Bowl. If he did not participate, the NFL would fine him $100,000.
So, he participated. Sort of.
On Tuesday, Lynch walked away from reporters after mumbling short answers to their questions for fewer than seven minutes. The NFL did not fine Lynch. It supported him. Its official statement was, “Players are required to participate and he participated.”
The Professional Football Writers of America flipped and wrote its own official statement: “(We are) extremely disappointed in the lack of meaningful access to Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch at the Super Bowl XLVIII media day on Tuesday. Several of our long-standing and high profile members were appalled by Mr. Lynch’s conduct and refusal to answer any questions. We find the statement by the league to be an affront to our membership.”
Lynch didn’t care. On Wednesday, he was even worse than he was on Tuesday. It’s like he developed lockjaw. Fullback Michael Robinson and backup running back Robert Turbin sat next to Lynch during the interview and tried to loosen him up. Nothing doing. Lynch mumbled, “I’m just here so I don’t get fined.”
Robinson, trying to bring out the humanity in Lynch, pretended to be a reporter and asked Lynch a question: “What do you think of your fullback? I hear he’s a cool brother.”
All Lynch said was, “No.”
Lynch garbled responses to a couple more questions, and then Robinson entirely took over the interview, became Lynch’s designated talker. Call him the DT.
Robinson tried to answer questions using Lynch’s words.
Why doesn’t Lynch like talking to the media?
“He just wants to play, Boss.”
What does Beast Mode mean? (It’s Lynch’s nickname.)
“It’s a lifestyle, Boss.”
How much does Lynch like Skittles?
“He loves his power pellets before the game, Boss.”
Whatever Boss means.
Lynch didn’t merely need Robinson on Wednesday. Lynch needed a puppet dressed up like him, a life-sized marionette reporters could interview. The Seahawks’ P.R. department could pull the strings and answer the questions. Or the Seahawks could pay Robinson to talk for him. That would increase his pay from a mere fullback. Fullbacks don’t make that much money, anyway.
For what it’s worth, no 49er has to be someone’s designated talker. No 49er is above or against talking to the media.
Even Colin Kaepernick talks twice a week, on Wednesdays and after games.
You would understand if Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks didn’t talk to the media this season – Smith drunkenly hit a tree with his truck and went to rehab. Brooks drunkenly hit a teammate over the head with a bottle. Those guys had tough questions to answer, and they spoke, answered questions all season. If you wanted them, they were there and polite and friendly. I wrote the 49ers should cut Brooks after his assault on a teammate in the offseason. Brooks never refused to answer my questions. He always accommodated me and other reporters.
Same with Frank Gore. All season, I wrote his legs were gone, but he always answered my questions. During the NFC Championship loss to the Seahawks, he rushed for 16 yards. In the quiet locker room after the game, he noticed reporters waiting to interview him. He quickly put on a pair of pants and an undershirt at his locker, turned around and answered questions.
Anthony Davis was the first 49er to answer questions after the NFC championship loss in Seattle. Earlier this season after the first game the 49ers lost in Seattle, Davis walked away from a group interview saying, “I hate these questions.” But he answered all the tough questions after one of the toughest losses in 49ers’ franchise history. He was a standup guy.
Michael Crabtree talked after the game, too. Crabtree always talks after games. He’s a standup guy. And so is Vernon Davis. So is every 49er.
Donte Whitner is the most standup. He “gets it.” He answers every question. He is the team spokesman. He understands talking to the media makes his life easier.
Lynch doesn’t get it. He got “it” at Cal when he was gracious and nice, but lost the idea of “it.”
Note to Beast Mode: You’re making your life tougher than it needs to be. By refusing to talk, you’ve made yourself the center of a controversy. Is that what you want?
The NFL should fine you. You’re trying to have it both ways – not say anything and still not get fined. I would respect you more if you stood by your position, if you blew off the media, paid the fine and continued your silence.
There’s something standup about that, too.
Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for the Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.