Culture of Hoops

Revamping the Interview Process in Sports

Image courtesy of WEBN-TV/Flickr.

Image courtesy of WEBN-TV/Flickr.

To be clear I am only writing this article so I won’t get fined. Sorry, that was me channeling my inner Marshawn Lynch, who repeated “I am only doing this so I won’t get fined” 29 times during his media day interview in the lead up to Super Bowl 49.

It doesn’t matter which sport, it doesn’t matter which league I am tired of seeing players and coaches thrust into the media spotlight when they really don’t want to be there. Some people thrive on the attention, and others detest it. Oddly enough, almost every documentary I see surrounding an epic collapse of a player includes the line “tired of the media”. Ricky Williams, Sean Taylor, Barry Sanders, and Bill Walsh all disliked the constant hover of the cameras. Clearly Mr. Lynch feels the same way. I have some simple solutions that would work for every sport to help make sure the media can still do their job, and individuals are not unwillingly put under a microscope.

Fundamental Rules:

FR1 – No player or staff member is obligated to talk to the media at any time.

FR2 – No media personnel should contact a player or coach for a personal 1 -1 interview directly. Such requests should go through the individual’s agent or teams front office.

FR3 – A player or staff member may call a halt to an interview at any given time.

FR4 – Players and staff members will have $25 per minute of interview time donated to a charity of their choice. Donation rates double for each successive round of the playoffs, and are cut to $10 per minute during the off-season. Successive rates apply to all players and staff, even those who are not active in the playoffs and only apply to those players and staff that are still an active part of the league.

FR5 – The media may call a halt to the interview at any given time.

FR6 – No franchise or management is allowed to put into place any order, rule, compensation or other form of reward or punishment to either encourage or discourage players or staff from talking to the media. Any breach of FR6 will result in a $500,000 fine, with subsequent fines doubling for each confirmed breach.

FR7 – All interview times will be rounded up to the next full minute. For example 2 minutes and 16 seconds will be recorded as 3 minutes.

Basically the fundamental rules are in place so that players and coaches feel comfortable with their interviews. The rules allow for the interviewees to set the terms of where and when they will be interviewed. That alone should make them feel more comfortable with the whole thing. The charitable donation is the incentive for players who were on the fence about doing this to get involved.  Charitable donation funding is to be split evenly between all media that participate in the interview process. In the worst case scenario, the league can step up and cover some of this. FR5 is meant to discourage individuals from dragging out discussions longer than necessary. FR6 is consistent with ensuring that players and staff are free to make their own choices when it comes to how often they speak with the media, be it all the time, or never.

Game Rules:

GR1 – In the lead up to any game all approved media personalities will cast an anonymous vote on the top three players or staff members from each team them would like to interview. An online fan vote will decide the fourth player from each side. These individuals will be contacted and informed they’ve been selected. However as per FR1 players may decline the invitation. If a player or staff member declines the next player in voting sequence will be contacted, and so forth. It is possible for any and all players and staff to decline interviews. The media may refuse to interview any player seeking to be interviewed as per FR5.

GR2 – During a game media will be allowed to stand in a designated space for each team. Players and staff members are allowed to approach the media of their own accord between halves, periods, or innings. A player or staff member may take as many questions as they wish and may call a halt to the interview at any time, as per FR3. The media may refuse to interview any player seeking to be interviewed as per FR5.

GR3 – After the game all players and staff will be given 30 minutes of time with no media contact. Media personalities will cast an anonymous vote on the top three players or staff members from each team them would like to interview. An online fan vote will decide the fourth player from each side. These individuals will be contacted and informed they’ve been selected. However as per FR1 players may decline the invitation. If a player or staff member declines the next player in voting sequence will be contacted, and so forth. It is possible for any and all players and staff to decline interviews. The media may refuse to interview any player seeking to be interviewed as per FR5.

GR4 – For specific game interviews (before, during, or after) players must be in league approved apparel or brand neutral apparel. Players or staff displaying brands not approved by the league will be responsible to contribute the entire charitable donation for the interview out of their pocket.

GR4 exemption: Players and staff are permitted to wear anything they like for interviews on non-game days.

All the above rules ensure that everyone is happy about talking to the media. This allows for players and staff to have discussion on their terms, in a manner that should be most comfortable to them. Some players will always want to talk, and other players may never talk, but the point is here that people should be allowed to be whom they are. If you don’t want to talk in front of a camera you shouldn’t be forced to do so. Those individuals willing to go out of their way to feed into the media frenzy should be rewarded for their efforts, even if it’s not a direct reward to the people themselves.

We are all human beings with our idiosyncrasies.  Being a celebrity athlete or coach comes with obligations. Obligations to the team and league that employ you, but these shouldn’t extend to things that you might not be comfortable with. The game is televised; you understand that when you sign on. You being grilled by a room full of reporters isn’t always part of the deal, nor should it be. Most league commissioners and union representatives are not obligated to speak with media at any given time. They should all remember that when handing out fines to people that may prefer to just be left alone to play the game that they love.

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