Marshawn Lynch should talk to the media.
Let's get that out of the way to start. The Seattle Seahawks running back should talk to the media at the designated places and times. It's NFL rules. He's paid a lot of money. This is part of the job. It's also the right thing to do.
But the question of whether or not he needs to talk to the media is a whole other one. Writing for sportsjournalism.org, Ed Sherman argues that Lynch's recent behavior toward the media shows that the running back doesn't understand the relationship between players and the press:
This is an outdated sentiment. To say that athletes and teams need traditional media outlets to help fans develop connections, strengthen bonds and build brands in this age of social media is absurdly antiquated. Certainly, having good relations with legacy media outlets can help teams and athletes. But the idea of needing the media is an idea rooted in the old model of scarcity, when the only way public figures could build relationships with fans was through traditional media outlets. Now, there's Twitter, there's Instagram there's The Players Tribune (with executive editor Derek Jeter) and a host of other ways players can connect with fans. To say they need the media misses the point of the past 10 years.
But there's another issue buried in Sherman's column:
If that's all reporters expect from Lynch ... why are they talking to him in the first place?
If all they're looking for is a short answer, a cliche, what's the point? Why talk to him? This isn't a reflection on Lynch, it's a reflection on sports journalism. It reflects the attitude that reporters need to talk to Lynch after a game, particularly if he plays well. But if he's not going to say anything more than a few words, or spout off some cliches, why bother? Why not spend that time talking to other teammates who may be able to provide a different perspective on the game? Why not spend that time and space breaking down statistics, or doing more analysis, or providing a voice for the fan — something that may be useful to readers rather than a meaningless quote that's in the story because the reporter felt he needed a quote from Lynch. Reporters should talk to Lynch. But if they know he (or any athlete) is not going to say anything usable, maybe they don't need to.
It's the notion of the token quote. And it's a notion that is as outdated as the idea that Lynch needs to talk to the media.