A Letter to Marshawn Lynch

 

I get it. You just don’t want to fucking talk. Despite the media’s best efforts, I won’t sip their koolaid and attempt to demonize you because you don’t want to answer their inane questions. I’m not going to compare following rules at an anonymous 9 to 5 to caving to the demands of an entitled, subliminally racist media. Once my 9 to 5 is broadcasted to the world and has the press writing me a racially fueled reputation that precedes me worldwide, maybe I will have more insight. Until then, I call bullshit.

In the midst of this stalemate, many are calling you “uncivilized”, “bratty”, and every other adjective short of the words they really want to use. But I see the Anti-Lynch sentiment being driven by smug beat reporters offended you won’t give them what they want. Who’s really being “bratty”?

I get that it’s not only outside your nature to want to talk about yourself or repeat generic platitudes, you probably don’t want to contribute to a media that tried to tear you down just a couple years ago. When you had your legal troubles the media flipped on you though. You went from comedy clips with ESPN to being a “malcontent”, yet another example of the perceived criminality of NFL players. Black and white coverage, literally. It’s like one mistake lumps a young black athlete in with the worst of our race, especially when they have dreads and wear grills.

Like you said on E:60, they have no context of being a young black male with nothing, trying to figure out if you’re going to eat at night. Having to wash clothes the night before hoping they’d dry or risk having to wear damp clothes. I know it was hard growing up, because I’ve been there too. The streets of DC and Oakland have more in common than dreads. Trying to stay off one turf kept you on the football turf and it got you pretty much everything. Having that happen seemingly overnight then moving from California to Buffalo as a 20 year old was probably jarring.

You came from a place where you had to protect yourself and the remnants of that lifestyle are hard to just dust off, especially when you’re a high profile target. There’s socio-economical context that the majority of the media is simply too privileged to realize. They’re insulated from the realities of the inner city and just how much the stress of that experience can mold a young black mind. They expected you to change up overnight.

You’ve mentioned that you get anxiety around large groups, but few in the media have talked about that, they never know how. They sidestep the potential reasons for an action and just condemn it. They did the same thing to Royce White. I get anxiety, and I know the defense mechanisms and thought processes I go through just to feel OK in an uncomfortable situation. They don’t care though, they just take out the glue gun and label you. I wouldn’t want to be buddy buddy with them either.

People keep asking what your point is, if you’re trying to make a statement. I see a point being made every time beat writers are congregated at your locker asking questions for 5 minutes even though you clearly have nothing to say. If they think you’re a “professional idiot” like Jemele Hill said, what are the journalists who asked you 29 questions at media day yesterday? I mean by the third time you said “I’m just here so I don’t get fined” it would seem like they’d realize you had nothing to say.

But they’re trying to engineer a story like they always do. If you don’t give them one they’ll force one on you. Nevermind a story about the charities your fines contributed to, how the NFL’s draconian policies inadvertently helped someone for a change. They want to scare you and every other athlete thinking of sidestepping their entitlement. The Player’s tribune and Medium websites, where athletes give us the opportunity to read directly from them, threaten to cut the press out of the player-fan dynamic. Social media already has to an extent. They need you all to fill their daily briefs, not the other way around. They know you may set a further precedent and they’re terrified. They may not be able to take your names and trash them with impunity anymore. That’s why they’re crying “poor us”, banding together against you.

They’re writing about how you should be willing to talk to them so you can show your personality and change the perception of some fans. But they’re the ones who made it that way in the first place. Someone wrote an article about how you’re really a good person and should want to sidestep being unfairly labeled a “thug”, but ironically he was the only one calling you that.They want everyone to adhere to their game, to give them the quotes they need so they can contextualize you how they want.

It reeks of “good negro” vs. “bad negro”. If you don’t fit the cleancut, affable image commentators drool over throughout a game, they unfairly group you with one of various stereotypes they created. They use code words when discussing you and want you to seek their validation to create a “redeemed/misunderstood” narrative. But you don’t care to give it to them and they’re furious.

They think everyone should want to be apart of the media circus, but you’ve already explained how even in Pop Warner and at Cal you let your teammates talk and focused on football. What if you did start being more expressive though? Would you be called a “thug” 600+ times in one day like Richard Sherman after the 2014 NFC Championship? Would you be condemned for protesting police brutality like the Rams players?

You know from personal experience that the NFL’s higher ups and the police system are one in the same: two militaristic entities that bend the rules in their favor, infringe on civil liberties and place the shield above all. The press is the partner in crime that helps them both do it. Would you be fined for calling that out? Everyone points to your media “obligation”, but you’re only obligated to talk to them. What you say is not under anyone’s control, and the press is not obligated to talk to you.

A lot of working class fans reject that reality. They look past the control the league has over you all, the outright unfairness of NFL contracts and believe the amount of money you make justifies it all. They’re inherently opposed to any millionaire athlete taking a personal stand against the league. Nevermind that NFL contracts might as well be written on wet Chipotle napkins, non-guaranteed deals to be ripped up the second a team deems fit. Nevermind that the league has private detectives looking into your personal lives.Many called foul when the league threatened to eject you over gold cleats, or fined Frank Gore for wearing his socks too low , buthere is were they draw the line and cry out the sanctity of the NFL’s rules.

You may not have any of this on your mind in the midst of interview sessions where reporters awkwardly ask you about your game day music (“let’s talk about music, maybe that’ll get him talking!”). But knowingly or not, your unwillingness to talk is a small protest against the God complex of Roger Goodell and the NFL. It’s a middle finger to a sensationalist sports media that has been guilty of subliminal racism for years. This is nothing but a good thing. Instead of projecting bitterness because they’re jealous about the money you make or your willingness to stand up for yourself, I wish more fans would applaud you. Instead of continuously berating you, I wish more members of the media would look in the mirror and rethink the way they cover athletes, specifically athletes of color.

You’re going down in history as one of the most physical Running Backs of all time. You have a reputation in the league where defensive players know they can’t tackle you by themselves. The press knows this too, that’s why they’re all trying to pile on. You’re deflecting their questions and sending them flying backwards just like you do safeties, and they’re sick.

I’m a Redskins fan, but I will be rooting for the Seahawks on Sunday. Personally, I hope you win the Superbowl, tell the press and the NFL about themselves, announce your retirement, and dive out of the press room like you dived into the endzone against New Orleans. Then they can’t say you didn’t give them a story.

 

Sincerely,

Andre

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andreg

Andre G is a freelance writer, poet, music producer and co-founder of ColorTheFuture.org, a platform for young artists of color.
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