Cool or Drool: NFL vs. Marshawn Lynch

Dan Bisno and Henry Weissberg

Injury update: Dan Bisno — sophomore, torn labrum. Henry Weissberg — sophomore, torn ACL.

We are your sports-injured sports columnists. With only tender memories of fields and hard courts, we turn to pen and paper. Our focus is those off-the-field moments that balance playful antics and near-catastrophes. When does a publicity stunt turn into a potential lawsuit? More importantly, do we think these moments are cool or drool?

You might remember Marshawn Lynch, the 215-pound Seattle Seahawks running back, for the 2011 game that earned him the moniker “Beast Mode.” In an upset victory over the New Orleans Saints, Lynch broke nine tackles en route to a 67-yard touchdown scamper; the vibrations from the fans’ reaction were so strong that an earthquake monitoring center recorded seismic activity 100 yards away.

More recently, the NFL fined Marshawn $100,000 (ouch) in November for violating an agreement to participate with the media during the 2014 season. The hefty fine was a combination of two $50,000 fines: one for not attending interviews, which had been withheld since 2013 and another for repeating the offense in 2014.

For fear of additional fines, Marshawn attended his interviews since November, though he all but cooperated with reporters. Adding a comical but controversial flair to his interactions, he has responded by giving evasive comments and repeated irrelevant but awesome phrases. During the official media day leading up to Super Bowl XLIX, concealed behind his “Beast Mode” brand hat and sunglasses — garments not officially approved by the NFL — he repeated the phrase, “I’m just here so I won’t get fined,” bursting into fits of adorable laughter after each statement.

In each of his interviews, Marshawn smiles at the camera and gives a thumbs up. Gold flashes in his mouth with each grin. This scenario has played on repeat since the NFL fined Lynch, and with every successive interview, it’s fair to suspect the vein on commissioner Roger Goodell’s forehead pulses like a cauldron gyre.

At the NFC Championship Game, Marshawn was forced to remove his shiny gold-plated warm-up cleats and was threatened with ejection. Two weeks later, Goodell warned the Seahawks that Marshawn’s signature touchdown move, a 180-degree crotch-grabbing dive, would earn his team a penalty in the Super Bowl.

Despite Goodell’s attempts to curb Lynch’s antics, fans can’t get enough of the Oakland, CA native. Some have even reached out with financial offerings. MeUndies, a popular underwear brand, vowed to give $20,000 to Marshawn’s Fam 1st Family Foundation for every touchdown he scored in the Super Bowl. Wendi Bromlie, a devoted Seahawks fan, circulated a petition calling for the NFL to stop forcing players into press conferences. The petition had 52,232 signatures as of Feb. 5.

The NFL media policy states that “star players, or other players with unusually heavy media demands, must be available to the media that regularly cover their teams at least once during the practice week in addition to their required postgame media availability.”

Bromlie’s proposal makes more sense than the NFL’s policy. NFL players are subjected to unfair, idealistic standards and should not be expected to be perfect. They should not be punished by the NFL and slandered by sports media for every off-field blunder. No NFL contract should allow teams to exploit players’ personal lives. That’s something that should be left for their mothers.

Two days before the Super Bowl, Marshawn finally broke his silence. In front of hotshot sportscasters and flashing lights, Marshawn opened up. Addressing the possible angles in which reporters could slant his words if he were to speak up, he said, “I don’t know what story you all are trying to get out of me. I don’t know what image you all are trying to portray of me.”

Peek-a-boo, Marshawn’s media presence is cool, not drool. He makes you laugh and he makes a point. Marshawn’s silent protests will hopefully impact the league’s media policy, allowing other players to avoid stressful and time-consuming interviews. His offbeat responses managed to be simultaneously hysterical and political. That is cool.

In a statement released the day before the Super Bowl, MeUndies beautifully summed up the way we feel about Lynch’s stand against the NFL’s unfair policy.

“Marshawn is under scrutiny for a pain we’ve all felt,” the company said. “And we stepped in to help Beast Mode with great-fitting, non-riding underwear.”