It is a simple phrase, “I’m just here so I won’t get fined,” that the Seattle Seahawks star running back Marshawn Lynch uttered 29 times in response to every reporter question during his five minutes on the podium for Super Bowl Media day. But it was a phrase that provoked in me a visceral reaction. Here is a player whose ability I admire but his behavior left me angry.

Explanations for such behavior abound, countless articles point to the fact that he lacked a father figure and that he grapples with the shame of his legal transgressions. Other articles question why players are contractually obligated to speak to the press or ask the reader to consider the racial and class divides between the powers to be of the National Football League with their inconsistent and at times paternalistic approach and the athletes themselves. Finally, there is the very real chance that the endorsements that such behavior garners will trump even a steady stream of fines and hence justifies continued defiance.  Suffice it to say, there are many avenues one can explore. Ultimately, it is not for me to play pop psychologist and to try and find the deeper reasons within his psyche as to why he wishes to shy away from media attention. His reasons are his alone and he owes no one an explanation.

Upon arrival at work the following day, I gaged how some of my colleagues and students felt about the press conference and I shared how I felt as well. This sort of sharing I think is important because multiple perspectives force us to flex our mental muscles and make decisions about what aspects of our own beliefs and views might need further consideration. This inevitably led to further exploration and upon doing so I read an article forwarded to me that was decidedly against those angry with Marshawn Lynch.  One line of the article stood out,
“But at this point, anyone who hates Marshawn Lynch is telling you more about themselves than Lynch. (To be fair here, I was angry about Lynch’s behavior, being angry with someone does not mean you hate that individual)” [1]
With that I walked away from fact gathering to sit with my thoughts. For a half hour I felt a bit ashamed of my anger and then I realized that I was not living the tenants of this space, which is to rage against conforming to the opinions of others and to instead interpret the facts I gather in a way that does justice for me and so I pushed aside anger and began to work out where I believe I will land on this talking point.
I asked myself what might my anger say about me? Am I angry because he can get away with not doing a component of his job he is contractually obligated to do and I cannot? I may dislike tasks such as paperwork and even at times grading, but I would not shirk these obligations, particularly because I know my colleagues are similarly situated.
So no, my anger does not reveal some deep truth about me. However, my anger does reveal a passion for this topic but why?
Is it that he projects an idea that he puts himself above his team? No, because his teammates speak highly of him and he does not owe me an explanation of how he ensures his teammates that he is committed to them.
I left and returned to this topic for the better portion of an evening, but eventually I thought I was angry that Marshawn Lynch was disrespecting the reporters, who solely wish to do their job. However, the next morning I realized my sympathy for the reporters being snubbed, while real, did not explain my anger and so I actually shelved this blog post thinking it was not a piece I wanted to share.
Just as the topic was beginning to slip from the national scene and I was pondering a new direction for my next blog post, Larry Foote of the Arizona Cardinals shared the following thoughts about Lynch,
“He always mentions his foundation and what he likes to do for the city of Oakland….I’m from the same type of urban environment that he’s from…The biggest message he’s giving these kids, he might not want to admit it, is ‘The hell with authority. I don’t care, fine me. I’m gonna grab my crotch. I’m gonna do it my way.'”
Foote’s point is kids will believe they can act the same as Lynch does.
“In the real world, it doesn’t work that way….It just doesn’t. How can you keep a job? I mean, you got these inner-city kids. They don’t listen to teachers. They don’t listen to police officers, principals. And these guys can’t even keep a job because they say ‘F’ authority.”[2]
Larry Foote finally uncovered for me the epicenter of my anger at a phenomenally talented footballer. I agree with Lynch’s mistrust and anger at the power structure he must operate in, but I wholeheartedly disagree with the way in which he registers his frustration.
I do not need Marshawn Lynch to be the hero I seek in communities I know are in desperate need of heroes. Yet, I get to be angry with a man so well situated to be the agent of change he seeks through his charity work but fails to recognize his actions betray his beliefs.
No doubt I will continue to run into other perspectives in the days ahead, I might even run into people that blatantly disagree with my reasoning. I have the power to take the easy route and regurgitate the thoughts of others or I have the ability to weight facts, feelings, and opinions and arrive at a set of beliefs that I own and defend. Option two requires more time and energy, two items that are often in high demand for each of us in our hectic and busy lives, but if we do not make time to think deeply and personally we forfeit the very precious ability to think an act as an individual.
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