Aside from the Jersey Shore relationship of Ronnie and Sammi, there is probably no other relationship that has more ups and downs than that of the love triangle between the media, important figures in the sports world and the fans that support those figures. This was highlighted by the comments made by Steve Kerr at the end of Game 6 of the NBA Finals, for which he was fined for criticizing the referees. However, when a newsperson asked him about his thoughts of the officiating, was he supposed to praise it? Even if Kerr would be wrong in criticizing the officiating of Game 6, a man is entitled to his opinion. Or is he?
Enter the fans. Fan support when it comes to the practice of sports is absolutely vital to the supported team’s success. Players don’t just say, “we couldn’t have done it without the fans,” for no reason. It is a statistical fact that teams have a better chance of winning games when they play at home, where there are more fans cheering them on. Regardless of this, it is also undeniable that the vast majority of fans are unaware of a plethora of key details that would have them view certain discrepancies in the sports world in a different light. To the average Warriors fan, the $25,000 fine imposed by the league towards Kerr would seem absolutely heinous. Most Warriors fans, though, wouldn’t know that all athletes and coaches in the NBA have a clause in their contract in which it explicitly states that they are not allowed to criticize officiating to a certain extent, which is affirmed by the NBA as a means of protecting their brand. So, while Steve Kerr may not have been able to criticize the referees to the extent that he did, is the imposition of this rule ethical?
All sources point to no. First of all, the media acts as somewhat of a little brother to athletes and coaches in sports, in the sense that they egg their big brother on until they are forced into saying something that they will regret saying later. To contrast, a part of being a professional in the sports world is knowing how to deal with the media and not losing your cool. But at the end of the day, we are all human. It’s a complicated cycle where there is no right answer. Humans, however, have certain basic rights that continue to be denied by contractual obligations today. The freedom of speech, for one, cannot be exercised without a fine, even when the person “at fault” is asked a question that they choose to answer honestly.
The first step to fixing a discrepancy that clearly involves all three parties mention would be to either clarify or nullify the part of the contract that Kerr violated. Whether you think that sports figures should be able to say whatever they want, or that they should at least be able to honestly answer questions presented by the media, something needs to be changed. Because nothing is changing, a constant cycle is emerging where figures in sports say something that they shouldn’t have said because it is pushed out of them by the media, which forces a punishment from the league that they play or coach in. The fans then interject with their surface-level knowledge and add fuel to the fire by ostracizing that league for penalizing their favorite figures in sports – for what they see as no reason. Lather, rinse, repeat.
This cycle produces a bad look for every party involved – the media is always perpetuated as the antagonists (even though they are just doing their jobs), players and coaches are portrayed to have short fuses (even though they are only human) and the league is seen as the evil disciplinarians ((I had to look up how to spell that) even though they just want to clear their name)). And all of the criticism is generated by us, the fans.
As a response to this cycle of negativity, a certain message must be sent to each party involved.
Sports Figures – Stay calm. Stick through it. Sports figures who face adversity are (or at least were at some point) successful.
Media – Keep doing your job. Being a journalist is one of the most difficult jobs in the world because you will almost always be seen as the bad guy. And sometimes you have to be.
Fans – EDUCATE YOURSELVES. Before you share strong feelings about a certain subject in sports, understand why it happened. You may be missing an important detail that could alter your opinion on the subject.
Leagues – The fourth wheel in the love triangle. Stop limiting the free speech of athletes and coaches! Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams was fined last season for sporting pink accessories in memory of his mother, who passed away due to cancer. THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE! Free speech should always be exercised.
Rules are meant to be broken, but some rules aren’t meant to exist in the first place.