Freedom to Speak, or Not to Speak

After discussing the Charlie Hebdo attack and the controversy around freedom of speech, Marshawn Lynch caught my attention because of his lack of speech. Marshawn Lynch, a running back for the Seattle Seahawks and technically an NFL employee, refuses to speak to the media and has been fined for his actions. The Charlie Hebdo magazine exercised their freedom of speech and was brutally punished. Marshawn Lynch has done the opposite; he refuses to interact with the media yet he was fined $50,000 dollars for his 2013 season, and another $50,000 for his 2014 season. The big question is: should Marshawn Lynch be fined for not talking to the media?

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Marshawn Lynch briefly speaking to the press on January 27th, 2015.

The Seattle Seahawks played the New England Patriots in the 49th Super Bowl on February 1st, in Arizona, and countless media days took place leading up to the football event of the year. In Marshawn Lynch’s most recent encounter with the media, Tuesday, January 27th, Lynch answered every question with, “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.” This act has been widely talked about and considered controversial. He said one thing that differed from this line, “I don’t know what kind of story you’re trying to get out of me or what image y’all trying to portray of me but it don’t matter what y’all think, [or] say about me because when I go home at night, the people that I look in the face, my family that I love, thats all that really matters to me.” In an exclusive interview with Jeffri Chadihi, Lynch explains he will not talk to the media because he does not trust them.

Marshawn Lynch critics argue that it is in Lynch’s contract with the Seattle Seahawks and the NFL. Although it may be stated in his contract, is it really fair to make him speak against his will? Stephen A. Smith argues that when Marshawn Lynch doesn’t speak, it’s disobeying the NFL’s rules and that is the equivalent of opening Pandora’s box. Essentially, if you make the exception for one NFL player, the entire rule is in jeopardy. Skip Bayless, another Lynch critic says Marshawn Lynch is actually denying his fans the right to know him and his personality. Eager to know if this was realistic, I interviewed Hanae Reith, a Seattle native and die hard Seahwaks fan, “I feel connected to the players whether or not they respond to the press…he fears he will say something wrong and be ridiculed the same way Sherman has. I don’t believe anyone should speak to the media if they don’t want to. Marshawn connects to his fans through social media and at the games.” Hanae concluded with, “Football isn’t about the press, it’s about the game.”

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Marshawn Lynch pounding his way through the Minnesota Vikins’ defense during the 2012 season.

Marshawn Lynch supporters question why the NFL has taken this rule so seriously when it has potentially turned a blind eye at other contract breaking incidents, like the Ray Rice scandal. Supporters would say, the NFL is so intent on forcing Marshawn Lynch to speak because more media is more money for the NFL. Pete Carroll has talked about what a team player Marshawn Lynch is and how he would never do anything to hurt the team. In addition to this praise, Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks corner back, said “Marshawn Lynch is a wise man.” If Marshawn Lynch is a passionate player, who loves the game, should the NFL force him to speak to the media? If freedom of speech is a basic human right, then should freedom of silence be a basic human right as well?

contact: Hanae Reith, Hanae.Reith@colorado.edu

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