It is an odd thing that we expect our professional athletes also to be professional communicators. Why is it that it is a part of their job to be expected to speak with the media and field potentially loaded questions? The most reasonable answer to me is that it is profitable to others for them to do so.
Sure, we want to hear from the players, after all. Whether it’s the second-hand warm-and-fuzzies after a player scores an emotional game-winning touchdown or just wanting to know more about why somebody is suddenly no longer playing on special teams, we want to get to the source.
Many people get invested in the lives of the players of the teams that they root for. And many players value the ability to communicate with their fans. It is very much a two-way street. But how did it get this way, and is it necessary?
Not so much the communicating with fans bit, of course. What I’m talking about are the contractual media obligations. I understand that the players as employees of their respective teams are ambassadors of the brand, and for obvious reasons it is valuable to said teams that they are represented while by their employees.
But why should we expect a professional athlete to also be a diplomat when it comes to being asked some ridiculous question about a teammate, in whatever context? Whether it is Cameron Heyward being asked about what he thinks of Ben Roethlisberger’s performance or Roethlisberger being asked if he thought if Antonio Brown’s run-in with an uppity water cooler had an impact on the game, these seem to me inane and unproductive responsibilities for a professional athlete.
At the end of the day, these athletes are employed because they make the people who sign their checks money. And the money is earned because of what they do as athletes on the football field, not because of how fluidly they speak and how courteously they can respond to a foolish reporter asking irrelevant questions.
Ultimately, it does very little good that I can see outside of providing ratings and clicks. And let’s be blunt here, we here at this site benefit quite a bit from this exchange. Almost every single week of the year we share news of what players, owners, and coaches have to say about the team. We’re all culpable to some degree.
But these are people who are paid to hit people and to be hit by people, to throw or kick or catch and carry or hold or strip or bat an oblong inflated ball of rubber. That doesn’t qualify them for public speaking, and it’s an unreasonable demand to expect them to do it well.
This is not in any way intended to diminish the intelligence or speaking ability of professional athletes. Just in the Steelers locker room alone, I think there are a number of players who are highly expressive and intelligent. But for it to be such an integral part of their job at times strikes me as absurd.