Athletes Want To Talk To Fans Without Meddlesome Sports Journalists

Athletes Want To Talk To Fans Without Meddlesome Sports Journalists

10:25am May 06, 2015
Derek Jeter attends the launch party for his new website, The Players' Tribune, on Feb. 14 in New York City. The site is a platform for athletes to talk directly to fans.
Derek Jeter attends the launch party for his new website, The Players' Tribune, on Feb. 14 in New York City. The site is a platform for athletes to talk directly to fans.
Timothy Hiatt / Getty Images

It's interesting to note the major differences in the way the media deals with sports stars and entertainment celebrities in public.

When entertainment personalities are interviewed, they are dressed to the nines, and the interrogation consists mostly of compliments. Athletes, however, are interviewed all grubby and sweaty, and primarily, they are rudely asked to explain themselves. Why did you strike out? How could you have possibly dropped that pass?

Whereas the show business beauties are chatted up on a red carpet, by sycophants wearing gowns and black tie, athletes are not only accosted by hordes of pushy sports journalists, but forced to testify in their own dressing cubicles.

Mercifully, male athletes are attired somewhat more decorously now that members of the opposite sex are allowed into locker rooms. There was a time when it was not uncommon for our heroes to address the press adorned in nothing more than a jockstrap, or less.

But it all evens out. While players are badgered immediately after participating in stressful activity, entertainment stars are bedeviled by rude photographers who seek to run the pretty idols into the ground when they're caught off guard. These human mosquitoes show almost no interest in photographing athletes out of uniform. I do recall Alex Rodriguez once being snapped entering a hotel elevator with a lady other than his wife, but A-Rod is ever the exception.

In an effort to give athletes an opportunity to talk without being beleaguered by journalists, former New York Yankees player Derek Jeter has created a website called The Players' Tribune. It gives athletes the opportunity to speak their minds, unfiltered by meddlesome members of the Fourth Estate. As an athlete, Jeter was brilliant at answering questions at great length without saying anything. But he obviously feels that other jocks, who are less talented at that art, need The Players' Tribune.

Pessimists may worry that The Players' Tribune emasculates those who would make a living interviewing athletes, but those of us in the profession must accept that modern athletes, schooled in social media, may no longer need ghost writers to express themselves.

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Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Respect is something our commentator Frank Deford says athletes in general don't get enough of, though one retired star has begun a new venture to change that.

FRANK DEFORD, BYLINE: How interesting are the major differences between the ways that sports stars and entertainment celebrities are dealt with in public by the media? When entertainment personalities are interviewed, they're dressed to the nines, and the interrogation, such as it is, consists mostly of compliments. Athletes, however, are interviewed all grubby and sweaty, and primarily, they're rudely asked to explain themselves. Why did you strike out? How could you possibly have dropped that pass?

Whereas the show business beauties are chatted up on literally a red carpet by sycophants themselves wearing gowns and black tie, athletes are not only accosted by hordes of unfashionable sports journalists, but forced to testify in their own dressing cubicles. Mercifully, it is true that male athletes are attired somewhat more decorously now that members of the opposite sex are allowed into locker rooms. There was a time when it was not uncommon for our heroes to address the press adorned in nothing more than a jockstrap or less. For those of you made uncomfortable by that vision, advances in locker room modesty are thus duly noted.

But it all evens out because whereas players are badgered immediately after participating in stressful activity, entertainment stars are bedeviled by rude photographers who seek to run the pretty idols to ground when they're off guard, at their leisure. Yet the paparazzi, our human mosquitoes, show almost no interest in photographing athletes out of uniform. I do recall Alex Rodriguez once being snapped entering a hotel elevator with a lady other than his wife, but A-Rod is ever the exception.

Now though, in an effort to give athletes an opportunity to speak without being beleaguered by journalists taking advantage of the First Amendment, Derek Jeter, with time on his hands, has instituted a website called The Players' Tribune, which gives athletes the opportunity to speak their mind unfiltered by meddlesome members of the Fourth Estate. Jeter himself was brilliant at answering questions at great length without saying anything. But he obviously feels that other jocks, less talented at that art, need The Players' Tribune, what we might call an oral selfie.

Pessimists may worry that The Players' Tribune emasculates those who would make a living interviewing athletes, but we in the noble profession must accept that modern athletes schooled in social media may not anymore need ghostwriters to express themselves. In the meantime, my only fear is that Derek Jeter is planning to next lay down red carpets to the locker rooms.

INSKEEP: That's Frank Deford, the man we think of as the sports writers' tribune. He joins us each Wednesday on MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inkseep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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