Green Bay Packers

Midweek Musings: Packers, NFL should reinstate normal media access

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There must be a lot going through Jordan Love’s head right now.

How does he feel he’s progressing in Year 2? What’s going on with his teammate, the reigning MVP? Is Love confident he can step in and win games, if need be, in 2021?

It’d be fantastic to know Love’s thoughts on all things Green Bay Packers. He’s last year’s first-round pick and could be pressed into duty as the face of the franchise sooner rather than later.

Because the NFL has continued its COVID-19 media policies, which prohibit media access to team locker rooms, we don’t know what’s on Love’s mind, because no one has had the opportunity to ask. The second-year quarterback has not yet been made available by the Packers to the media for interviews yet this offseason.

It’s not as if there hasn’t been the opportunity. Love was in Green Bay and participating in the team’s voluntary workouts these last few weeks. Instead, the Packers made everyone from Aaron Jones to Lucas Patrick to AJ Dillon available via Zoom call.

Love, however, was conspicuously absent.

This isn’t to suggest other players don’t have meaningful insight to share. Jones re-committed to the Packers this offseason with a four-year deal and it’s been an emotional few months with the passing of his father, Alvin Jones Sr. Kenny Clark and Adrian Amos, two others made available during May’s workouts, are crucial members to a defense learning under a new coordinator.

It is, however, an alarming trend of the NFL pushing media farther away from genuine access. Love’s thoughts and opinions, whether he’s the starter in 2021 or not, are newsworthy. Yet we’re all left in the dark.

Last season’s sudden boom of the Zoom call was what it was. Playing football during the COVID-19 pandemic meant conceding some routine, and for the media that meant pausing the in-person interactions so common in such a profession. But the push and pull possible in a normal interview setting, where a reporter has an opportunity to ask follow-up questions or press on when a player or coach ducks a question, wasn’t possible.

The NFL is expected to keep locker rooms closed to the media in 2021, even while COVID protocols across the United States have been relaxed in recent months. If that comes to fruition, the NFL would be making a major mistake. And who suffers most? The paying customer. The fan.

It’s not at all surprising the NFL is hesitant to open up locker rooms to reporters, as disingenuous as it may be (the league has been very up front about its intent to have full stadiums this season). To NFL teams, information is like gold, and media interviews are just another opportunity to spill those government secrets.

Every year, less and less training camp practices are open to the public. It’s not because teams don’t value fans — it’s that they don’t value fans as much as they fear any spectator could be a spy for a rival team, taking notes on plays, schemes, training camp standouts, et cetera.

When tennis star Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open last week, it sparked conversation about what role the media should have in covering professional sports.

Some shake off the necessity. Some even suggested that the NFL not require players to speak after games, on the grounds that “99 percent of the players would still choose to do so” (a truly laughable take, Point A being the radio silence from Aaron Rodgers’ camp this summer).

The fact is that the NFL is not one of the largest businesses in the world without the media. Those TV rights? That’s media. All the podcasts we listen to throughout the week, or the Monday Morning Quarterback columns we read, that exist to entertain and educate us fans? That’s media.

How else is Davante Adams explaining his favorite routes or what Jordy Nelson meant as his elder statesman in the receivers’ room, without the media? Would we have R-E-L-A-X or “Run the Table” or grape Crush, without the media? The media plays an essential role in our fandom.

To be clear, reporters aren’t going anywhere. If Zoom calls are here to stay, at least for another season, we’ll still tune in and enjoy meme-able screen shots provided by coach Matt LaFleur and the Packers players. But the NFL’s insistence — and the Packers are as guilty of any team of this — to make life more difficult on those asking the hard-hitting, or sometimes light-hearted, questions isn’t good for the game.

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