Former Athletes On Equal Ground With Journalists In Today's Media Ring

By Jeff Everette

This morning a very serious debate took place on ESPN’s First Take.  The debate jumped from issue to issue as is often the case in such a heated conversation, but the point of origin is important to all members of the media, athletes, and the fans who look to us for their information.  Is there a line members of the media should not cross when they are calling out players for not living up to their potential?

The foundation of this debate stems, in part, from a tweet First Take’s Skip Bayless posted few weeks ago:

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Added to this claim is the fact Skip Bayless has no problem with letting his opinion be known, and often adds a derogatory comment or two as he speaks his mind.  He often concocts nicknames for players who are playing poorly, and was finally given a dose of his own medicine on Tuesday’s show by former NBA player, and current ESPN analyst, Jalen Rose.

During the show, Jalen surprised everyone by calling out Skip about his high school performance, hitting him with negative stats, and revealing he had played on the Junior Varsity team during his Junior year.  On Wednesday’s show Bayless said he was offended by Rose’s attack and felt Rose had crossed the line, but Jalen stuck to his guns, saying Skip does the same thing, all of the time.

The conversation was moving along in a calm and peaceful manner, until Stephen A. Smith joined the conversation via remote, and from there the lines between journalist and athlete became very clear to the world.

The idea of a person having to play at the highest level to be able to have a valid opinion is ludicrous.  If this were the case, most of the media would be out of a job.  If a person has a love and understanding of the game, and the ability to express themselves, then that person has the right to give their opinion, period.  How well they do so will dictate their level of success.  If a person has played the game at the highest level before joining the ranks of the media, then they come to the table with an inside view, different from those of us who have not played on such a stage.  It gives them an instant credibility the rest of us have to work years to achieve, but does not make their opinion carry any more weight than the next person’s.  It is opinion, and it needs to be based on fact.  Anyone who takes the time to do their homework is capable of expressing a legitimate opinion, regardless of their background.

The concern that Rose expressed regarding character assassination by the media is where the line between former athlete and career journalist has formed.  Rose may have been correct in feeling that it is wrong to create negative nicknames for players and to degrade them on national television, but the athletes are paid to perform, and when they do not, they are open to opinionated attack on every level, from anybody.  This point was illustrated clearly when former NFL player and current analyst, Chris Carter came on to add his opinion.  His intent may have been to support Rose in his argument, but instead became the “case in point” when his opinionated attack on Randy Moss was brought up.  Carter claimed that Moss later met with him and said Carter’s statements were right.  If this is completely true, then it just reaffirms that the media members, including former athletes, do their part by holding today’s athletes accountable.  How they do so is dependent upon the journalist or analyst, and in today’s 24 hour media cycle, there are no limits.

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