The outpouring support for Marshawn Lynch over the last few weeks stands in stark contrast to the way he was viewed earlier in his career as a Buffalo Bill. Then, and even following his trade to the Seattle Seahawks, Lynch was considered something of a pariah, unable to keep it together on and off the field.
Oh, how the times have changed. Following last year's Super Bowl victory and four consecutive years of reaching 1,200 yards and double-digit touchdowns, Lynch is one of the most recognizable players in the NFL, and possibly throughout all major sports. Interestingly enough, it's not only his play that has got him here.
Much maligned earlier in his career for behavioral issues, Lynch has made a name for himself for his one-liners, refusal to listen to league authority, and "unique, special" demeanor, according to Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll. This postseason, the press and social platforms have exploded with stories and commentary praising his approach to dealing with reporter inquiries. According to Mashable, Lynch is "one of the most genuine unchanged-by-fame people you'll ever meet," while a contributor to SB Nation titled an article, "Marshawn Lynch Deserves a Statue." As expected, Lynch is feeling the love on social media - just search his name on Twitter.
Lynch appears to be upset and distressed by the media, and the NFL's reaction to his silence and one-liners, but can this really be the case? After all, he's building a lucrative brand off of it, which also benefits his charity - a noble cause.
Since wearing his Beast Mode branded hat in his bizarre interviews, Lynch has seen his online store sell out of the product. His pop up store in Scottsdale, host to the NFL entertainment center only miles from the site of the Super Bowl, has sold out as well. Peanuts, you say? How about Progressive's Super Bowl commercial, featuring - you guessed it - Lynch conducting a parody interview with Kenny Mayne?
Consider, we are talking about the same individual who made Skittles cool again, resulting in a partnership that earned Lynch compensation.
Maybe Lynch really is, "about that action, boss" but he's clearly also about the profit and the branding. Superstar Wide Receiver AJ Green hit the nail on the head when he said in a recent interview, "He's building his brand by doing that because everyone keeps talking about it."
Lynch's supporters are quick to point out that he's a recluse, doesn't like the spotlight, and is "team first." They are probably correct about this. They are also quick to point the finger at the media, and at this point, they are wrong.
Marshawn Lynch is an NFL Superstar. The man gets paid millions of dollars each year to play a game that many of us would to participate in. We envy his occupation, and we envy his salary. If you think it's unfair that Lynch gets fined for not speaking to the media, understand that he is breaking the rules, clearly stated in the 2014 NFL Media Relations Policy:
"It is not permissible for any player or any group of players to boycott the media."
What would happen to most of us if we took a 3-hour lunch break everyday, even if we were performing well? What if we routinely treated our peers with the same disrespect that Lynch displays toward the media? As a former colleague of mine, a journalist by trade, recently said, "The media is a conduit to the fans and him treating them like that is like a slap in the face to the fans."
I couldn't agree more. Buy his merchandize, put money in his pocket, and cheer his unbelievable talent - but please stop defending Marshawn Lynch. He doesn't need it.