Reporters at all levels have been in an uproar this week since Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott returned to The Star and immediately shut down all talk of his now-served 6-game suspension. Elliott made a statement early on, he thanked the team, his teammates, his family and friends, and the fans for supporting him through “this difficult time”, then said he wasn't going to speak about it again. He asked that the reporters “please” not even ask him about it.
So, what was the very next question he was asked? How was the reception when he arrived? Good start. That guy respected Zeke's request and asked a different question, which is more than can be said about the others.
Questions three, four, and five were all about the suspension in some way, shape, or form. They tried to back-door the subject with talk about the documentary filmed during his suspension, but that didn't work. Finally, a reporter asked Zeke why he wasn't going to talk about any of it, and Zeke said he was done.
That was the end of the interview.
According to some of the local Dallas sports media, however, that was when the entire football world blew up.
Reporters have gone on a full-blown snipe hunt since the interview, assassinating Zeke's character at every opportunity for how he handled their questions and bashing him left and right because he refused to go there.
Meanwhile, I'm sitting back like, “good for you, bro.”
Was it arrogant to come right out and say he wouldn't talk about that stuff anymore? Perhaps. I watched the interview, he was a little defensive when he spoke, but who could blame him?
Ezekiel Elliott is frustrated. He just served a 6-game suspension for something that can't even be called a crime. The NFL has delivered a message — via Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys — that they will not tolerate domestic violence among its players, even in so far as an accusation of domestic violence. It started middle of last year with an investigation that took more than a year to complete. It continued into this season with the suspension handed down and subsequent appeals, to the NFL and to the Federal courts in Texas and New York, which lasted through the halfway point in the season.
If the media had their way, it would continue even now, after it's over and done with.
We can all understand where the reporters are coming from, it's their duty to press people of note on topics of potential public interest. They get up in the morning just like you and me. They shower, dress, and eat breakfast. Then they commute to work.
That's how they pay their bills and provide for their families. I totally get that. I get that a journalist who doesn't ask the tough questions isn't successful. I get that the Dallas sports market is such that a Dallas Cowboy is a celebrity, and therefore of great public interest. I get that high-interest sells papers, subscriptions, and gets clicks online. None of that is unreasonable or even complicated.
We get it, okay?
But then I see this today.
Yeah, I was late on that one, and I usually am late on the local media's takes. Shariff sort of gets a pass on this because he's more of a disc-jockey than a journalist, but I'm seeing these sentiments echoed all over.
It's all in the name of selling papers, or at least the 2017 equivalent of that, and it's understandable. Hell, it's almost warranted. This particular “news” directly involves the media, unlike most news in the sports world. Of course, they're going to play it up and try to capitalize on the interaction to make them seem determined or vigilant.
What I have an issue with is seeing this response to Zeke's presser from the very same media members who blasted Zeke in September for not just taking his lumps and moving on.
The contention then was that this whole ordeal was just another distraction surrounding the Dallas Cowboys. The team is certainly no stranger to distractions, so it's a fair point. They had a great year in 2016 and it ended prematurely, thanks to Jared Cook and the Green Bay Packers, but distractions have arguably been an obstacle to this team's success over the last two decades. See Adam Jones, Terrell Owens, Joseph Randle, etc.
If Zeke hadn't fought for his innocence and pursued legal corrective action in his case, then he could've taken the suspension early in the season and put it all behind him — and his teammates — by mid-season. But he did fight back, he did assert his innocence, and he did travel up the Federal chain as high as he could go. What innocent man wouldn't go to the ends of the earth and back to clear his name? For that matter, what guilty man wouldn't? It's just what you do.
You do not accept blame because of a game, not even a well-paying game like professional football. You don't just take that lying down, you kick and scream and bite until they strap it to your bruised and broken body. Especially for a man like Elliott, whose name is potentially worth millions in player contracts and sponsorship agreements.
So, Zeke returns and his first act as a fully reinstated player is to talk to the media. He tells them he won't discuss what's already done and asks them politely to focus on the game ahead, something his head coach preaches every week.
Could we see that he was all pent-up as he made his statement? Of course, we could. The frustrating year he's had was toe to toe with the sharks, foaming at the mouth to get a sound bite for the evening news. All eyes were on him, cameras and film lighting too, and yet he had prepared his statement and committed to delivering it. It's a lot of pressure to pack into a few moments.
He may have come off a little awkward, maybe even a little arrogant, but so what? Sign George Clooney to the league if you want all-the-time suave and professionalism.
Don't jump all over some kid who still probably can't even believe the magnitude of the national spotlight he's in. That's what we're talking about here, a kid. He's 22 years old. He's got about as much life experience as a sock at this point, and yet he's supposed to navigate stardom and fame flawlessly? Worse yet, make his team, his family, his fans, and the media happy, all the time, every time? It's not gonna happen.
Take a Breath, Media.
You had 14 months to scribe Zeke's trials across your headlines, and it's over now. If you didn't take advantage of it when it was still relevant, that's on you.
Don't get all pissy and start blasting players and bloggers in their mom's basement just because you're not keeping up with the times. You're in a position to provide a very real and valuable service to our community; you have contacts and are afforded access to people greatly sheltered from millions who would sit them down under their microscopes 24/7. You are essentially their voice to the general public.
What nerve it must take to then criticize players for not telling you everything you want to hear. You may spread the news, but never forget it is them who make it.