Sports media “boycott” of Skittles because of press snub actually undermines real causes
(Editor’s Note: This post has been slightly edited from the original version on T Dog Media’s Google Plus and Facebook pages. – T.H.)
Aside from a writer at a rival media site, yours truly has shied away from bashing media writers for the last few years (something I admit I hate doing – not really my character), especially after former Sun-Times sports columnist Jay Mariotti left town. But what yours truly read Wednesday was so ridiculous, it merits a response.
Well-respected sports media writer Ed Sherman – who has worked for the Chicago Tribune and writes a blog called “The Sherman Report” wrote a column on Indiana University’s Sports Journalism Center Website, calling for a boycott of Skittles – all because Seattle Seahawks Marshawn Lynch’s unorthodox “interview methods” during Super Bowl Media Day, and again this afternoon.
A boycott? Because of that? What the what?
On Tuesday, Lynch – who is no fan of speaking to the media – repeatedly said “I’m here so I won’t get fined”. Earlier in the week, Lynch held a mock “press conference” sponsored by Skittles, a former Mars product now made by Chicago-based Wrigley Co. The stunts angered many in the media, especially Ed Sherman, who called for sports journalists and others to boycott the candy.
While yours truly won’t get into the debate whether Lynch should speak to the media (I could care less if he does or doesn’t), it’s Sherman’s attitude that’s off-putting.
What Sherman’s doing is he’s putting Marshawn Lynch’s media snub on the same level as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala. in 1955 and 1956. The boycott began when a seamstress named Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man. After refusing to do so, Parks was arrested, booked, and thrown in jail. Her actions – and Dr. King’s bus boycott in the Jim Crow-era south – led the U.S Supreme Court to declare segregated buses among race unconstitutional. A heroine was born – and her actions eventually led to the downfall of Jim Crow in the South.
Since the 1970’s, the word “boycott” has been used for more trivial reasons rather than social change. The American Family Association urged viewers to boycott sponsors who advertised on “Three’s Company” because of its racy content. The Parents Television Council regularly urges viewers to boycott companies who advertise on shows they don’t like. Even some WGN Radio listeners were boycotting companies who advertised on the station after the firing of Garry Meier and decisions made by Jimmy DeCastro and Todd Manley.
These actions aren’t exactly a sit-in at the local Woolworth’s.
While it’s understandable the press would be upset with Lynch – after all, we do have a freedom of press – Ed Sherman’s suggestion is completely absurd. No “boycott” is going to change Lynch’s or Wrigley’s mind – this isn’t the Montgomery Bus System. And many of these journalists are employed by Big Media corporations – no one is going to have sympathy for someone who is getting well-paid to cover an event in a place a lot of us would love to be in right now. It’s like being in Cancun in February and complaining about the type of sand on the beach.
And Ed Sherman’s “Skittles” boycott comes poorly timed as it was the candy of choice – and a bottle of iced tea – of Trayvon Martin as he was carrying both when he was murdered by George Zimmerman just outside of Orlando Fla. in 2012. A grand jury acquitted Zimmerman, triggering protests across the country with many people buying packs of Skittles and bringing them to protests in honor of the slain African-American teen. Hot on the heels of the Michael Brown and Eric Gardner cases, it’s still a sensitive subject for many African-Americans.
But ol’ Ed thinks a football player evading the media is a more worthwhile story – in a sport meant to serve as a distraction to the everyday ills I just described. Given the city Sherman works in is plagued by gang and gun violence in most minority neighborhoods, Sherman’s stance comes off as insincere.
So go to the store and stack up on Skittles. Seems to me a better idea is to boycott The Sherman Report.