How the 24 Hour News Cycle Killed Athlete-Media Relations

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Can we get a good soundbite, please? Photo by Ivana

In response to the growth of social media, sports media in this age has become a race of who can deliver the news the fastest. Oftentimes at the expense of the truth. Beginning with the internet boom of the 2000s, the relationship between media and athletes has become hostile and downright invasive at times. What was once a day to day news cycle has become a 24/7 news breaking debacle.

The media chews athletes up and spits them out as quickly as they can. Yesterday’s Tim Tebow has become today’s Johnny Manziel in which the media builds athletes up in images they fully construct themselves. I don’t consider it entirely the media’s fault. As the age old saying “If it bleeds it leads” suggests, there is a negative feedback loop between public opinion and media. The media delivers what we’ve proven we want in our habits.

I think the best example of what sports media has become in the internet age is LeBron James’ entire career in the spotlight. James first gained fame in 2002 during his junior year of high school when he was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The magazine declared him “The Chosen One” drawing comparisons to Michael Jordan his entire career because of it. He’s been forced to meet a certain expectation and drawing unreasonable ire ever since. The beloved Michael Jordan would have gotten eaten alive in today’s media world because numerous reports indicate he’s an asshole. James’ success paved the way for media in the internet age to follow potential stars from the earliest sign possible, potentially harming their chances in the long run. But the media doesn’t receive the backlash from it, it’s just another washout story for them. LeBron and every superstar in between were built as the next Michael Jordan. Today, top basketball prospects are billed as the next LeBron James.

If we want lazy and dishonest journalism to stop, our habits need to change. A long time ago as a self-righteous teenager, I vowed to never read an online article by The Oregonian sportswriter John Canzano (I’d link him, but you know, morals yadda yadda) ever again because I felt like he produced shoddy biased work. I was going to stick it to the newspaper right where it hit them: revenue. Even though I failed in reaching my goal of getting him fired (in fact he actually has a radio show now, so he’s done quite well for himself despite my noble stand) I’ve held strong in my beliefs because views and shares run media today. If we want better player relationships and interactions, we need to change. If not, prepare for more Marshawn Lynchesque interviews.

 

How the NBA Uses All-Star Weekend as a Public Relations Tool

 

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All-Star Weekend is a hit on all fronts for the NBA. Photo by Daniel.

The NBA All-Star weekend came to a close Sunday, Feb. 14 following the Western Conference’s All-Stars’ defeat of the Eastern Conference All-Stars in an exhibition game composing of some of the league’s best talents. The jam-packed weekend was highlighted by incredible dunks, immensely talented shooters, the always amusing All-Star Celebrity Game and the 65th All-Star Game.

 

All-Star weekend hasn’t always been filled with such a variety of entertainment. In fact, many events were introduced and have gone through a number of formats as a response to declining viewership and ratings of the All-Star Game itself. The NBA’s course of action in implementing new features to the weekend festivities has proven to be a hit for the league and broadcasters.

The NBA All-Star game was first introduced in 1951, but it wasn’t until the ’80s that the league introduced the Slam Dunk Contest and Three-Point competition. The two games stand in almost stark contrast to one another. The dunk contest showcases the raw athletic potential of its athletes and leaves viewers in awe that the human body can reach such incredible highs. On the other end of the spectrum, the Three-Point Challenge displays the pure skill that players have developed from countless hours spent perfecting their games in the gym.

In 2003, the NBA introduced the Celebrity All-Star Game. Celebrities from wide-ranging fields such as government, entertainment, retired NBA legends and WNBA stars typically compose the rosters. I think the game is wildly successful because it reaches audiences who have little to no interest in watching basketball. For instance, Justin Bieber participated in the 2011 celebrity game and put on a pretty respectable show. Despite his mediocre performance and place on the losing side, the pop icon was named MVP as a result of his legion of fans swarming the vote. While I’m making very sweeping generalization, I think it is safe to say that Bieber’s demographic and the NBA’s demographic don’t overlap that much, so the relationship between the two was beneficial for both. The NBA gained an audience it was desperately trying to reach in children and young adults by making the connection with Bieber, and he used the nationally broadcast game as a platform to “sell” himself to his publics. This year, the Celebrity All-Star game audience continued to grow and continues to be a hit for the league.

For the NBA, adding these events opened up more opportunities to generate revenue during a period in which no games are played. For instance, this All-Star weekend was flanked by two days rest before the All-Star game and three days after it. That was six days of no regular season action. From the players’ perspectives, the All-Star break is a chance to rest and get away from the grueling work and travel they experience. By packing the weekend with events, the NBA can give back to its employees in time away, which keeps them happy.

What started as a dream game showcasing the best players in the NBA has turned into three-day extravaganza for the league. The festivities brilliantly allow the NBA to reach new audiences, maintain good relations with current audiences, and satisfy its employees with a week-long break in the middle of the year. The NFL could learn a thing or two.

Championship Parades and How Franchises Celebrate with Their Publics

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Championship parades bring the whole city to a standstill. Photo by Griszka Niewiadomski

Watching your team win a championship is the ultimate dream of every sports fanatic. The confetti, the trophies, the awkward kind of/maybe/probably name-drops of companies you have stakes in. Nothing feels better than reveling in your team’s climb to the top.

Last week, the Denver Broncos captured Super Bowl 50 and with that, the opportunity to host one of the largest parties in sports: A Championship Parade.

With streets and sidewalks shut down for the event, over one million fans stuffed the streets and Civic Center Park of Denver to celebrate, listen to members of the organization speak and catch a glimpse of the Lombardi trophy. An event of such magnitude requires a lot of communication between an organization and its publics. These events are used by franchises as ways to express the organizations’ gratitude to its supporters and allow them to celebrate together. For instance, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock roared to those in attendance last Tuesday “Let the nation hear you! You are world champions! Make … some … noise!” The Broncos purposely used the mayor to express its thanks because it roots the organization into the fibers of the city and strengthens its special connections with the community. It is always important for an organization to acknowledge the importance its publics have in the successes it finds because without them, there is no franchise.

My first taste as a champion came last Fall when my favorite baseball team, the Kansas City Royals, broke through and won the World Series for the first time in 30 years after falling just short the year before. Even after I spent over $200 on champions emblazoned clothing, my thirst for celebration lived on. Going to school in Eugene, Ore., close to 2,000 miles away from Kansas City, Mo., there was obviously no way for me to celebrate alongside the reportedly 800,000 people who packed downtown that day. To put that number and excitement in perspective, Kansas City has a population of 467,000. Thankfully in this day and age, I watched the rally from the comforts of my home thanks to a live stream of the events by the Fox 4 affiliate in Kansas City.

I will always remember the images from that day and how outside of select restricted spaces, there was no visible standing room in the fields of Union Station where the ceremony ended. I hope the next time one of my favorite teams wins it all, I can be right there with the rest of my millions of friends celebrating the team’s efforts.