SBD/March 17, 2011/Media

NFL Lockout Watch, Day 6: League-Owned Network In Uncharted Territory

NFL Network is the first league-owned network to cover a work stoppage, and its "reporting about the owners' lockout of players is a way to shift assumptions that the channel will give knee-jerk priority to management position," according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. NFL Network Senior VP/Programming & Production Mark Quenzel said that league and team officials “had never suggested that the network shade its lockout coverage their way.” Quenzel: “The only thing asked of us is to cover both sides straight and get our facts right. If people don’t look back and say that the NFL Network didn’t give us balanced coverage, it’ll be two labor agreements before we get over that. That would be bad business.” The NFLPA “has not advised players to boycott the network,” but it is "not pushing them to appear on it, either.” NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir for External Affairs George Atallah said, “My message is, regardless of the outlet, check with the association to get a sense for its previous coverage.” Cardinals K and player rep Jay Feely said, “I wouldn’t go on there now. It’s a league-owned network, so I would take that stand. But other players can go on if they choose.” Atallah’s “main criticism” with NFL Network's coverage of last Friday's decertification was that it left NFLPA outside counsel Jim Quinn “before his question-and-answer session began," yet showed NFL Exec VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash answering questions from media. But Sandomir notes the network did stay "long enough to carry Quinn’s tart contention that Pash had lied about the league’s offer to players that day during mediation.” Atallah said that he is “reserving further criticism until he analyzed the association’s review of a swath of recent media coverage, including the NFL Network’s.” But he said since he started work for the NFLPA two years ago, network officials have done “a very good job in their attempt to be objective” (N.Y. TIMES, 3/17).

MEDIA TRAINING: In Houston, Richard Justice wrote "every interview with an NFL player sounds like every other interview, and the NFL likes it that way" because players are "taught to fear or distrust the media, either directly or indirectly." During the labor dispute, NFL players "could use the media to explain their position.” But many “rank-and-file NFL players have had so little experience dealing with the media they don't have the relationships with reporters to contact them and explain their position.” Justice added, "If NFL teams expended as much time and energy on improving the football product as they do keeping players away from the media, things might be better” (CHRON.com, 3/16).
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