Little Leaguer Mo'Ne Davis Graces SI's National Cover, But Is Media Attention Too Much?
Little League World Series female P Mo'Ne Davis appears on this week's national SI cover, the "first Little Leaguer" to do so, according to Matt Breen of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. SI "dispatched a reporter" to the LLWS on Saturday and a photographer followed Davis' Pennsylvania team "for the two previous days." SI Managing Editor Chris Stone in a statement said Davis has "owned the sports conversation" over the past week. Stone: "How often do you get to say this about a 13-year-old girl?" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 8/20). MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski said of Davis appearing on the cover, "This is great." MSNBC's Willie Geist said, "How cool is that?" ("Morning Joe," MSNBC, 8/20). NBC's Katy Tur called Davis a "national superstar" and noted the Little League World Series "has never been more inspiring" ("Today," NBC, 8/20). ESPN's Jason Whitlock said Davis is a "great kid" with a "great story," but he was not comfortable with a 13-year-old on the cover of SI. Whitlock: "That's too young. I start thinking about being a Hollywood child star, and we're doing this to athletes now. ... No one's the bad guy here, not Sports Illustrated. But it just reminds me of Hollywood. These kids can't handle this kind of attention." ESPN's Michael Wilbon noted in the past he has gone off about how ESPN airs too many Little League and high school games. He said, "I find it loathsome most of the time. But I think she's the exception, and what convinced me was seeing her do an interview, a conversation on this network. She is so composed, she is self-aware without being self-absorbed, she's smart, she handles the language, she has an awareness." But Whitlock said, "The problem is the next kid they put on the cover and the next kid after that" ("PTI," ESPN, 8/19).
TOO MUCH, TOO SOON? In N.Y., Jeré Longman notes attention from the public and the news media "has been enormous and ceaseless." Davis is "driving the ratings for ABC and ESPN during the series and, as of Tuesday, had been featured atop the front page of The Philadelphia Inquirer for five consecutive days." But Davis’ coaches have "begun to try to ease pressure and expectation, striking a balance between making her available to tell her engaging story and protecting her so that she can enjoy herself." Davis' coach Steve Bandura said the media requests were "wearing her out." But yesterday she "joined teammates for interviews with ESPN and BET." Asked if she was enjoying herself, Davis said, "Yes I am. Sometimes it gets annoying, but I am enjoying it" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/20). ESPNW's Melissa Isaacson wrote under the header, "How Much Is Too Much Attention At The Little League World Series?" Davis has been "quite open in expressing that all the attention is not fun." She is "seemingly as cool as any professional athlete," but even "most professional athletes are not on every 'SportsCenter' countdown and promo for a week solid." Davis' mother, Lakeisha McLean, said, "I feel bad that Mo'Ne can't really enjoy it the way she wants to and is used to because of the media and everything. They are kids and just want to have fun." Little League parent Mike Adams said, "I don't think you can possibly realize until you're here the amount of pressure there is. It's so big now with TV and social media, it gets out of your control" (ESPNW.com, 8/19). ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said, "I hate the attention she’s getting. ... I don't believe anybody 13 years of age should be put in this kind of spotlight. I don't like it." He admitted that may sound "a bit awry considering the fact that I work for the 'Worldwide Leader.'" Smith added, "I'm not talking about the attention as it pertains to her exploits on the field. I’m talking about the interviews, I’m talking about the questions. I don’t like that" ("First Take," ESPN2, 8/20).
THIS IS HER MOMENT: SI's Albert Chen as part of this week's cover story notes Davis has "received tweets" from Michelle Obama, Tennis HOFer Billie Jean King, Thunder F Kevin Durant, Pirates CF Andrew McCutchen and rappper Lil Wayne, while also receiving TV talk show invites from Jimmy Fallon, Ellen DeGeneres and Queen Latifah (SI, 8/25 issue).