Media access to athletes has become one of the hottest topics in sports. Regardless of whether and to what extent the mental health of players will shape the extent to which the concept of mandatory press availability is relaxed, that has no bearing on a separate question looming over sports like the NFL.
The leagues and their unions must not be allowed to continue to justify reduced access due to the pandemic.
Last year, it was understandable that access would be eliminated. This year, there’s no good reason to keep reporters who have been vaccinated out of locker rooms.
The Washington Post reports that the NFL is nevertheless expected to “keep its locker rooms closed to reporters when teams report to training camps and begin playing preseason games this summer,” via Sports Business Journal. Per the report, the training-camp procedures are “probably a strong indication of what’s in store for the regular season,” as well as a “sign that restrictions placed on sports media during the coronavirus pandemic might stretch into the fall or beyond.”
If players who aren’t vaccinated will be permitted in locker rooms, media who have been vaccinated should not be excluded. It’s illogical and inconsistent with the league’s faith in the COVID-19 vaccines if reporters who have been vaccinated can’t return to locker rooms during the practice week and/or after games.
Press conferences aren’t good enough. Reporters need to be able to approach players individually, to witness the broader dynamics of the scene. To sometimes hear from beyond the door to the locker room the shouting and other noises that emerge after a game.
It’s wrong for the NFL or the NFL Players Association to milk the pandemic as justification for minimizing access. It appears that this is exactly what will happen. While there are valid reasons for a broader conversation when it comes to forcing specific players to speak, there is no reason to prevent reporters from being in position to observe, to inquire, and to listen.
NFL, NFLPA should allow vaccinated reporters to return to locker rooms originally appeared on Pro Football Talk