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Seahawk Marshawn Lynch's Silence Becomes The Story


All week, people have been talking about a guy who doesn't like talking. Playing in the NFL means speaking to the media. It's in the contract. Seattle Seahawks running back, Marshawn Lynch, was fined $50,000 this season for violating the league's media policy - same thing last season. In the lead up to the Super Bowl, he has stiff-armed thousands of media members in Phoenix. And as NPR's Tom Goldman reports, that's only getting him more attention.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Who says Marshawn Lynch won't talk to the press?

What's it like to be at the Super Bowl?

JAZZ PURWAL: You know what? - it's to be blessed. And it's an awesome feeling to be a part of everything that's going on. It's great.

GOLDMAN: OK, so the guy wearing a number 24 Marshawn Lynch jersey actually was 33-year-old Jazz Purwal from Vancouver, BC. You know, you get what you can get. And for the credentialed media in Phoenix, that's meant close-to-nothing from the real Lynch. What started as humorous theater on Tuesday's media day - I'm here so I don't get fined, 29 times - ended yesterday, the last formal day of interviews, with an uncomfortable stare down.


MARSHAWN LYNCH: I'm not about to say nothing. So now, for this next three minutes, I'll just be looking at y'all the way that y'all are looking at me. Thank you.

GOLDMAN: But, then again, Lynch did talk during the week and was as funny as his Seattle teammates insisted he was. In a mock interview for Skittles candy...


LYNCH: Do I earn wish the field were twice as long so I could get a (laughter) 200 yard rushing touchdown? Not at all.

GOLDMAN: In an ad with sportscaster Kenny Mayne for car insurance...


LYNCH: If you switch to Progressive, good things will happen.

KENNY MAYNE: I've never heard you talk that much, Marshawn. It's weirding me out.

LYNCH: I'm all about that flow, boss.

GOLDMAN: So he's all about the money, said Lynch's critics - and there were many this week, including former Patriots' defensive back, Rodney Harrison. He spoke on "The Dan Patrick Show."


RODNEY HARRISON: Let me just say this coming from an African-American man - for years, black people didn't have a voice in this world. And you finally have an opportunity to have a voice and to talk, and you make a mockery out of it like it's a joke. And I don't agree with it.

GOLDMAN: Current players, however, the guys getting ready to play Sunday, largely supported Lynch. Although most, including New England defensive back, Kyle Arrington, understand their unique place in the working world, constantly getting asked about what they do.

KYLE ARRINGTON: People can't get enough of, you know, sports, you know? It's a - I won't say drives our country - but, I mean, something a lot of people can rally behind.

GOLDMAN: In an espn.com article this week, writer Jeffri Chadiha laid out possible reasons why Lynch wouldn't talk. Chadiha wrote Lynch was 11 when his dad abandoned the family, leaving Lynch, quote, "more guarded and suspicious of people's intentions." The article was part of the ironic backlash to Marshawn Lynch's silence. We've learned more about him than we ever knew - his tough upbringing in Oakland, his charity work in his hometown and his dedication to teammates and Seattle fans, who give that love right back. Again, here's Jazz Purwal.

PURWAL: I don't see him letting anyone down. His job is to get rushing yards, score touchdowns, and he does that.

GOLDMAN: The NFL says his job entails more. Will this week's collision of star athlete and sports media lead to change from the requirement that players make themselves available, to a requirement that they actually speak to reporters? I asked that question in an e-mail to a league spokesman. Fittingly, he didn't answer. Tom Goldman, NPR News, Phoenix. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.