Recently, the NFL announced that all team’s locker rooms will continue to be closed to reporters next year. The rule was put in place last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Which made a lot of sense. They wanted as few people as possible in the locker rooms to spread the virus.
After the announcement, reporters took social media to express their displeasure with the decision. Boston Globe Patriots beat writer and noted BO Blog hater, Ben Volin tweeted the following, “Yes I’m biased, but no one wins in this situation. Open locker rooms provide better coverage for everyone.” Dan Shaughnessy, long time sports reporter and columnist for the Boston Globe shared the same sentiment. Answering directly via email saying, “Beat reporters need to be able to get into the L (locker) room to develop relationships and cultivate sources. there is no sub for one-on-one interviews.”
Clearly, the prevailing opinion amongst beat writers is that they should be allowed in the locker room. Which, when you look at, makes sense for them to say. It is their job to get as much information from players and coaches as possible. As Shaughnessy said, it definitely helps to create relationships with folks in the organization and the best way to do that is with person to person conversations. I am sure that having these connections with players makes beat writers’ jobs that much easier.
The question then becomes, is it right just because it makes their jobs easier?
Let’s look at it from another angle here. Let’s take another profession and see if the same standard should apply.
Being a teacher, I can think of a ton of things that would make my job a lot easier. Having shock collars on the kids would make class discipline a hell of a lot easier. But, that clearly isn’t right.
Now that is an absurd comparison, but the point applies. Just because it makes something easier, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good.
That part aside, let’s take a look at it from the players perspective. Having been an athlete and been in a locker room, it isn’t just a place to hang out. That is where players get changed, shower, have medical treatments and prepare themselves for work. Does anyone else think it is a tad odd that reporters were even allowed in there in the first place?
Imagine, if the press covered your profession like they did sports. When you get home from work to shower and unwind, and all of a sudden there are dozens of people asking you questions about how the day went, what’s going on tomorrow and sometimes even more personal stuff. Not sure about y’all, but that would be incredibly invasive and annoying. I’m sure a lot of the players feel the same way. It is quite the invasion of privacy.
And another thing, as a reporter, doesn’t it feel weird to be asking these guys (20 year old kids some of them) questions while they’re changing out of their sweaty practice clothes? That would be quite awkward to say the least.
Besides the weirdness of it all, I think last year proved that it can all be done remotely anyway. There was no shortage of information about NFL players getting out there. When I asked if remote interviews were good enough, Shaughnessy responded, “Zoom-only means everyone gets the same thing and teams can decide who gets to ask the questions.” A good point. But if you’re the NFL, isn’t that what you want? Not only that, but in today’s world there are so many different ways to get in contact with people you want to talk to. Whether it be email, text message, phone call or social media, there is no shortage of ways to get a hold of players you want to talk to. Now, it does make it easier for that person to ignore your question, but again, that is probably a good thing.
I think these beat writers are more worried about their job security than anything else. I can respect that. We all need to make a living. But, like Volin said, they are a little biased to be commenting on this matter. Last year tells us that beat writers don’t “need” to be in locker rooms.
Regardless, it doesn’t matter what I, or the beat writers think. The NFL made their decision. The rule seems to be here to stay, so Shaughnessy and Volin are going to have to find another way to get their info.