While the NFL gears up for the Super Bowl, its biggest media event of the year, Seattle Seahawks star Marshawn Lynch just wants to be left alone. Unlike other high-profile athletes who can’t get enough of the spotlight, Lynch avoids it, choosing instead to focus his energy on the game, his family, his business, and his charity, the Family First Foundation.
Lynch’s aversion to interviews (about football) is well known. During media appearances for last year’s Super Bowl, Lynch avoided most questions about the upcoming game and instead famously told Deion Sanders, “I’m just about that action, boss.”
This season, Lynch has been fined more than $131,050, in part, for violating the league’s media policy about talking to reporters. And the NFL isn’t pleased. According to ESPN, if Lynch had skipped out on the last media day before this year’s Super Bowl, the league would have fined him $500,000. That’s a big price to pay for sticking to your guns.
Lynch didn’t ditch media day, but once again explained why he was staying mum.
All week I told y’all what’s up,” he told reporters. “And for some reason y’all continue to come back and do the same thing that y’all did. I don’t know what story y’all trying to get out of me. I don’t know what image y’all trying to portray of me. But it don’t matter what y’all think, what y’all say about me.
When I go home at night, the same people that I look in the face — my family that I love. That’s all that really matter to me. So y’all can go make up whatever y’all want to make up because I don’t say enough for y’all to go and put anything out on me.
Instead of allowing reporters to pressure him to talk, Lynch channels Audre Lorde. Before her death the author famously wrote: “If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.”
Unfortunately, far too many young men allow themselves to be eaten alive. Instead of merely being “about that action” and pursuing the lives they want, many of our boys allow the opinions of the media, their teachers, their parents, and even their friends to define who they are.
Why? Being unique isn’t easy. Being different can be scary, and in some cases dangerous.
James Baldwin, one of the greatest writers of the 20th Century, fled to Paris because he was different. Baldwin left America to not only get away from this country’s searing prejudice, but also its crippling homophobia. Baldwin spent most of his life in France, writing openly and honestly about race, sexuality, and justice in a time when all three topics were taboo. Had he let others define who he was at the time—poor, black, gay, an outcast—Baldwin wouldn’t have become one of the most celebrated writers in history.
Baldwin isn’t the only one who dared to be different. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Walter Dean Myers, Barack Obama, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Kiese Laymon, Teju Cole, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Marcus Garvey, and many more Black men have bucked the conventional ways of doing things and made their own way.
Because here’s the thing: Telling your own story is revolutionary.
By controlling what he says and not allowing the media to twist his words, Lynch retains his power. Sure they can try to cast him as shy or uncooperative, but only Lynch determines when he wants to speak, and what he deems important.
While the media seems intent on making him talk, Lynch has not only made a name for himself for his unwillingness to engage, but he’s also become a shining reminder to always let your actions speak louder than your words. And for many of our boys, that’s a message they need to hear.