Just over a month ago, the New York Giants lost to the Green Bay Packers, thanks in part to poor play from tackle Ereck Flowers.
On Friday, the NFL decided that Flowers would not be disciplined for shoving Raanan.
“(There was) insufficient evidence to support a finding that Flowers violated the personal conduct policy,” the NFL said, via ESPN.com. “There will be no further action taken beyond what occurred at the club level.”
Before we get to why the NFL’s decision is dangerous and wrong, it’s worth noting that Raanan was not particularly aggrieved over the incident, likely because he did not want to jeopardize his relationship with Giants players. He tweeted that day that there was “no need for anyone to be concerned.”
All good. Minor thing. No need for anyone to be concerned. https://t.co/yJsjgGXDNs
— Jordan Raanan (@JordanRaanan) October 10, 2016
The NFL presumably asked him for Raanan’s perspective and backed off when the reporter said it was no big deal.
Here’s the thing: It is a big deal.
The NFL’s decision to let Flowers off scot-free signals, deliberately or otherwise, that physically confronting reporters attempting to do their jobs is acceptable behavior for a professional athlete. If this happened the way it was described (and we have no reason to believe it didn’t, since Raanan didn’t deny it and Giants coach Ben McAdoo made Flowers apologize), it was an example of a player grossly abusing the tilted power dynamic between him and the media.
Reporters trudge into locker rooms post-game usually not because they particularly want to but because their job requires that they do so. After a loss, no writer looks forward to interviewing the game’s goat, but sometimes that’s what you have to do. In the locker room, reporters are in foreign territory, surrounded by large men who don’t always want to talk to them. It is not fair for players to make them feel physically threatened as they attempt to gather their quotes and get back to their stories. If a reporter is being unfairly critical, he should be held accountable by words, not hands.
Flowers is only 22 years old, and for all we know he’s a wonderful person. Surely he didn’t mean to hurt Raanan, and it sounds like the incident wasn’t particularly egregious. But on principle, athletes should not be permitted to physically intimidate reporters. One player getting away with a light shove could embolden another player to push a little harder and create a truly dangerous situation for a reporter. The NFL dropped the ball here.