We’re seeing an increasing number of professional athletes attempt to eliminate the middleman of sports media or team public relations machinery by speaking directly to fans, addressing detractors and dispelling rumors. For some, that might be as simple as using social media to interact with people.
Yet several athletes are taking that effort further through ventures where they can post first-person narratives, such as Derek Jeter’s The Players’ Tribune. LeBron James and his management team partnered up with Bleacher Report to create the video site Uninterrupted. Players are also writing longer-form accounts for themselves on sites like The Cauldron.
Detroit Lions receiver Golden Tate recently used this forum to refute rumors about him and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Last April, news of Wilson divorcing his wife became public. A salacious subplot to that story was Tate denying that he had an affair with Wilson’s wife, something that evidently became enough of a thing on social media that he felt the need to address it. Tate also addressed reports of a physical confrontation between himself and former Seahawks WR Percy Harvin.
But opening that door on Twitter and Instagram led to an onslaught of mentions and responses that Tate says became overwhelming.
“The false rumors about me served to open my eyes and sensitize me to what I read or hear in the media,” Tate wrote on The Cauldron. “Imagine, for a moment, walking in my shoes — having malicious and damaging accusations flying fast and furious, only you had no way of stemming the tide; no one person to call out and demand a retraction and an apology from.”
Though Tate also attempts to explain what kind of person he is and the difficulties that pro athletes and celebrities face in how they’re perceived by fans, he eventually gets to the apparent point of this entire exercise.
I did not have an affair with Russell Wilson’s wife, nor did I have anything to do with his divorce. That is laughable for anyone who knows us. His ex-wife, Ashton, is still best friends with my girlfriend. Russell and I were good friends when I was in Seattle, on and off the field — he knows the rumors about me were unfounded, damaging to my reputation, and an attack on my character. Anyone who circulated that rumor was just plain irresponsible.
While he was at it, Tate also decided to dispel the rumors that he and former teammate Percy Harvin got into a fight during Super Bowl week last year that resulted in Tate getting a black eye.
To set the record straight, I was not punched by Percy during Super Bowl week last year, nor did I have a black eye, as was speculated on by various Internet reports. I even saw a photo of my face that was photoshopped with a mark on it! Percy and I did have a confrontation, yes, but no punches were thrown, and it certainly never rose to the level that was erroneously reported by certain outlets.
So there you have it, in Tate’s own words. Will posting this in a column on The Cauldron be more effective than responding to links and mentions on social media? The message is arguably clearer and more focused. Maybe it’s like addressing a large room with a microphone, rather than talking to each person in the room one-by-one.
With two weeks before the Seahawks play the Patriots, there is plenty of time to drum up stories about anything and everything. One key difference between last year’s Super Bowl champions and this year’s edition is that Tate signed with the Lions. Some people might try to dig into that for material.
Tate is showing a good sense of timing on this, with Seattle making its second consecutive run to the Super Bowl. Pro athletes are brands now and have a vested interest in wanting to protect that while controlling the portrayal that gets out into the media. This is just the latest example, and we’ll surely be seeing plenty more as athletes gain more outlets for themselves.