Deion Sanders Jackson State University head football coach Deion Sanders speaks to media during the Southwestern Athletic Conference annual Football Media Day at the Sheraton-Birmingham Hotel in Birmingham, Ala., Tuesday, July 20, 2021. Swac Media Day34

There’s been a lot of discussion of how journalists should address coaches over the past year. One thing that particularly sparked that was Jackson State (Mississippi, Division I FCS/SWAC) Tigers head coach Deion Sanders exiting a SWAC Media Days press conference last July after Jackson Clarion-Ledger reporter Nick Suss addressed him as “Deion” instead of as “Coach.” And that’s now lead to some current drama.

There’s a lot of context to that discussion from last year. That saw Sanders inaccurately claim that “You don’t call Nick Saban ‘Nick.’ Don’t call me ‘Deion,'” which led to Suss pointing out he had in fact repeatedly called Saban “Nick” with no apparent objection. But Sanders still got mad and responded with “That’s a lie. If you call Nick ‘Nick’ you know you get cussed out on the spot.” Again, that is the actual lie, as there are plenty of reporters who have called Saban “Nick” without getting “cussed out on the spot.” And there are receipts for that.

But that whole situation made for a nice “Give me respect” ploy for Sanders (seen above during SWAC Media Days last July). And that was especially true around the next day’s headline that he and the Tigers had actually barred Suss’ Clarion-Ledger colleague Rashad Milligan from talking to anyone around their program following Milligan’s story on top football recruit Quaydarius Davis facing charges of domestic violence. It was great for Sanders that he was able to play the card of “They didn’t call me Coach!” instead of actually answering questions about his program and the players he recruited. And it’s really interesting that he’s still playing that card after a year, and citing, of all things, an Aflac commercial,  as a reason why he should be invariably addressed as “Coach.” Here’s what he told Chris Rosvoglou of The Spun on that in a piece published Wednesday:

In an exclusive interview with The Spun, Sanders was asked about that particular incident. He revealed that he would have no problem welcoming Suss back to SWAC Media Day.

“What you’re referring to, that was just someone being disrespectful,” Sanders told The Spun. “He had no idea we had a commercial on hand with one of the greatest coaches of all time [Nick Saban] addressing me as ‘Coach Prime.’ So I think that made him look like an idiot. We win in the end. I’m pretty sure if he’s even allowed at SWAC Media Day, I’ll welcome him. It’s no problem.”

Yeah, okay. For anyone with a modicum of media literacy, it wasn’t Suss who came out of that exchange in a way that “made him look like an idiot.” The real thing that makes you “look like an idiot” is claiming that a reporter is being disrespectful to you for addressing you by your first name and saying that they would never do that for a coach like Saban, when there’s plenty of specific proof that they did exactly that with Saban.

There can absolutely be a discussion about reporters using “Coach” versus “First Name,” but Sanders tried to make this into a thing specifically about him when it was clearly and provably not, and he did so at a time when it was extremely convenient for him to distract from his program’s regressive media policies against another reporter from the same outlet who wrote a fair story on them. And it says something about Rosvoglou and The Spun that they’re out there carrying this kind of water for “Coach Prime” without questioning his account, and particularly allowing Sanders to cite an insurance commercial as proof that he should be addressed as “Coach.”

When it comes to this year’s SWAC Media Day, the question should not be if Suss is allowed. There has been zero proof to date that Suss did anything wrong, or that he addressed Sanders in any way he would not have addressed Saban or any other coach. And it certainly wasn’t Suss who made a big deal out of a particular mode of address in a failed attempt to deflect attention from a program’s censorship of a paper.

The bigger question here is why anyone keeps listening to “Coach Prime,” and/or giving his claims that he’s somehow being discriminated against any airing whatsover. He has nothing to back that up, and a whole lot against it. But he’s a big name, and so outlets like The Spun will apparently continue bending over backwards to let him air his unprovable complaints against others. The world should keep in mind that it’s not Sanders who was wronged here, though, and this wasn’t a case of anyone “being disrespectful.” And an insurance company throwing money at Sanders for commercials certainly does not prove his point.

[The Spun]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.