Players and Media: The Unwritten Code

A recent event between Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks and Vancouver media has raised some questions towards the media-player relations and the policies that govern it. Jason Botchford published a quote by Thornton using inappropriate language and gestures after he disturbed a near by player interview.

In summary, Thornton interrupted a player interview and started defending rookie teammate Thomas Hertl by inappropriately describing how he would celebrate a four goal performance. The issues being raised in response to this PR nightmare is the media’s decision to publish “locker room talk” and quoting players who are “off air”. Now, the Vancouver Canucks 2013-14 Media Guidelines states that all members must “… act with honesty and integrity, to engage in factual and accurate reporting..” as well as to “… be aware that they will be held to the same standards of conduct whether providing services for an accredited organization or acting individually…”. It doesn’t seem as if Botchford broke any official rule or policy in fact, Botchford believes he was acting in the right and said via twitter “Thornton shouted it to 20 reporters. If I don’t report that, I’m called to the carpet.”. While Botchford may have crossed an ethical line he did not in fact break any rule and argues if he didn’t publish the quote someone else would have. This raises the question of whether or not there should be more strict policies on player-media relations.

Should media members know the difference between an interview and “locker room talk”? There is a “code” that many feel Botchford crossed and is why this quote has cause such controversy (except the fact that it’s hilarious). On the other hand one could very well argue that the locker-room is a work space when it is open to the media and that players would be naive to think in 2013 what he says openly to a group of reporters would not be tweeted, blogged or aired. It will be interesting to see if any other player-media controversies occur in the future especially with the popular HBO 24.7 series and whether or not the NHL has to create more policies around this issue. What do you think? Was Jason Botchford off side? Or is Jumbo Joe to blame for making the hockey world laugh.

Works Cited

http://canucks.nhl.com/v2/ext/Mediarelations/Media%20Guidelines%202013-14.pdf

http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nhl-puck-daddy/did-jason-botchford-cross-ethical-line-reporting-joe-000744862–nhl.html

http://blogs.theprovince.com/2013/10/10/the-joe-thornton-story-hilarious-and-on-the-record/

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4 Responses to Players and Media: The Unwritten Code

  1. rm09gu says:

    Interesting blog, Public Relations between players and the media is becoming a bit of an issue in my opinion this is in part due to the rise in social media and athletes like you said being naive about the comments they make and the implications they can cause. Whether Jason Botchford was wrong in what he did is a question that can be argued from both stand points. The player in question Thornton, did shout it out to over 20 reporters…Obviously, one of those reporters was going to write about it. The only way i think the players and the media can have a healthy relationship is if players are trained/coached in how to handle the media better and realize that their comments are likely to be taken out of context in order to get more readers. Teams should be willing to spend some time giving players the tools and techniques to converse with the media. This could lead to less Public Relations issues between athletes and the media.

  2. kl10jb says:

    Hockey as well as all professional sport has become pure entertainment. Clearly the comments made by Joe Thorton were in a joking manner and off-air. It was not in Thorton’s best interest to say what he did whilst in a room full of cameras and reporters that is for certain, but the mere fact that the comment was made off air and then published as a headline story is ridiculous. The reporter Bothchford wanted to make a name for himself by supplying this story to the sports world. He accomplished that as well as made Thorton and the San Jose Sharks organization look classless. People need to let things like this go for there are far bigger issues in the world that need to be discussed than a humorous off air comment.

  3. cgates14 says:

    In my opinion is should not have been reported. As you stated, though he may not have broken any actual written rule, he has broken the trust between the media and the players in that dressing room. Hockey media are famous for complaining that hockey players are too bland with their quotes and all say the same things, I believe that this instance will move players to be even more guarded when reporters are around. Jason Botchford even asked Thornton if he wanted to go on record with the comments and he said no. In my opinion Botchford crossed the line and embarrassed a player, in the end Botchford is in the Sharks’ workplace and should respect their conversations that are off the record.

  4. dc10vh says:

    I agree with the fact that the quote should never have been published. Anyone in their right mind would figure out that Thornton was clearly joking, and you wouldn’t see more respected/established reporters doing what Botchford did in my opinion.

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