STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Respect is something our commentator Frank Deford says athletes in general don't get enough of, though one retired star has begun a new venture to change that.
FRANK DEFORD, BYLINE: How interesting are the major differences between the ways that sports stars and entertainment celebrities are dealt with in public by the media? When entertainment personalities are interviewed, they're dressed to the nines, and the interrogation, such as it is, consists mostly of compliments. Athletes, however, are interviewed all grubby and sweaty, and primarily, they're rudely asked to explain themselves. Why did you strike out? How could you possibly have dropped that pass?
Whereas the show business beauties are chatted up on literally a red carpet by sycophants themselves wearing gowns and black tie, athletes are not only accosted by hordes of unfashionable sports journalists, but forced to testify in their own dressing cubicles. Mercifully, it is true that male athletes are attired somewhat more decorously now that members of the opposite sex are allowed into locker rooms. There was a time when it was not uncommon for our heroes to address the press adorned in nothing more than a jockstrap or less. For those of you made uncomfortable by that vision, advances in locker room modesty are thus duly noted.
But it all evens out because whereas players are badgered immediately after participating in stressful activity, entertainment stars are bedeviled by rude photographers who seek to run the pretty idols to ground when they're off guard, at their leisure. Yet the paparazzi, our human mosquitoes, show almost no interest in photographing athletes out of uniform. I do recall Alex Rodriguez once being snapped entering a hotel elevator with a lady other than his wife, but A-Rod is ever the exception.
Now though, in an effort to give athletes an opportunity to speak without being beleaguered by journalists taking advantage of the First Amendment, Derek Jeter, with time on his hands, has instituted a website called The Players' Tribune, which gives athletes the opportunity to speak their mind unfiltered by meddlesome members of the Fourth Estate. Jeter himself was brilliant at answering questions at great length without saying anything. But he obviously feels that other jocks, less talented at that art, need The Players' Tribune, what we might call an oral selfie.
Pessimists may worry that The Players' Tribune emasculates those who would make a living interviewing athletes, but we in the noble profession must accept that modern athletes schooled in social media may not anymore need ghostwriters to express themselves. In the meantime, my only fear is that Derek Jeter is planning to next lay down red carpets to the locker rooms.
INSKEEP: That's Frank Deford, the man we think of as the sports writers' tribune. He joins us each Wednesday on MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inkseep.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And I'm David Greene.
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