(UPDATE: CAPA wins! NLRB rules in their favor)
Before the battle of Northwestern University versus CAPA and the Northwestern football players seeking to unionize went before the local NLRB, I knew there were a few local Big Ten media members who were kind of unintelligent and/or water carriers for the programs and the league that they cover.
Plus, I knew I was going to have to endure watching sportswriters opine on collective bargaining issues as if they were actually labor law experts. Yawn, and vomit.
Now as the CAPA vs Northwestern “three-day hearing” heads into it’s fifth day on Tuesday morning, the week’s proceedings have exposed the same media I was suspicious off as rather stupid people completely in bed with the conference and or NU.
In a battle to bring a predominantly blue-collar institution to an elite white collar university, the media coverage is ring around the collar. I’m not going to single anyone out by name, or throw anyone under the bus (well, I do name Gerry Dinardo specifically), but you know what you’re getting from a fan-boy site for any school, or a television network owned by a conference. Any website that covers one team, and just one team, is going to be devoid of fairness and balance. This rule applies no matter what the team is. And any television network owned by an athletic conference will not act as a news agency; instead they are a promotional vehicle.
Danny Ecker of Crain’s and Lester Munson of ESPN have been some doing good work, Teddy Greenstein and the guys from the AP have certainly had their moments too. The Northwestern daily is beating everybody. Rohan Nadkarni is doing tremendous work. Tribune business writer Alejandra Cancino has been providing informative material. Most of everybody else is amazingly biased in their coverage towards Northwestern and against the Northwestern football players.
Especially so in their tweets.
It is the job of the local media to report who’s supposedly winning or losing the case right now. However, it is not their job to be gleefully celebrating the notion that the players might not be winning this case right now. Legal experts say CAPA is not making a strong enough case to change the status quo. Local media are doing whatever they can to hurt their cause.
Watching one beat writer back away from his own prior work — and the quotes that he obtained himself — well, he looked pretty pathetic. Quotations are quotations, whether they are said today or half a year ago. It is not your job to opine on how an attorney attempts to use those quotations. When you editorialize in such a manner, you reveal your bias. The media seems to be overwhelmingly portraying Northwestern University as the hands-down, no-contest winner in this battle. Again, especially so in social media. Even though we won’t get an actual ruling until 4-6 weeks from now.
That ruling will likely be appealed by the loser to the Federal NLRB. That result could be appealed to the Supreme Court.
It’s a good thing this case will be decided in an actual court, and not in the court of public opinion. Shame on the Tribune “Smack” page and the Tribune’s “Main Event: Behavior Index” for attacking Kain Colter in the way that they did. Bigger shame on Gerry Dinardo for slamming Kain Colter as much as he has. The credibility of both the Chicago Tribune and the BTN diminishes each time they take unwarranted jabs at Kain. The way Colter’s words about the Navy Seals were twisted and misconstrued, not by the Trib and Dinardo, but by so many others, was almost criminal.
These journalists should actually do their homework, then they’d see the deep historical roots of football completely intertwined with the military. It’s just coincidence that Kain made these comments during an Olympiad, when patriotism and jingoism are always at their highest levels. That’s part of why Colter felt a backlash.
And of course, the military is the one thing left in America that is sacrosanct. Everything else in the United States, you are free to criticize. The military- never. Even though Colter never even criticized the military. He just wasn’t in awe of them as much as the mainstream wanted him to be.
And the Winter Olympics metaphor holds because watching the Big Ten Network and/or the ESPN Big Ten blogs “cover” the hearing is akin to watching the local NBC news at 5pm. There’s no telling you who won the semifinal hockey game that was played 6 hours ago. Simply because that would ruin their ratings for when NBC broadcasts the taped replay of the hockey game at 8pm. Yes, that just happened.
If you weren’t sure before, you definitely know by now that ESPN, BTN and NBC are sports marketing agencies, not sports news agencies. They are brand-builders. “News” is just a fallacious label slapped on the product, not the actual product itself. There is little to no news value to the NBC late afternoon, early evening “news.” All we see there are puff pieces promoting the Olympics and NBC dramas/reality shows.
Much of the NU media at this hearing are just as informative and productive at providing actual unbiased news as the peacock.
If and when this hearing wraps up on Tuesday, many of these people will go back to making their cliche, hackneyed Big Ten Power Rankings, which are nothing more than just copying and pasting the standings, and adding a corresponding tweet about each team. And these power rankings are utterly pointless too, as every Midwestern newspaper and Big Ten sports blog makes one.
What should be a battle between the NCAA and college football players begins as a Northwestern vs. Northwestern in-house conflict. And the local media tells us that Northwestern is the wrong place for this struggle for social justice to begin. They tell us Kain Colter is the wrong person to poster child the fight. Again they need to brush up on their history: almost all of the greatest revolutionaries have emerged from the upper socioeconomic classes. The media keep focusing on how the players are/were treated. This isn’t about evaluating the quality of working conditions, it’s about defining what work is and what it is not. Northwestern’s image isn’t going to be tarnished by this. It’s not even something we should be worried about right now.
Northwestern will not lose out on any ticket sales, endorsements or recruits because of this hearing. Fans, sponsors and high school prospects don’t care about this stuff. This won’t harm NU at all in those all too important areas.
You have to focus on what Northwestern Coach Pat Fitzgerald said and did not say on Friday. Not how well he treats his players. We’re trying to define what an employee is, not focus on minutia like class/practice schedules.
At least one thing has been accomplished, a lot fewer college football players/coaches will use the “it’s a business trip” cliche for bowls/road games now.
Watching the misreporting of this hearing reminds me of the vigilante group episode of The Simpsons.
Lisa Simpson: “if you’re the police then who will police the police?”
Homer Simpson: “I don’t know, the Coast Guard?”
It’s a shame this hearing is getting such little local buzz outside of the Northwestern community; and no one cares, and I mean no one cares about it nationally. It’s amazing that an event can be so monumental and nation-shaping; yet dull and boring beyond compare. That’s unfortunate, because this Northwestern vs Northwestern struggle is extremely important nationally- for all college athletics.
Paul M. Banks owns The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. An MBA and Fulbright scholar, he’s also a frequent analyst on news talk radio; with regular segments on ESPN,NBC, CBS and Fox. A former NBC Chicago and Washington Times writer, he’s also been featured on the History Channel. President Obama follows him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)Follow paulmbanks