The result of ESPN’s Jenna Laine posting the video of Giovani Bernard’s locker room exchange with media, following the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, was proper accountability being taken.
Bernard was being asked about a botched fake punt in the third quarter. It was a legitimate question. He botched the snap, but it wasn’t simply that he dropped the ball. Bernard appeared to not be ready for the snap to come his way.
He was not enthused about explaining what happened on the play. and initially said that he didn’t want to talk about the play. Laine later tweeted out that Bernard also said to the media, “oh now you guys want to talk to me.” That is when the scrum got testy.
The video picks up with the reporters responding to that statement, and clearly displeased and expressed in a way that made it look like they were ganging up on him. No one was more upset than Fox Sports’ Greg Auman. He was the person in the video who said he talked to Bernard earlier in the week, and also asked, “What have you done for us to talk to you about all year?”
Bernard was certainly on the defensive from the start, but the only person who actually said something objectionable was Auman. That was a personal shot, and entirely uncalled for. Auman tweeted out on Tuesday that he was wrong and will apologize to Bernard the next time that he sees him.
Since the video went viral, a rerun of “players vs. reporters” has played out on social media and in articles. Kevin Durant — whose eye is always watching you on social media — weighed in and said the media entitlement has gotten out of hand.
In the NBA, there was a tense media scrum moment with Trae Young and WSB-TV’s Zach Klein that brought back the classic debate. Young gave a generic statement about the situation, and Klein rightly pressed him about the specifics of the report, which detailed Young having a dispute with Atlanta Hawks coach Nate McMillan and as a result wasn’t on the sideline for a game.
Of course the public had its strident opinions on the interaction, but while both sides didn’t look great in this moment, no one did anything clearly wrong even though Klein did try a bit too hard to get a response out of Young. The original follow up was a bit aggressive, but it was fair. Then Klein kept going and Young grew increasingly irritated. He made it pretty clear that he was not going to expound in any way about that report but Klein still wouldn’t let up. While neither side did anything out of line, Klein should have let up after the second follow up.
Laine has taken a lot of heat both for posting the clip, as well as her comments in the video when she told Bernard that one of the reasons he hasn’t been talked to by the media much is because he has been injured. She tweeted out later that players on IR don’t speak to the media. He has spent much of the season on IR but played in the last three games.
Bernard has been in the NFL for more than a decade. It’s very reasonable to believe that he knew that he was going to be asked about one of the more notable plays of the game. If he didn’t want to talk about it, that is his prerogative but he did escalate the situation with the comment that he chose to give. The reporters were going to get defensive, especially when they haven’t had much of an opportunity to speak to him, and talked to him less than seven days prior.
He eventually did answer some questions about the failed play, although he did so in a way in which his intent appeared to be more evasive as opposed to genuinely accepting blame.
Again there is nuance to be applied to the situation. Bernard could’ve gotten out of the locker room quickly by giving nothing more than a no comment. Instead he poked the bear a bit, and got a terse response. One person, Auman, took it too far, and acted unprofessionally.
The fight between who is right or wrong in these player vs. media situations is never going to end. This particular round is a 10-8 for the players due to a point deduction for a low blow. A blow that was seen, because a member of the media posted the interaction.
Nuance, it’s good for ya.