By Nathan Cheatham
Can we take a step back real quick and look at the shit-storm encircling Detroit Lions Wide Receiver Calvin Johnson right now?
-Ok *Deep Breath*-
Lions fans are on the edge of their seat to get any morsel of truth as to whether or not Johnson will take the field during the 2016 season, and sports media is taking advantage of this – churning out horrible journalism.
On January 6, Johnson released a statement saying “Like many players at this stage of their career, I am currently evaluating options for my future. I would expect to have a decision regarding this matter in the not-too-distant future.”
This put fans on edge, and with owner Martha Ford stepping up this season and making some drastic changes, avid drinkers (I mean Lions fans) had thought they could turn in their beer cozies for confidence. Now the ’16 season could be at risk.
Without Johnson, it’s feared the team could lose the momentum they’ve gained from the end of the ’15 season. Fans experienced the same loss of momentum after the ’14 season when the team made it to the playoffs, then lost Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley and went 1-7 before the season bye.
Johnson is in his ninth year, and has some of the most prolific numbers in football history among wide receivers during his career. He has maintained an invite to the last 6 Pro Bowls and has been named All-Pro by the Associated Press in three of the past five seasons. He could be the best receiver in the League.
The team will feel the loss if the Lions lose him.
After Johnson released the statement, it took a few weeks for national sports media to bastardize the issue. Once they took hold all journalistic ethics went out the door, reporters made the decision for Johnson.
As a news journalist, there are certain ethical decisions that I have to make when covering a story. I have to ensure that I’m not doing any harm to my subjects, and I have to give credibility to my sources. Reporting vague information and attributing it to an anonymous source, does harm.
During the Pro Bowl week, NFL media kicks into high gear leading to the Super Bowl. Reporters have to come up with new story lines to be able to break through the noise. Many zeroed in on Johnson’s story in hopes of breaking something new, instead they ignited an early going away party.
ESPN began re-posting well wishes from other players in the league sending him respect; Sports Center announced his retirement with a graphic of his accomplishments to that point. There were even articles about what 5 players could replace him on the team.
The team combated this firestorm with a simple tweet reminding everyone that nothing has changed since Johnson made his statement.
Post-Super Bowl, the sports media began trying to read into whether Lions GM Bob Quinn and President Rod Wood not meeting with Johnson meant the team was confirming his retirement – drawing conclusions from their lack of pressuring to keep the star wide receiver.
Finally this past week, everyone met, and real news was finally reported.
And guess what? Johnson still does not know if he will retire or not, but understands that the team will do what ever they can to keep him.
I hope Johnson comes back for the ’16 season with a chip on his shoulder from this, determined to make ESPN eat their words – only Johnson announces his retirement!
But in the apt words of writer Julius Porter for detroitsportsnation.com, “MEGATRON IS STILL A DETROIT LION. And for the sake of his heart and soul… he always will be”.
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