Marshawn Lynch, Carl Heastie and the Media: Is the New Speaker As Tough as the Seattle Running Back?

Marshawn Lynch is the all-star running back for the almost two time Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. Lynch grew up in Oakland, attended the University of California, Berkeley, and left after his junior year to play professional football, first in Buffalo, now in Seattle, and, ” … his teammates joke that he loves chain restaurants … [and] is also known for his frequent community involvement. In 2013 he was featured in Red Bull’s campaign ‘Athletes Give Back’ when he put together a very successful food drive for his home town.” However, he has always been reticent to speak to the media, The NFL fined him a number of times, at the required press availability at the Super Bowl Lynch showed up and answered every question with “I’m just here so I won’t get fined”

The room, full of media, asked him question again and again knowing full well that he would answer with his “I’m just here …” response. It was difficult to watch as Lynch repeated his “answer” time and time again.

The NFL is a $19 billion corporation that panders to media outlets who intensely “cover” pro football and pump up the viewership and revenues. It is commonplace to arrange for pool coverage, a small number of journalists interview and all the journalists share in the event through pool coverage, the NFL forced Lynch to confront a room full of media who chose to crucify him; to ask him questions over and over again, getting the same nonresponsive reply, the purpose: to play the charade again and again and watch Lynch squirm on national TV.

If Lynch had been a white player from an Ivy League school would the journalists have treated him the same way?

Carl Heastie is the newly elected speaker of the NYS Assembly, and, the first African-American leader. In his fifteen years as an Assembly member Heastie moved up the ladder, in 2008 he maneuvered himself into the position of leader of the Bronx Democratic Party and two years ago was appointed as chair of the Assembly Labor Committee. Most members of the Assembly lust for moments on TV or mentions in the press; the members love the publicity and the media loves the tidbits, the sound bites.

Carl Heastie never sought the spotlight of the media, in fact, he avoided the spotlight; he majored in mathematics and statistics at Stonybrook and earned an MBA at CUNY. No matter, in article after article the media wrote critical articles, mentioning his imperfections, and, always mentioning his penchant for silence; comparing him to the taciturn Silver.

The Assembly formally elected Heastie earlier today: Watch his 8-minute acceptance speech beginning at minute 25 here.

The NY Times reports on his first address to his Assembly colleagues,

“This will actually be the longest speech I’ve ever given,” [Heastie] said, before speaking for nearly eight minutes.

In his first moments as speaker, Mr. Heastie delivered a wide-ranging speech promising to fight for liberal ideals: raising the minimum wage, improving education, promoting women’s equality and reforming the criminal justice system. He promised, too, to try to raise the salary of Assembly members, a contentious point in the capital; the suggestion earned a roar of approval from his colleagues … Among the issues Mr. Heastie said must be addressed were “the way we regulate legislative outside income …

We have to make sure that tax money is spent carefully and transparently.”

“There must be accountability,” he added. “Never again can there be a question about the integrity of our members or this institution.”

Governor Cuomo in his State of the State and Mayor de Blasio in his State of the City each spoke for over an hour: Cuomo, the bully, threatening legislators and demeaning teachers and de Blasio using term “affordable housing” many, many times, and, oh yes, planning a five-borough ferry.

News story after news story emphasized Heastie’s worts, or perceived worts, comparing him to Silver over and over again. They could have emphasized his college major: mathematics and statistics, or, his MBA in finance from Baruch, the shining jewel in the CUNY crown.

I believe Heastie will be up to the challenge of dealing with a bullying, overbearing Cuomo. It was easy to leak negative story after negative story to the press about Silver; while Silver was a superb negotiator he was an unsympathetic figure, feared more than loved.

Can Cuomo attack or demean or threaten the first African-American speaker? Will trying to undermine Heastie unify the Assembly? Will Heastie standing up to Cuomo gain him wide public support?

Cuomo blithely warned the legislature that if they didn’t pass his ethics reform and his budget there would be no budget. If no budget is passed by April 1 the legislators will have their salary frozen; if Cuomo repeats the threat Heastie can simply tell his members, save up your dollars.

The governor who failed the bar exam four times may find the mathematician from the Bronx is a tough, popular and effective negotiator, and perhaps as tough as the Seattle running back, who, if given a chance would have won the Super Bowl.

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