In life there should always be the freedom of speech, on the proviso that the speakers realize that they must never make defamatory comments.
For too long we have seen coaches and players fined for criticizing referees and umpires even when television replays may well show that they were in fact correct. One of the reasons we always liked the female tennis player Gigi Fernandez, was she turned up at a tournament and handed over a cheque for several thousand dollars to the organizers, who puzzled asked her what this was for. She advised them she was paying now, as she was sure that they would fine her for something during the event.
Sadly now we are witnessing sporting organisations shutting out the media simply because certain journalists or media outlets have criticized them for errors that they again have made. In fact one administration has gone to great lengths to gag a newspaper and one of its writers.
These moves are not good for sport and they are not good for the fans. Do the fans seriously want mediocre reporting that is biased to only telling the story the clubs want? Sadly we are heading down that path and the fans will be the ones who lose.
Another case in point where these issues have to be looked at arose recently in England. Cricket’s often labeled ‘bad boy’ Kevin Pietersen was fined UKL2000 by the English and Wales Cricket Board for comments made via Twitter about Sky commentator Nick Knight. The ECB described his fine as being the result of comments ‘deemed prejudicial to the ECB.”
Now Twitter has raised many issues and personally we question whether players and coaches should be ‘tweeting’ during a game, but surely if commentators are able to air their opinions, the players and coaches should be allowed a right of reply?
Pietersen’s error it appears was to take aim at an individual. Teammate Jimmy Anderson recently also had a pop at Sky Sports when he wrote in his newspaper column “ Cricket Commentary must be one of the hardest jobs in the world. It is the only way I can make sense of how many of them talk such absolute guff.” Anderson received no fine for his comments.
He may have a point as many ex players are to be honest dreadful commentators, while others crossover to such a role superbly.
The point is though we expect our sports stars to be role models, but surely part of that should be showing children that they must stand up for what they believe is right when they have genuinely been wronged. To regularly try and silence those who speak out ultimately causes more tension and resentment. It is time the gags on players were lifted and some of the administrators on both sides of the fence grew up and took what is often fair criticism.