AL HAMNIK: Saints' star Pierre Thomas has learned to play the media game

2013-07-15T16:45:00Z 2013-07-16T18:44:03Z AL HAMNIK: Saints' star Pierre Thomas has learned to play the media gameAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
July 15, 2013 4:45 pm  • 

NFL training camps open next week and Twitter world may work up the greatest sweat of all.

You've seen how mindless professional athletes and celebrities love to shoot off their mouths in the social media platform, then must eat crow and are forced to apologize.

They never learn.

New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz was the latest after sending a series of tweets Sunday regarding the verdict in the highly-volatile George Zimmerman trial.

Here's some free advice: Don't grandstand. If you have to pop off, at least get all the facts straight.

New Orleans Saints' star running back Pierre Thomas is aware of the pitfalls of social media and portraying yourself in the wrong light. One tasteless comment, one inappropriate photograph, can become a major distraction teams don't need.

Above all, they must know the media is not their friend. It is a conduit by which fans learn about the sport and the athletes who drive that sport.

We strive to be fair and accurate but many in our profession believe sensationalism, ratings and controversy will help their careers take off like a hot air balloon.

Last month, three commentators on an Atlanta sports talk radio station were fired for making jokes about former Saints' safety Steve Gleason, who is battling ALS. Why do that? What did they accomplish? How can anyone be that cold, that insensitive?

"That is just sickening to hear. That's just wrong to say that about a person and think it's a joking matter," Thomas said.

"That's like joking about someone who has cancer and is on their death bed right now. That's just terrible. Shame on them."

It's why media is often despised and not trusted.

"We talk about the media and what to say to them. Some people try to act like they're your friends and you've got to be respectable as a player," Thomas said. "You're doing your job and they're doing their job.

"I know a lot of media people in New Orleans who are very nice, very classy; been very fair with me."

Yet, caution and common sense are so important today for athletes. So is a thick skin and short memory.

"Some (media) get out of line and write something bad about you but me, personally, I don't get mad. They're doing their job. It is what it is," Thomas said.

The Saints certainly had distractions last season with their infamous "Bountygate" and the suspension of coach Sean Payton. Players were constantly approached for comment — Thomas included — and graciously declined.

"There's been times when my story was in the paper and the facts weren't right," he said of coverage in general. "To me, I know the truth and that's all that matters.

"If people wonder what the truth is, they can come to me and I'll give them the hard, honest truth."

Embellishing or omitting key facts often is a fault of media. Again, ratings and readership blind the reporter.

"We have a brand and my name's my brand so I have to protect that brand and do everything right," Thomas said.

And that way, there will be no reason for retractions.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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