Etan Thomas: What are your thoughts about how the media seems to focus on the negative aspects of athletes when it comes to fatherhood. And Football players are shown in that same negative light as basketball players. They are quick to show the bad stories of guys not taking care of their kids or having a lot of kids by a lot of different women, but rarely highlight the positive stories. What are your thoughts on that?
Lavar Arrington: For me being a part of the media, I have the understanding that they are going to sensationalize things that are going to interest people. Its unfortunate that our society is so catastrophe, and calamity, and failing, and coming up short oriented, nut that reality is that negativity is what people will spend their time purchasing, its what they will give their attention to and it is what boosts ratings. The falling of individuals who would have appeared to have had success is attractive to the consumers. And add that to the fact that people idolize sports figures so much that it makes it that more appealing for people to see that they do actually have human qualities. That they make mistakes just like the common person walking on the street, and I think thats the reason that people tend to focus on that negativity as it pertains to professional athletes so much. And how this pertains to fatherhood, its sad that its a trend that the media focuses in on, but at the same time it is something that is correctable. You being an athlete and myself being an athlete, its hard to always come up with excuses. You make millions of dollars for doing something that you grew up doing, and you mean to tell me that you cannot take care of your responsibilities as a man? It really rubs me the wrong way, because I believe that not only should you be a father to your own children but you should also be a father to other children who are in need. Your mentorship as an individual with that level of influence should stem further than the ones from your own seed.
Etan Thomas: I feel you, but going back to the media, do you think that the media should show a little more of a balance of positive stories mixed in with the negative stories because when they’re showing just the negative stories, it gives the perception that that’s all there is
Lavar Arrington: Yea, I totally agree with you because they do make it a habit of sensationalizing anything bad, because thats what sells. If you tell the story of someone being an everyday good person or an everyday good parent, honestly, thats boring. Its not newsworthy. When I prep for my show or if i’m blogging about something or different things like that, its funny because my program director will tell me in a heartbeat that I have to make it newsworthy. It has to cause people to want to pick up the phone and call into the show and talk about the topic. Usually, our highest ratings comes from bad things happening. Someone getting in trouble, someone getting arrested, if its racially motivated, if theirs alcohol involved, all of those negative things unfortunately make for better ratings. Its very sad, but thats the reality of our society. I think it would take a serious effort from the head people in media if they wanted to make it a more positive atmosphere. But, realistically speaking, I don’t see that taking place.
Etan Thomas: So you think its a more of a negativity sells type of a thing?
Lavar Arrington: I don’t think there is any malice involved. But as a former player, I may have thought there may have been hidden agendas towards players. but after becoming a part of the media, i’ve found that its a numbers game. Its about what sells. They want their ratings up, they want their advertisers up, they want the people who endorse the product, its simply a numbers game. Thats the motivation. Their not looking at it like Etan Thomas is a great dad and we want to do a report on how great of a dad he is so that we can show him in a positive light and he could be a positive influence on the younger generation ho is looking and admiring him because of his ability to play basketball, no they want to sensationalize, something that will grab the listener. Its not personal, its simply what will drive ratings. Now, that being said, it is beneficial to have someone like myself who can understand both sides of the coin. I understand the desire for ratings, but I also see the individual as a person and not simply a means to an end. When I interview someone, they matter to me. They are human beings to me, and that is something I take pride in and I am careful with how they are depicted on my show. I don’t think the overall media does that as a whole. I don’t think they think of someone as human as a general practice.
Etan Thomas: Your show may be a little different because you have more control. But, it really seems like that is the only focus. Take for instance Sportscenter. They play the music, then so and so, just got caught for whatever, and those are the lead stories. Those are the ones that are highlighted.
Lavar Arrington: They love that breaking news. Everyone wants that exclusive. Brett Farve gets caught showing his stuff on text message. Everyone wants that as an exclusive. But thats because they want to full fill the reputation of being the “go to” media outlet. If you are the “go to” outlet, and you have the majority of people going to your station or your site, that translates into more dollars. Mo money. Thats what its about. Thats the goal of the machine.
Etan Thomas: Me and you go to the same church in Maryland, First Baptist Church Of Glenarden, and I see you there with your kids, and people come up to me seeing me there with my kids, and they always talk to me or comment on how we are breaking a stereotype. Now, thats not what I’m trying to do, I’m simply trying to get some Jesus with my family on Sunday morning, but people have made that comment to me and I’ve heard them make it to you, so what is your reaction to that? We’re doing something regular and people are trying to pat us on the back for it.
Lavar Arrington: My reaction to it would probably be that although I know that there are stereotypes, and very strong stereo types connected to professional athletes, people are intrigued and interested by it. Because it is a direct product of what we talked about earlier with the sensationalism and the amount of being going about it the wrong way, so I could say that there are so many people doing it incorrectly in the media, regular people who may not come into contact with that many athletes begin to think that what they are seeing is the norm. Let me put it like this, how many times has someone come up to you and said, hey your pretty cool and not at all what I expected. Its ridiculous because they really don’t know you. But from what they are seen, the way we are depicted, and the level of frequency in which people are able to see us in this negative light on television unfortunately it contributes to a ill informed opinion. I know that if someone based their entire opinion of me off of how i played football, there is no way they would think I was a cool person. And thats the way you play basketball so I know you get that too. But people are not gonna sit there and see you on television and say oh he is a really deep dude, he writes, he does poetry, thats not gonna be what they think. When they see you play, and see how aggressive you are out there, and they know you are a basketball player, unfortunately, their heads will be filled with every negative stereotype imaginable. He is a violent person, wild, crazy, irresponsible, probably has a few illegitimate kids, etc. They are left to what they are being shown. They see me tackle someone and yell into the camera and get up and talk smack and my emotions are high they may hear some of the words I use, and they associate that with who we are as people, and that is unfortunate. What I do on the football field, or the career path I have chosen should have nothing to do with how you see me as a human being before knowing anything about me. It should not determine what type of a father you think I am or my ability to love my wife or care for my children. But that being said, I have to say that there are a lot of guys out there that unfortunately validate those stereotypes. Those are the ones who make it on the news, who are making all of us look bad. Those are the ones who are ruining it for all of us because they could meet ten good brothas. Ten good, responsible, well mannered, polished, upstanding citizens, doing all of the right things, but there’s that one guy who ruins it for all of us. Who gets caught beating his wife, or drunk driving, or having seven kids by eight different women, whose ex wife is suing him for child support while he lives in a multi million dollar house, its those guys who make us all look bad. And couple that with being the only image that is shown, it keeps us in a box. So no matter how many Etan Thomas’s are out there, they only remember the negative stories that they were shown.
Etan Thomas: See, you have an interesting position being on both sides. So let me ask you, how are people suppose to view us differently as athletes if thats all that they're shown?
Lavar Arrington: Well, therein lies the problem. They can't. Unless they have had the rare opportunity to spend time with someone ad have exposure, they simply can't. That is one of the biggest problems in our society, lack of exposure. If people have the opportunity to be exposed to something outside of themselves, then maybe they won't fear it. People fear what they do not know, and the reality is, that many times, they simply do not know us.