If You Have a Media Credential, You Can’t be a Fan

In the past few years I have noticed, as well as many other sports photographers and other sports media, the growing trend of people with a media credential there more as a fan than a working professional. And I’m not going to lie, it rubs people the wrong way when they see someone abusing a media credential. You’re there to cover a sporting event in some professional capacity, you can’t be acting like a fan when that credential grants you more privilege than you probably deserve. And there are plenty of other people just waiting for the opportunity you’re abusing because you want to be more of a fan than a professional.

Influencers and Clout Chasers

With the rise of social media influencers, there was been a huge spike of people abusing their credential privileges. When you have a credential you can go where the ordinary fan can’t. You have more access to the athletes than most people dream of and yet people want to act as fans instead.

And there is nothing more I despise more than a so-called social media influencer.

You can’t be a credentialed sports photographer leaning over a railing trying to get a selfie with Messi. You can’t be an online blogger taking selfies with players and asking for autographs. And yet there are so many people who do this.

I blame social media and the incessant desire to be adored via clicks and likes from strangers. If people weren’t trying to clout chase online there wouldn’t be this huge spike in the abuse of credentials. Everyone wants to look cool and feel like a big shot because they’re on the sidelines or in a dugout.

It’s the hey look at me I’m hanging out with so and so crowd. It’s way past the point of being obnoxious. It’s one of the main things that annoys me as a sports photographer. If you’re there to work, then work. If you want to be a groupie or fan, go to the stands like everyone else.

Who is to Blame?

Honestly everyone is to blame. From the fan, I mean working pro, to the league, teams and even other working sports professionals. While the vast amount of blame falls squarely on these people who mispresent their intentions when obtaining a media credential; there is enough blame to go around.

The leagues hire young, college kids who never worked in sports before as content creators and sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement on being on the biggest stages in sports and emotions get the best of you. I get it, we all get star struck, but at the end of the day we’re not here to fans, but to deliver content in an unbiased fashion.

I work for several professional leagues creating content for them and they clearly state you’re not there to be a fan. You can’t root for specific teams and you can’t wear team colors. No autographs or selfies at any point, but while the vast majority adhere to the rules there are plenty who are there in it for themselves trying to make a name for them with athletes and teams.

And there are plenty of older, working sports photographers who despise these content creators. Trust me I know. They despise them for the way they run in the way of others so they can get “the shot.” They hate the fact that they have more access than them. They hate the fact they take away jobs from other working pros. And the list goes on and on.

What we need to be doing as sports photographers is understanding that this type of content isn’t going away. We should be educating them on what to do and how to act as pros instead of bashing them.

Honestly they don’t know any better. They’re just kids excited to be working in sports. We shouldn’t gatekeep as much, but help instill the knowledge that has been acquired over years of working in sports.

Teams should also be doing their due diligence when issuing credentials. Sometimes these sports bloggers are nothing more than fan sites and while it is important to keep fans in the loop with the team, that doesn’t mean the media credential bearer has the right to ask for autographs and selfies. Online sports blogs are important, but these bloggers also need to be held to a higher standard. If you have a credential you’re viewed as a media professional not some fan who lives in their mother’s basement surrounded by photos of their favorite player.

It’s time some of these bloggers start acting like media professional and less like groupies for their favorite team.

The Need to Follow Sports Etiquette

There is a huge need for proper sports etiquette to be taught. From the media booth to the sidelines and everywhere in between, people should know how to properly act. From the college kids working for their school creative team to the security guards to the people running cable for ESPN; everyone needs to know how to act on the field or sidelines.

You can’t have on credential or media vest and then have your cellphone out in the endzone taking a selfie as a team scores. You’re not there to cover the game. You’re there to boost your online likes and clicks. Plain and simple.

And you should never, I mean never ever, interfere with live game action. I would think that is common knowledge, but it’s not. That includes taking a selfie when a team celebrates. You’re not a player on the field and you’re definitely not a player who crushes a lot. RIP Big Pun.

And if you really want to piss someone off, run in front of their camera as they’re shooting and see what happens. If proper sports etiquette was instructed, there wouldn’t be the need to keep reminding people how to act and behave at games who wear credentials.

Celebrating as Pro vs as a Fan

There is a difference, big difference, between celebrating as a pro and as a fan. Fans celebrate when their team scores or their favorite players does something amazing. Pros celebrate when we get “the shot.”

It is ok to be super excited if you get to cover your favorite team or player. We’ve all been there and we all have our favorites. If you’re working for a professional sports league in any capacity, it is a no no to celebrate a team or player score etc. You’re there to be impartial to both teams. How you the other team feel if you’re getting content for them and they see you waving your arms up and down and cheering for the other team? They’re going to assume that you’re not putting any effort at all into getting them what they need because you’re too busy being biased for the other team.

When the Patriots, Bruins or Red-Sox come to town I get super excited to cover them. Once I step onto the field, the fan in me disappears and the professional appears. I’m there to do a job, not root for my teams. Now I may take some extra shots for me, but at no point in time do I compromise on me being unbiased or showing my teams more “love” than the home team.

And as a pro you can celebrate getting the shot. We all do it. We look at the back of our camera and see if we got the shot or not and smile or whatnot when we see that we did. We’re not celebrating the player or the team, we’re celebrating we got the shot.

Being Friendly with the Athletes

There is nothing wrong with building a relationship with athletes. It’s how we get some amazing content. I think building relationship with athletes is essential, but there is always a fine line.

I’ve seen people with a credential ask players to facetime their relatives to say Happy Birthday. I’ve seen them ask for autographs for their kids. And I’ve seen these “media professionals” never work a field or sideline again because of it.

Don’t abuse the privileges that come with that media credential.

I’ll use baseball as an example because I’m very friendly with a lot of players and coaches from various teams. It’s from covering them over the years that they know who I am and why I’m there. I can ask them if it’s ok to take a photo of them sitting in the dugout or in a hallway and they know it’s for content purposes not for me to ask for an autograph.

I have conversations with players all the time and never have I ever thought about asking for an autograph or for a selfie. And there are plenty of players who have given me their phone numbers and I have never thought about abusing that.

As credentials professionals we’re not there to be all best friends with players. And sometimes it a friendship blooms from a professional relationships and that is great. Don’t abuse it.

There are people who just want to say their friends with this player or that one. They want to get as close to them as they can to get something from them. And when you have a credential on that is not what you’re there to do.

Maybe I’m getting old, but I don’t think you should be abusing your credential to benefit yourself. You’re there to work in some form or capacity as a professional, not as a fan.

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