When it comes to the media, most celebrities tend to take a cautious, even fearful approach. There’s no doubt that we have seen some horrible invasions of privacy by (mostly tabloid) journalists and some pretty devastating stories about high profile figures, some of which have even turned out to have no basis.
So, it’s no surprise that people in the public eye don’t really want to fall out with the media, which is why we always sit up and take notice when a celebrity refuses to play ball.
Justin Gatlin is an American sprinter (and world 100m silver medalist) who has been taking part in the World Athletics Championships in Beijing and making headlines, not for his abilities on the track, but for his comments off it.
He has announced that he is going to boycott the British media, not just the more controversial outfits but the likes of the BBC too, as a result of comments that were made about doping accusations.
The comments relate specifically to the battle between Gatlin and super-sprinter Usain Bolt in the 100 metres in which Bolt beat the American. As he crossed the line, BBC commentator Steve Cram said of Bolt “He’s saved his title, he’s saved his reputation – he may have even saved his sport,” implying that the sport might be saved by a non-doping accused athlete winning the race.
Gatlin is a “twice-banned doper,” a term he believes is unfair as he says the first ban was the result of legitimate medication that he was taking.
He has taken exception to the comments made about the 100 metres, as he feels that the race with Bolt was set up as a battle between good and evil and he has been unfairly vilified.
Although Gatlin himself hasn’t made a comment – as part of his media boycott – his agent has said: “Justin, as well as I, feel that the British media and journalists have been extremely unkind to him. There’s been nothing positive said about him now for some time. Every characterisation is solely about doping and vilifying him.”
Although it’s easy to dismiss Gatlin’s comments as those of a sore loser, perhaps he has a point. Shouldn’t the sports coverage be more about the race being run – the actual sport – than what might have happened historically – and where a penalty has been paid?
There’s no doubt that the media does take wrong turns and sometimes ends up behaving in a less than fair fashion but the question in this case is do actions like Gatlin’s really make a difference?
After his comeback in 2010, Gatlin has not had it easy – he’s had comments like this to deal with ever since and was even booed by the crowd at the London Olympics in 2012.
His agent said that Gatlin believes the BBC in particular should report without lacing their comments and reporting with biased views and that as human beings we should be “better than that”.
But the modern media is so geared up for scandal and gossip that I’m not sure whether anything can rise above that, whether it’s the royal family or sports. It will be interesting to see whether other athletes stand up to support Gatlin or even take a similar approach – if they do, it’ll be a revolution of sorts.