After coming into MLS promising to be ambassadors for the league, the New York Designated Player pair continue to play by their own rules when dealing with the media.HARRISON, N.J. -- Though Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez are performing adequately on the field for the New York Red Bulls, give the pair a "F" when it comes to being ambassadors for Major League Soccer.
The pair dodged reporters once again after the Red Bulls drew 1-1 Chivas USA, continuing a disturbing trend that started towards the middle of last season. MLS has yet to formally address the actions of both players.
New York's DPs insistence to avoid the media has to be addressed by MLS. If the league wants to join the ranks of the NBA, MLB, NHL and NFL, it has to adhere to the culture and expectations of its fans and media.
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For example, when New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella failed to give substantive answers to media during a postgame press conference, he was rightly criticized by national media. A few years ago, LeBron James skipped a postgame interview after losing to Orlando Magic, and he was fined $20,000.
Because MLS doesn't have the national presence of its competing sports leagues, both Henry and Marquez have been able to institute their own media policy. The two have even surprised their own usually diligent press officers, who have to search around for their star players.
"Rafa and/or Thierry have left the building," they regularly say to the press who sometimes wait up to an hour for either player to speak.
Last season, Marquez managed to avoid the English-language press for two months after publicly calling out his teammate Tim Ream. Henry has been better than his DP teammate but the former France international will still occasionally cancel scheduled media availabilities.
Considering that Henry is the team's captain, he should be available for every game that he plays in.
Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, a well-known sore loser, still handles the press even after tough losses. He might not be the friendliest person to deal with after a loss but he realizes the responsibility of being a team leader. Henry hasn't and he has less than half of the media scrutiny that Bryant has to deal with in Los Angeles.
Yes, both come from a European sports culture where media access is heavily restricted but both have to realize this is the American sports landscape. There's a reason why television shows like Floyd Mayweather 24/7 and Hard Knocks are ratings hits in the country. Henry regularly criticizes Americans for being too star-oriented, but that's what sports fans care about and part of the reason why he is able to command a DP salary.
If the team was selling out every game on the back of multiple MLS Cups, it's one thing, but with the Red Bulls barely averaging 16,000 tickets a game in a $200 million, 25,000-seat stadium, both MLS and the organization should expect more.
Imagine what some of the newspaper local beat reporters who cover the Red Bulls as well as other professional sports must feel: Going from having access to stars like Derek Jeter, Tim Tebow, Eli Manning and Carmelo Anthony to having to hope and pray that Marquez feels like chatting.
It's ridiculous and it's time that MLS joins the big leagues in rightly punishing both players.