Before the actual soccer started, the most entertaining thing I saw at a 2011 Women’s World Cup venue was a press conference that included one Sepp Blatter and a couple of other dignitaries of varying connections to women’s soccer. They had Steffi Jones, the beloved former German player and president of the organizing committee. They had Tatjana Haenni, head of FIFA women’s competition. And for some reason, they had FIFA executive committee member Worawi Makudi of Thailand.
Blatter artfully deflected questions about his old comments on women’s soccer and revealing clothes, and he declined to tackle the issue of Nigeria’s anti-lesbian purge. But at the very end, someone started to ask Makudi a question, somehow tying it to the tournament at hand but also steering it to recent alle-
Press conference over. Thanks for coming. Enjoy the whateverwurst.
Perhaps that abrupt conclusion was to be expected. The press conference was nearly over, anyway. The people behind the microphones said at the outset they were only going to talk about women’s football, and that question was a sharp tangent. We had managed to make it through 29 minutes or so of legitimate, if not particularly interesting, conversation.
Compare that with the curious case of Carmelita Jeter and Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce.
From Christopher Chavez, who documented yesterday’s press conference (with video): The two sprinters, the reigning world and Olympic champions at 100 meters, sat down for their introduction from the press officer, who also tossed them the usual opportunities to speak a little. Then the press officer said there would be no questions about the doping issues that have hit the USA and Jamaica, their home countries, in recent days.
The first question, barely audible on the video, was rather innocuous. The second question, addressed to Fraser-Pryce, was about how the Jamaican team was dealing with the distraction of the doping issues.
The press officer snapped that the question was out of bounds. Reporters asked why. Then Jeter said bye-bye. So did Fraser-Pryce. So reporters got one question before the walkout.
For his part, reporter Simon Hart of the Telegraph is hardly apologetic.
And he’ll defend his right to ask the questions:
Check around on Twitter, and you’ll see Jeter has plenty of enablers telling her she did the right thing. That’s a nice reflection of how much people respect journalists these days and adore celebrities, even celebrities a vast majority of people don’t know.
The bottom line: She had an opportunity to show grace and determination at a difficult time in her sport’s history. Instead, she came across as petty and defensive. Casual fans — which would describe most track and field fans in the USA, despite my best efforts to get you all to read the Woly Awards and everything else I posted in 10 years at USA TODAY — would look at that video and think she has something to hide.
Maybe if she had at least waited until, say, an actual doping question was actually addressed to her?