Forget accomplishments and statistics – once one is pegged as a millennial, especially in the sports world, there is something immediately wrong.
Coming from prior generations, placing a “millennial” tag on an athlete brings implied immaturity and, at times, laziness. A millennial can also mean being too cocky and averse to help.
While not saying these attributes outright, they were implied in ex-UCLA football coach Jim Mora’s comments to Sports Illustrated on April 1. Mora talked about likely top-10 2018 NFL draft pick Josh Rosen and why he may not be the best “fit” with the Cleveland Browns as the No. 1 draft pick.
“He needs to be challenged intellectually so he doesn’t get bored,” Mora said to Sports Illustrated. “He’s a millennial. He wants to know why. Millennials, once they know why, they’re good. Josh has a lot of interests in life. If you can hold his concentration level and focus only on football for a few years, he will set the world on fire. He has so much ability, and he’s a really good kid.”
The following day, Rosen responded with a tweet that read, “Why? #why.”
Mora followed up these comments stating that Rosen’s questioning persona is a good thing and not a negative as some took it to be, but the bigger issue lies in the blanket statement about millennials. In the eyes of older authority, the younger generation being inquisitive is an unwanted quality.
Being an authority figure means there are no limits to questions that can be asked, while millennials are expected to stay quiet. During the NFL combine in early March, that power was seen in inappropriate questions asked to some players.
One of those questions was, “Do you like men?” Another, “I heard your mom sells herself – how do you feel about that?” according to Sports Illustrated.
The only reason to ask these questions would be to determine how one reacts to an unexpected situation, but there are better ways to test that than to ask a discriminatory question. These questions continue to be asked each year because the players are not expected to question why they are being asked – they are in an interview, they must accept them.
Millennials wanting to know “why?” is not a bad thing – it shows a progressive mindset. But it is easier for a team to mold a player if his or her response is more often “yes coach” rather than “why?” so millennials are blanketed with a negative label.
Mora’s comments on Rosen were not outright negative, but they led some to believe Mora thinks Rosen can be too smart for his own good. Rosen may have taken those comments in that regard as well, but really the issue was in using the term “millennial.”
It may be a predetermined belief in sports and society that millennials are immature, but that is an unfair conclusion. It is easier to draft a player who will buy into the system, but it is just as important for a player to show understanding by asking questions.
Millennials asking “why?” is not a nuisance, it is a sign of a player that is willing to grow. Expecting rookies to sit back and accept everything is not a feasible reality in 2018, and that connotation held by older generations needs to be scratched in sports and society.
Elizabeth Swinton is a broadcasting and visual media major from Linden, N.J. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @eswint22.