Restricted access to players hurting the CFL

On the day before Darian Durant’s first starting assignment as the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ quarterback, he spent 45 minutes chatting with a newspaper reporter in the lobby of the Sheraton hotel in Hamilton.

Durant talked a bit about football and his mindset while preparing for the next day’s CFL game, but mainly it was a conversation about his family, how close he was to his mother, Betty, and brothers, Keshawn and Justin, and why he pursued a degree in African-American studies at the University of North Carolina.

“With African-American studies, you can branch off into different studies, you can teach, go on missions to the Middle East and explore ” said the 25-year-old (at the time) Durant. “There are all types of different areas to take that degree.

“A lot of people don’t get into that, but I was really interested in learning my past, learning my roots, things like that. It was definitely something I wanted to do. I could have gone through college and done communications or journalism, whatever, that’s what most people do. I wanted to do something different.”

It was July, 2008, before Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and blogs became the leading sources of information; some of it accurate.

Roughrider fans and teammates were just getting to know the aspiring pivot. Durant won his first start, 33-28, over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and has since developed into the Roughriders’ franchise player, the man who led them to the 2013 Grey Cup.

He’s still gracious, quotable, introspective and intelligent. But Durant is rarely available for one-on-one interviews with members of the mainstream media from newspapers, radio and television. No longer can reporters call him in the offseason — that used to happen — to see how he’s doing, which has been a primary concern this year because Durant is recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Instead, all information regarding Durant and his teammates is strictly controlled by the Roughriders.

When Durant posted an on-line video of his rehabilitation earlier this month, showing himself going through strenuous drills that made it look like he has fully recovered from the injury, Rider fans were ecstatic. The video evidence seemed to verify what the Roughriders have been stating in all their formal, no-questions-please releases.

It’s unfortunately like that across the CFL, with limited access to players, coaches and executives. One of the best things about the league used to be how fans and media could interact with CFL personnel. Now the teams want to control the information, give out their own, unquestioned versions through various types of social media.

The Football Reporters of Canada, whose members vote on CFL awards and help establish the league’s media policy, met recently with CFL executives to discuss restoring that access. Hopefully the league will again allow Darian Durant — and his peers — to again share 45 minutes of his personality in a one-on-one interview.

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