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USA Shooting Commentary on Olympic Coverage: Relish What It Was & Become the Storyteller

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (August 19, 2016)

By:       Kevin Neuendorf, Director, Media & Public Relations

The reality in an Olympic Games is that there’s a big seven and there’s everyone else.  Seven sports dominate the headlines, storylines, and television coverage while the rest of the space available is divided among 22 other sports. 

Team USA is a delegation of 554 athletes having amassed 103 medals as of Friday afternoon. Every athlete with a uniqueness all their own; each medal forged with unrelenting sacrifice yielding its own story and energy. There simply isn’t enough newsprint, journalists and television time available to cover the wealth of athlete intrigue and medals mined.     

Swimming, Gymnastics, Athletics, Basketball, Volleyball, Soccer and Diving dominate the U.S. airwaves.  It’s predicated on one thing, an old-age formula of viewership and greater interest.  The rest of us are left grasping for every opportunity we get. Don’t think the rowing, weightlifting, badminton and taekwondo communities don’t clamor for more attention too. 

Just yesterday, for instance, one of the greatest Olympic upsets ever took place when Team USA’s Helen Maroulis wrestled her way to victory over Japan’s Saori Yoshida.  I’m sure USA Wrestling would have liked to have seen greater exposure too for one of that their organization’s greatest moments. Overshadowed by another Team USA member on her day, you can read her perfect response here. 

As passionate and boisterous a community as there is, shooting sports fans have voiced their opinion loudly during these Games about what they deem as a lack of respect and coverage. There have been juicy headlines written as such. A pre-Olympic article in the Wall Street Journal titled our athletes the Stigmatized Olympians and athletes spoke about this and their 2A beliefs at lengthin the lead-up to Rio and beyond.  The greatest response came in reaction to USA Shooting’s defense against pundit Piers Morgan after Ginny Thrasher won gold on the first Saturday of competition in Rio. 

This passion was expected given the politically-charged environment in which our sport exists, and with gun-rights being as polarizing a topic as it is currently.  Perhaps, however, the idea of unfair treatment and neglect is misguided energy, particularly if you look at the facts. 

  • Associated Press, the world’s largest newsgathering organization, assigned a writer to cover the USA Shooting Team, leading to eight different pre-Olympic stories that blanketed newspapers across the country.  AP writer John Marshall covered every aspect of the shooting event diligently and professionally.  
  • NBC Olympics invited both Kim Rhode and Vincent Hancock to Hollywood for a pre-Olympic promotional shoot that produced invaluable promotional content including video clips, features, and photos for hometown media, NBC properties, the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Shooting.  EXAMPLE 1 | EXAMPLE 2
  • The U.S. Olympic Committee invited Morgan Craft, Kim Rhode and Vincent Hancock to the Team USA Media Summit for a media blitz unlike any other in which athletes got to tell their story to media on-hand and were included in the gathering of exclusive social media, video content and photographs by a wide variety of Olympic entities. EXAMPLE 1 | EXAMPLE 2 | EXAMPLE 3
  • Athletes Glenn Eller and Sarah Scherer were included among the athletes celebrated during A Capitol Fourth, a July 4 event shown on PBS from the nation’s capital.
  • Check out all of the USA Shooting Team’s Pre-Olympic Coverage

With rich storylines and full medal potential, coverage during the Olympics was sufficient.  Every medal opportunity that the U.S. had was broadcast live on some NBC channel, and even some where we weren’t in it too.  Sure, we came in hopeful that the qualification rounds would be streamed live too, but that didn’t materialize which was a disappointment.  Live streaming Finals and live Finals coverage on some NBC channel was a definite upgrade from London however.  

The three U.S. athletes that medaled were part of the USOC/NBC Managing Victory package that included press conferences, in-studio interviews, social media fodder, USA House appearances, and Today Show hits.  USA Shooting Team athletes also got exclusive Today Show hits on the day of Opening Ceremony as well as their last day of their Rio coverage Friday. Other opportunities included an ESPN Sportscenter interview for Ginny Thrasher and a Fox & Friends interview for Kim Rhode. 

Simply put, there’s NEVER going to be enough exposure for an athlete and a sport from an impassioned community.  It’s an impossible task of NBC Olympics and all journalists, and to expect them to be able to cover every athlete and sport equally is simply not fair.  Kim Rhode not getting to be Team USA’s flag bearer during Opening Ceremony had more to do with the fact that she led her team out during the Opening Ceremony of the 2015 Pan American Games than any wide-ranging conspiracy theory.  

We can grouse about how Kim Rhode wasn’t included in more pre-Olympic promos, or how her continued historic medal run barely registers a blip on the radar, or the lack of non-endemic sponsors the living Olympic legend has.  It’s understandable to want more, but, still, let’s admit we’re a long way from complete disregard.  And frankly, this Olympic cycle has seen greater exposure than ever before courtesy of great athletes with unique stories and our past medal successes.  

Consider ourselves lucky in the fact that we have the very good fortune of an entire industry willing to tell our story too.  Our friends at the NRA, NSSF and the Women’s Outdoor Network (WON) as well as our sponsors helped share content in lead-up to Rio. But still, even in our own industry, our athletes remain widely unknown competing in events rarely shot and misunderstood.  Hours of industry-specific television programming and publications exists and yet hardly a mention there and no outdoor magazine cover shots either. 

Donald Trump’s Vice Presidential running mate, Mike Pence, said something poignant today that should resonate with all of us: “The most powerful media in America is you.” It’s far too easy to place blame on the media. Collectively, however, we can do better in promoting the values our sport exudes and the ambassadors that make it great.    

The gold standard of marksmanship resides with the USA Shooting Team and their pursuit of Olympic and Paralympic medals. The tenets that have built the shooting sports into what it is today evoke passion, advocacy, nationalistic pride and tradition. There is no greater representative of those values for the shooting sports than the members of America’s Shooting Team.  The USA Shooting Team carries on the proud tradition of medal-winning success and shooting skill, exemplifying the greatest defense possible for protecting, preserving and promoting the shooting sports legacy of this country. 

None of us who participate in this sport got into the sport for glory.  We participate because of a deep-seated passion and love for it, no matter what discipline you shoot.  With that in mind, let’s remind ourselves that we can’t rely on anyone to tell that story any better than we can. Become the storyteller you think the sport deserves.     

Categories: Press Releases
National Shooting Sports Foundation