Ronnie O'Sullivan's silence speaks volumes

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Ronnie O'Sullivan caused controversy yet again earlier this week - this time, by doing absolutely nothing.

The Rocket refused to speak to the press following his 10-7 win over David Gilbert in the first round of this year's World Championship, thereby failing to fulfil his contractual obligation with governing body World Snooker, and creating consternation among pundits.

But is it fair that sportsmen and women should be forced to face the cameras immediately after a match?


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The fact that players - and this applies across all televised sports - can be sanctioned for saying anything which has the slightest hint of sedition about it, but also do not retain the right to remain silent, has led us to a point where the only acceptable interview is one full of platitudes and praise.

It is a form of censorship by implication, wherein the powers that be are standing just out of shot and preparing to wag a very serious finger at anyone who puts even a toe out of line. This, in turn, creates the impression that all sports stars are vapid automatons, without the ability to broadcast independent thoughts or opinions, lest they 'bring the game into disrepute' (a deeply sinister term for any action which displeases the game's totalitarian overlords).

In a culture where we have become accustomed to hearing over-sanitised soundbites from players who are afraid to say anything with any substance for such reasons, O'Sullivan is one of few competitors in any sport whose interviews are routinely entertaining, unpredictable, and most importantly, brutally honest.

This undoubtedly comes at a price - the five-time World Champion has faced opprobrium from fans, fellow players, journalists, and the sport's governing body at different times for the way he has conducted himself in front of the media. For every candid appraisal of his own performance or cheeky quip on live TV, there seems to have been an outburst about prize money or a mean-spirited spat with a colleague, and the fallout from these must take their toll on a person with well-documented mental health issues.

So what to do if you're a maverick spirit who has suffered repeatedly at the hands of journalists who are all too happy to exploit your innate tendency to speak your mind? (Aside from Marshawn Lynch-ing it, that is).

Well, when you don't represent a team and you also happen to be your sport's most popular player by a dozen light years, you can go out and face the press, keep feeding the mouth that bites you, safe in the knowledge that whatever negative attention they might focus on you, you will still be able to compete at the highest level. But why should you? What's in it for you? Why suffer through the indignity of it all?

The better decision, then, it would seem, would be to simply exercise your agency as a free human being who has just finished a day's work, and go and enjoy a little privacy. Oh wait, sorry, that's not an option.

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Neil Robertson
World Snooker Championship
Judd Trump
Ronnie O'Sulivan
Stephen Hendry
Mark Selby
John Higgins

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