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Behind ‘Beast Mode!’ New documentary explores the silence of NFL running back Marshawn Lynch

2019-08-25

Marshawn Lynch’s silence speaks volumes. That’s the premise of a new documentary, “Lynch: A History,” which compiles a dizzying barrage of more than 700 video clips from news reports, football games, commercials and more to make the case that the NFL running back is a social justice warrior. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Marshawn Lynch’s silence speaks volumes.

That’s the premise of a new documentary, “Lynch: A History,” which compiles a dizzying barrage of more than 700 video clips from news reports, football games, commercials and interviews to make the case that the NFL running back is both a beast on the gridiron and protest icon.

Lynch, who last played in the 2018 season, is remembered for punishing touchdown runs where it seemed no one on the field could bring him down.

“Lynch” director David Shields said he was going for the same vibe. He likened the documentary to “somebody’s Twitter feed on speed.”

“We wanted to make the 84 minutes (of the film) feel like one intense Marshawn Lynch run,” he explained.

Lynch’s prickly interactions with the press went just as viral as his most violent touchdown runs. Prior to the 2015 Super Bowl as a Seahawk he repeatedly told reporters, "I’m just here so I won’t get fined, bro,” and refused to answer questions.

The film suggests that Lynch’s silence was a form of resistance. Controversies over “character issues" rooted in stereotypes and the running back’s refusal to stand for the National Anthem reinforced an adversarial relationship with the press that built throughout his 10-year career.

“You’re not going to push that guy around. He’s not going to perform for you as your puppet,” Shields said.

“It’s kind of a brilliant strategy of renunciation. He realizes that silence is a really powerful way to not even enter the conversation.”

Shields, who lives in Seattle, has written several books on sports, including “Black Planet: Facing Race during an NBA Season” about the 1994-1995 season of the Seattle Supersonics. He spent four years on the “Lynch” documentary, which will be screened Monday and Tuesday at the School of Visual Arts Social Documentary Film theater on W. 21st St.

Appropriately, the subject of the film declined to participate in its creation.

“It sound like they want to control a mother f---er,” Lynch said of the press.

Even President Barack Obama praised Lynch’s handling of the media.

The five-time Pro Bowler’s hometown of Oakland features prominently in the documentary, which is available on Amazon Prime. Some of the city’s most famous residents, like Alice Walker, Bruce Lee, Sly Stone, Bill Russell, and Jack London hint at Lynch’s outlook in interviews pulled from archives.

Lynch ran in the footsteps of giants, Shields argues.

“He’s not Jack Johnson, he’s not Jackie Robinson. He’s not Ali. You could argue he’s not even Colin Kaepernick,” Shields said. “What I found powerful is he says there are different ways of protesting.”