As a football player and coach, Deion Sanders has fielded questions from reporters for more than 30 years. However, it is safe to say that no press conference he's ever participated in ended quite like the one he attended on Tuesday.
Eager to kick off the second season of his head coaching stint at Jackson State University, Sanders participated in a virtual Southwestern Athletic Conference media day event. During the virtual event, Sanders fielded a question from Nick Suss of the Clarion-Ledger, who referred to him by his first name. Sanders, who did not wish to be referred to by his first name, fired back at Suss. He argued that reporters don't refer to Alabama football coach Nick Saban by his first name, but Suss disagreed.
“Back up a little bit. You don’t call Nick Saban ‘Nick.' Don't call me Deion," Sanders said.
“I call Nick Saban ‘Nick,’” Suss answered.
“No, you don’t. No, you don’t. That’s a lie. If you call Nick ‘Nick’ you get cussed out on the spot. So don’t do that and treat me like Nick," Sanders replied.
Sanders smiled and laughed before the interaction continued. Suss addressed Sanders by his first name and the Jackson State coach appeared to get up and walk away. However, Sanders clarified that he went to speak to another media outlet.
"[I] never walked out of media day. I prolonged my time to answer another question and the person thought it was cute to address me the way he did, so I dropped the call and went to the next outlet," Sanders tweeted on Tuesday.
Fellow college football writers fired back at Sanders by putting together a 58-second video in which Nick Saban is referred to by his first name. Suss also issued a statement to the New York Post.
“When I interview people, I call them by their first name,” Suss said.
“Whether it’s someone I’ve been working with for years or someone I’m talking to for the first time. This is true of the coaches and players on the Ole Miss beat, the coaches and players at Mississippi State and Southern Miss when I help out covering their teams and, as recently as January, even Sanders, too.”
One day after the dust-up between Suss and Sanders, Saban was asked to chime on the matter during SEC Media Day. While the championship coach said he does respond to being called by his first name, he does want coaches to set an expectation for how they should be addressed.
“Look, I respond to just about anything, and I’ve been called just about everything. So, not something that’s really important to me. But I think everybody should have the opportunity to create or make the way their expectation is of how they get addressed. It’s not something that’s really that significant to me," Saban explained.
With that brief media back and forth behind him, Sanders and Jackson State will kick off their 2021 season against Florida A&M on September 5. Meanwhile, the University of Alabama will kick off its season against the University of Miami on September 4.