Millennial is a dirty word

“These are Millennials, these are young men and women athletes that are being brought up in a different way, and we need to learn to adapt to the way they are.”

Ron Rivera, head coach of the Carolina Panthers, was attempting to describe the outspoken nature of his quarterback, Cam Newton, who sulked around reporters after losing the Super Bowl in February.

Earlier this year, Steve Kerr, head coach of the wildly successful Golden State Warriors, partially blamed one of his team’s few losses on his crew being composed of Millennials.

“We looked like Millennials today. We weren’t locked in at all. We weren’t focused.”

This goes beyond sports, of course. Just today I linked to this article, which makes sure to mention that the plaintiffs are Millennials. Is it that they whine too much, unlike past trainees who were paid little to nothing to do more work than asked? Or is it that they’re really savvy and understand labor laws?

This is related to the New York Times story about Mic, which basically shouts from the rooftops that workplaces run by Millennials, filled with Millennials, are weird, probably bad places.

The word Millennial is now a dirty word. It’s dragged across the mud as it conjures up images of hipster guys and gals who do whatever they want, running around with their cold brew and kale and jean shorts and big sunglasses. They don’t want to work, they whine about everything and demand your respect.

It’s wrong. It’s all wrong.

And now Millennial is being used as an excuse. It’s not that Cam Newton just needs a little coaching on how to handle the post-game in the biggest night of your career (let’s be honest, it wasn’t that big a deal anyway). And it’s not that once in a long while, the Warriors may have an off day. And it’s not that these kids who sued Bank of America and Merrill Lynch are just looking out for their mental health.

It’s that they’re Millennials. They’re snowflakes, or special people, or must be treated with kid gloves, or whatever you want to call it.

Millennial is now an apology from an America with a real identity problem. People don’t like blaming themselves for their problems, so they pick the group of people that’s been jammed down their throats. Yes, the media has done a nice job talking about Millennials every 10 minutes (it’s hard to stand out as a Millennial researcher when suddenly every other person on Twitter happens to be one now), allowing full backlash against people in America age 15-34. So now it’s an apology.

As sportswriter Jonah Keri wrote Tuesday, it’s easy for people – especially in sports, whose thick traditions seem to swallow evolution whole – to blame or ridicule Millennials. They’re young and may shrink to criticism, one would think. But allowing this behavior only isolates Millennials from everyone else, making it hard for open discussion and organic progression.

Instead – and Keri says this in his piece – try to understand the Millennial generation, not as one word that defines everyone, but as an umbrella that can help you better understand current social and economic conditions. For the most part Millennials have mounting college loan debt. They don’t have many job opportunities. The jobs they have aren’t paying them well. They’re still living with their parents. With all that many of them are still working pretty damn hard, using mobility and technology to their advantage, creating a new society, culture and economy.

Once you understand that, maybe it’ll be easier to lay off young people. Don’t look at them as one giant group ready for easy labeling and ridicule. Look at each person as his or her own story.