I am not aligned with either side in the battle between the NFL players and the team owners. But taking the players’ side simply because of the risks they face playing the game is an oversimplification of the issue and of the problems that must be fixed. By the way, I consider the owners and the commissioner as one in the same.
I am a football fan and have no insider info, but 99.99% of the public falls into this category. From this position as an outsider, it appears that the union has escaped their fair share of criticism. Certainly the owners deserve a lot of the blame, but while the union has enriched the players, they have not protected them from more dangerous risks. And for all the money the players make, which is less than they could/should, they do make enough where they should be able to hold out to improve their situation.
However, that there is universal agreement that the players will have to give in because so many of them live almost paycheck-to-paycheck is not the fault of the owners.
What’s more important, higher wages or a safer workplace? Do we really need “data” to tell us that football shortens the lives of the guys who play it at the highest level in the NFL. Is this a fact that has come to light in the past two or three years? Given what we know about the damage football players suffer from playing the game, how could any rational human propose or accept the idea of an 18-game regular season game? If player well-being is the most important issue, how can a bigger piece of the revenue share make up for the physical damage and shortened lifespan? Who is willing to sell away years and/or quality of life? I could never support this position.
By the way, if the league wants more exposure they can stick to the 16-game schedule and spread the games out over the course of the week. Two more weekends of the regular season does little to help football in the down markets, but “Wednesday through Sunday Night Football,” would be a ratings success. The schedule can be arranged so that the 16-games are played over a 19- or 20-week period, which would give the players more rest during the grueling season while giving more teams the chance to own the national spotlight game. But that’s a different issue.
Athletes aren’t coal miners or iron workers who earn $25-$50/hour and who need to work full-time to make ends meet. Football players aren’t born in a geographic location that restricts their ability to earn a living. If anything, their gift allows them to escape the limitations of their environment.
Football players come into the league knowing they only have a few years to earn. If you are of the belief that these “kids” don’t know any better, than I would say you haven’t been paying much attention and also this is where the union deserves some blame. The players deserve a lot of blame. Ultimately, it’s their money. I don’t buy the explanation that the players are unsophisticated kids who get taken advantage of by unscrupulous representative and leeching and mooching friends and family.
Maybe the colleges and Universities need to take more blame for not preparing their hired football help for life after the BCS. Although since Ohio State apparently wasn’t able to teach their players that they weren’t supposed to sell their trophies and rings, or trade on their position as players to get free tattoos, there isn’t much reason to hope that these institutions of higher learning can impart greater lessons of fiscal responsibility. But if these schools cannot at least help these guys prepare themselves for life in the workforce, they are worse than the NFL owners. Football Factories should be able to produce players who can take care of themselves on and off the field. If a college had a reputation as an “Engineering Factory,” and yet those who attended couldn’t totally function in the workplace, their rep would suffer.
There is an uproar because teachers don’t want to pay 30% of their benefits; how can anyone expect there to be sympathy for players who can make more money in 4 or 5 years than the rest of us can make in a lifetime? That being said, if the union made player safety, health and long-term care the focus of their efforts, they would garner a lot more support.
One of the biggest myths going is that the two sides of the negotiating table have the players on one side and the union on the other. I wonder who is negotiating for us. As a fan, a coach, a former player and father of three football playing sons I choose my side. There are a whole bunch of college football players being exploited, so I’ll have plenty off football to watch this fall, and there are a lot of nice Sunday’s through the month of October and I’ll find something to do if there’s no NFL.