Are Players Losing Support?
By Brian Miller
Between now and April 6th, there is nothing that indicates progress in the NFL work stoppage. So for the next few weeks it appears that both sides will take up the public perception campaign to try and sway support for their side. Unfortunately, that does nothing, absolutely nothing, to get a new CBA done. It literally doesn’t matter if you support the players or the league in this fight, it won’t get anything done any sooner. In reality.
In the non-reality world, pressure from the public could put the two sides into the precarious position of having to eat a little crow and crawl back to the mediating tables to find a solution to their problems. In the non-reality world. Back in the real world however, as the two sides try and sway that unimportant public opinion, it appears that the NFL players and not the owners are losing some support.
No, it’s not because teams like the Miami Dolphins have sent out letters to their season ticket holders and have made some public address announcements about this whole thing being the fault of the players, nor is it because the players have really said nothing, it’s because as each day goes by, more and more information comes to light and that perception of information once digested tends to point the players into a black corner where money is in fact at the heart of their issues.
It was said the the owners wanted to continue negotiating and that the two sides were close, something that Drew Brees and DeMaurice Smith discounted as complete lies. However, one player, Jay Feely from Arizona said the NFLPA was willing to negotiate more and that the two sides were very close. So what gives?
Today, word came out that the players could be losing some other one time supporters. Forget about the encouragement to the incoming rookie class to skip the draft and instead attend the players special gala down the road from Radio City Music Hall, this waning support is starting to come from their own.
One of the contentions of the former NFLPA was that they wanted to see veterans get paid better, rookies to get paid less (sort of), better health benefits, and more importantly better retirement benefits. As De-Smith said many times, the NFLPA must protect the interests of the players that have come before and the NFL needs to do a better job of assisting those players.
Rhetoric. At it’s best.
The NFL agreed to increase the retirement pay of veterans to almost 60% (according to the league but not discounted by the NFLPA), the union of course declined along with several other proposals. Now that is not to say that the union specifically declined the increase for former players, they simply declined the entire offer. While that is understandable to some extent, it’s what the NFLPA or rather the “Trade C” is doing now that has former retired players getting a little peeved at the union heads.
Smith has not publicly commented on the retired players outside of acknowledging his desire to get more money funneled into their pockets as well. Still, he is not opening up his door to meet with retired veterans.
In fact, one player, a former Giants player, George Martin, as pointed out by ProFootballTalk is not only losing support but feels insulted as well.
"“It’s disconcerting because, yet again NFL Alumni, although we appear to be in the discussion, we’re still treated as if we’re second-class citizens or an afterthought,”George Martin said. “We definitely feel there’s a moral imperative for those of us who have paid such an extraordinarily high price to help build this industry to be in the discussion.”"
PFT also points out that Martin was invited to an NFLPA meeting but was not allowed to meet with the current union boss, De-Smith, despite his request. In fact, he was then Emailed a questionnaire that prodded into his affiliation with the league.
"“To me it was a bit insulting,” Martin said. “Here’s a guy who played 14 years in the NFL, a 10-year veteran as a player representative, and was the president of the NFLPA for two years. Now my loyalty and allegiance is being called into question before I can come and address the very organization I spent 14 years officially supporting?”"
As fans grow more and more tired of the public “hearts and mind” tactics of both sides, the fact that the “Trade-C” (former NFLPA) is refusing to meet with the owners before April 6th to continue negotiations only leads more and more fans to believe that the players are in fact all about money and letting the courts, where they feel they can get a better deal, handle the entire issue. More and more fans also are starting to believe that De-Smith is simply trying to make a name for himself and is doing so at the sake of the game itself despite what he touts in front of micro-phones.
The players will likely request that Judge Doty be assigned the case although Judge Susan Nelson is currently set to hear the case. The NFL owners will of course try and block that at all costs as Judge Doty has resided over the two sides for 18 years and is viewed more as a “players” judge.
As for the NFLPA’s attempt to get rookies to skip the NFL Draft, well at least one incoming frosh doesn’t feel that he should. The much talked about and possibly first overall pick Patrick Peterson announced today that while no one has asked him to come to NY to be a part of the draft, no one has asked him not to either. He did however say this:
"“That’s a big moment to go up there and shake the commissioner’s hand and get that jersey and hat. It means a lot. I definitely want to go and no one has told me not to go. So, we’ll see what happens.”"
As PFT pointed out, the owners could care less if Von Miller and his rookie incoming classmates go to New York to receive a hat, jersey, and shake the Commish’s hand. There is no interest there. Once a player is picked, the war room cams will show some high-fives and then the GM’s and/or owners getting back down to business. The ones who it will affect? The fans. And they will be pissed as the draft is not about the league making more money or the players getting a cut from a television deal, it’s about the fans who literally spend 3 days sitting at their TV’s watching a bunch of people talk waiting for their team to announce who they have chosen.
The players seem to be forgetting about the little guy in all of this, and it’s not winning support from the one group that will be supporting them on Sunday’s.