The general public seems to look at the dispute between NFL owners and NFL players as an argument between two greedy parties that have no right to complain about the their life. The perception is that these are a bunch of wealthy owners vs. hundreds of wealthy athletes that have played or do play a kids’ game for millions of dollars. Listening to the general discourse you would believe that this was a meeting of equal parties but in fact it is far from that. In my opinion there are three huge factors the public needs to consider before making a judgment about this dispute. If the average American weighs these factors they will come down on the side of the players.
Fact 1 – You Think Everybody who ever played Football is Rich Factor
The vast majority of past and future players in the National Football League will play less the four seasons and never be paid a million dollar salary. So often I hear people saying,” they make all this money and they have the nerve to complain!” The facts are whatever the salary, 80% will make it for about 3 years and then they are back out in the regular work world with the rest of us.
“Imagined Contract Envy” is the biggest problem facing the players because when you say football player people think of Ray Lewis not the 40 guys on the Ravens team you can’t even name. If they went to USA Today and looked up their favorite teams salaries they would see that there are fewer than 10 guys on the team making a seven figure salary. The rest are risking certain life time injury for much less. People also feel like if you ever played in the league you are rich for life. The fact is that 75% of former players of all races and nationalities are bankrupt five years out of the league.
Fact 2 The Earl Campbell Factor
Most people who play this game will need lifetime medical care because they have broken bones and trauma from the game. Imagine having a job for three years and being in pain everyday for the rest of your life and needing medical care. The league has done a poor job, and the owners left to their own devices have done next to nothing to take care of all the legends you grew up watching. From brain trauma to bad knees like legend Earl Campbell has, the owners’ record is horrible. And they fight every disability claim that a former player makes no matter how many championship rings that player helped to earn for the team. Players have to act now to protect themselves because the owners have shown for decades a callous disregard for the players’ health and well being after they leave the field of play.
Fact 3 The Flashly Black Male Factor
Race plays a big part in how people see this issue. The image of the players is they are all a bunch of flashy young Black males and the owners are all a bunch of hard working white male American business owners who gave these inner city youth a chance to make some incredible money. Don’t believe me? Close your eyes and think NFL Player. Now, close your eyes and think NFL owner.
Well, the truth is there are more young black males in the league now but this dispute affects all your older white heroes too. This is about Bert Jones, John Elway, Dan Fouts and Deion Sanders. It is about all those white guys that played on your favorite teams in the 60s and 70s when whites dominated the league. It is those guys that need medical care badly. Guys who never made big money even during their playing time and are broke and in need of care from the empires they helped to build. If it helps you understand how serious the situation is think of Broadway Joe instead of T Sizzle.
Lastly this is a struggle between guys who are lucky to play a few good years and owners who own the teams forever. The NFL Players and the retirees have a lot more at stake than do the owners. The players have to look down the road and assume the league will try to do what it has always done. The owners always deny, deny, deny when it comes to the former players. There are 66 players on a team at a time. 56 of them you will never know their names and they are the main beneficiaries of this fight for fairness. Remember that when you think about this conflict.
This is an important labor fight by American laborers; don’t let contract envy, racial bias, or perceived wealth, color your decision to support the guys who risk their lives to keep us entertained.