Feckless Players Union to Blame for Soldier Field Turf Embarrassment

| August 15th, 2022

Read the above tweet and understand two things.

One. J.C. Tretter is the current President of the NFLPA, the National Football League Players Association.

Two. The union did nothing to prohibit the playing of Saturday afternoon’s contest at Soldier Field.

This begs a simple question: what is the point of the NFLPA?

You can scavenge the internet and read plenty about the origin of trade unions. Most think the concept was conceived in 18th century Britain, as industry became concentrated in the cities, drawing the multitudes to work. Tailors went on strike in New York City in 1768 and in Philadelphia, the shoemakers established the first sustained union in America in 1794. These organizations were forged to protect two essentials: wages and working conditions.

When it comes to wages, the NFLPA has been relatively useless. They’ve allowed the second most lucrative sports league in the world to institute a hard salary cap. They collectively bargained the franchise tag, the most owner-friendly contract quirk in modern sports, which has an approval rating among the membership south of 0%. And, most absurdly, the NFL remains the only major sports league without guaranteed contracts for its players. From Dom Consentino at The Score:

There are some longstanding structural barriers that have prevented guaranteed contracts from becoming more common in the NFL. But contrary to popular belief, there is nothing to prevent a player or player’s agent from negotiating a contract that is fully guaranteed. In fact, that’s exactly how such deals became the norm for players in MLB, the NBA, and the NHL. The difference is that years ago, a variety of competitive circumstances provided players in those leagues with a strong enough bargaining position to establish contract guarantees as standard in ways that never happened in the NFL.

As Roger Noll, an emeritus professor of economics at Stanford University, told me: “Guaranteed contracts were created by competitive necessity.”

Noll’s point is well taken but incomplete. Guaranteed contracts were also created by bold leadership.

As for working conditions, the NFLPA has been slightly better. They excommunicated two-a-days from the football lexicon and basically eliminated practice contact. But they did nothing to prevent the proliferation of the Thursday Night Football schedule – a clear health risk for the membership – and did less than nothing to prevent the increase to a 17th game, something no one in the football world, aside from owners, wanted.

And then, Saturday happened.

Andy Reid compared the turf to his high school field. Cairo Santos complained about the “sandy” conditions. (Sandy? Fucking SANDY????) Everyone knew, hours before kickoff, the football pitch was unfit for professional use. And yet, the game wasn’t canceled. Fan money wasn’t refunded. The players all jumped onto the grass and risked their ACLs, with only a mildly concerned tweet emanating from the top of their union.

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NFL’s New Anthem Policy is Another in a Long Line of League Blunders

| May 24th, 2018

When players started kneeling for the national anthem, the reaction broke down into three separate categories:

Category One

“Good for them, exercising their first amendment rights and using the only pulpit they have to protest injustice.”

Category Two

“How dare they not stand for the anthem! It’s disrespectful to the flag and troops! The troops!”

Category Three

“Who gives a shit?”

Well, people did give a shit. One specific group of people, a loud group currently led by the President of the United States and his incoherent, grammatically-challenged Twitter feed. (Besides the stupidity and lies found on that feed, I’m always fascinated by the words Mr. Trump chooses to capitalize. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it. He just randomly chooses a words and CAPS.)

Suddenly, the sideline became the big story.

State Television – Fox News – started blaming the kneeling players for the league’s declining TV ratings every single night on every single show. Oddly, the company pushed this narrative while preparing a $3.3 billion offer for the league’s Thursday Night Football package, which they acquired in January. It’s almost like those folks had an ulterior motive behind what they were incorrectly stating about television ratings. Almost like they were trying to devalue the package.

[Side note: I worked for Nielsen for several years in their television department. No issue has been more incorrectly reported than the TV ratings issue. But here’s what you need to know. TV ratings are declining across the board. NFL football ratings are declining at a much slower rate than the rest of the medium. It has actually INCREASED the value of the commodity. And now with sports gambling, look out.]

A lot of other shit went down too. Bob McNair and the “inmates”. The Steelers debacle at Soldier Field. Whatever the hell Jerry Jones and the Cowboys did that one time. But it was this ratings debate – the economic one – that seemed to truly bother Roger Goodell at the home office on Park Avenue. With the NFL, it’s always money.

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