Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Players Losing PR Battle During NFL Lockout

When the whole NFL lockout situation began a few weeks ago it seemed that the public were going to side with the players as the common belief was that the owners were just greedy old men who wanted to exploit the players and make even more money.  It seemed that in the court of public opinion the owners didn't stand a chance and their cause would be weakened by public pressure forcing them to make concessions to the NFLPA that they didn't want to have to make.

Then the players and the NFLPA blew it. 

In the span of just a few short weeks public opinion has shifted completely and now it's the players that are losing the public relations battle to the owners.  If this trend continues its going to be harder for the NFLPA to get what it wants from the owners during negotiations.  If the NFLPA were on a 3 strike policy this whole thing would be over by now.

The NFLPA collected Strike 1 during the actual negotiations with the league when they demanded to see 10 years worth of financial reports from every owner in the NFL.  The NFLPA wanted to use this information to prove that the owners were making hundreds of millions more than they were reporting and try and leverage that information to get a bigger cut of the revenues for the players.  Seems like a decent idea in theory but in practice its beyond ridiculous.

First off there are teams that haven't had the same owner for the past 10 years and therefore the bookkeeping systems may be completely different or may not even be accessible to the current owner.  Also this was a sticking point during the negotiation for the previous CBA and at that point the owners said under no circumstances would they comply with the request so why continuously harp on that point?  It was also wide held opinion that whatever numbers the NFL did show could be massaged in such a way that they would be useless to the NFLPA so the fact that this is what halted negotiations looks bad on DeMaurice Smith (pictured below).

If you were watching coverage of the negotiations on any network they kept talking about how the NFLPA wanted those records and how they refused to discuss anything else until that issue was settled.  If you're a fan watching this it makes the NFLPA look stupid and greedy because all they care about is money and nothing else.  What happened to only wanting safer work conditions and better retirement packages for players and their families?  As a fan I watched DeMaurice Smith stand in front of the microphone and ask for something he knew he wouldn't get and then try and blame the breakdown in negotiations on the owners.  It was at that point I knew the NFLPA was in trouble if this guy was their representative.

As Michael Lombardi of the NFL Network said, "that's not negotiating."  He's right.  That isn't negotiating and so when you claim you 'did your best' but then get exposed for doing nothing but demand the impossible and not try and compromise you lose face in the public eye.

Strike 2 occurred when the NFLPA contacted 17 of the top projected picks in this upcoming NFL draft in April and told them to boycott the event as a show of unity between the current players and the soon to be rookies.  This was strike two as far as the public viewed it.

How dare the NFLPA ask these young men to purposely skip one of the biggest days of their entire lives just to upset the owners and try and gain leverage.  These kids have all worked hard and sacrificed a lot to hear the Commissioner of the NFL read out their name and get to walk across the stage and hold up that jersey.  Even current NFL players do those commercials for the NFL Network where they describe how amazing of a feeling it was and how it symbolized a culmination of all of their efforts to that point. 

Projected Top 10 pick Patrick Peterson, a cornerback from LSU, said it best when he told, "That’s what you play football for.  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 don't know who at the NFLPA thought it would be a good idea to ask these players to boycott the draft but clearly that person needs to be excluded from offering up ideas in meetings from now on.  Just because the current players are greedy and not happy with their current work situation in the league doesn't mean these rookies, who by the way are not actual members of the NFLPA until they are drafted, should have to forfeit their chance to be on national television holding up that jersey.  The NFLPA just wanted to use these young players to gain leverage and stick it to Roger Goodell and the rest of the NFL.

And lastly strike 3 came yesterday when Pro Bowl runningback for the Minnesota Vikings Adrian Peterson tweeted, "It’s modern-day slavery, you know?"  Massive public outrage occurred over that comment as people everywhere were beyond pissed that Peterson could be so ignorant and disconnected from reality.  How can someone who gets paid $10 million a year to play football ever compare himself to a slave. 

Not only does that comment make Peterson sound like a spoiled asshole who has no connection whatsoever to the average person but it also shows his ignorance to African Americans and what they had to suffer through for so long.  It boggles the mind that someone who has an agent, a manager, a publicist and other multiple representatives could publish something like that and stand behind it.  The fact that his disconnect from reality is so great that he could tweet something like that is just baffling.

Other players around the league were quick to bash Peterson and try and separate themselves from his thoughts but its too late.  The tweet is out there and once its on the internet there is no going back.  Peterson is one of the biggest superstars in the NFL and so his thoughts represent the thoughts of the NFLPA whether they want them to or not.

This is an area in which the owners has a massive advantage over the players.  There are only 32 owners in the NFL but thousands of players.  This means that the owners only have to worry about 1 one of the 32 of them saying something stupid, which they would never do because every single sentence out of their mouth is scripted and edited by a team of public relations reps.  Meanwhile the players have to worry about one of a few thousand saying/doing something stupid in an interview, at a club, on Twitter or any other media outlet.  Sooner or later someone else is going to say something moronic that makes the players look bad and its just going to make their public image even worse.

The public wants to side with the players.  People feel they can relate to certain parts of these athletes lives far easier then they could one of the owners.  We see these players grow up while playing in college and then watch their entire careers unfold in front of us on national television every Sunday for 21 weeks a year. So when the lockout started it was assumed that the public would side with the people whose jerseys they wore proudly and whose pictures they put on their walls but after only a couple weeks the public opinion has pulled a complete 180. 

All fans want to see is football.  That's all we care about.  I don't want to have to go a whole year without getting to spend at least 12 hours of one Sunday laying on the couch.  I don't care how it gets solved I just want it to get solved and the longer it drags out the more fans will look for someone to blame and if current trends continue it will be the players who take the bulk of the blame from fans.  The players will lose all the trust and respect they had gained from fans and will instead be looked upon as disconnected from reality and greedy.

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