Players Don't Have Much Choice

The NFLPA won't find much empathy from The OBR's Fred Greetham.

In looking at the current labor situation in the NFL the players don't have much of a choice if they want to play football.

If you're on the side of the players, you might not want to read any further.

First of all, it's hard for me to feel sorry for multi-millionaires fighting with multi-billionaires.

If we lived in a perfect world, I wish every franchise were like the Green Bay Packers, a municipally owned team. Obviously, we're not in a perfect world, so that's not going to happen again.

In full disclosure, I own a financial services business as my day job. So, I come down on the side of ownership. I didn't start my business to employ people and neither does anybody who starts a business. That is a by-product of a business. As it grows, there arises a need for employees.

Players come and players go, but ownership remains.

Even if an owner fails financially -- and it's hard for an NFL owner to fail -- another businessman or coalition will come along and buy the entity. Without owners there is no NFL, just as without fans there is no NFL. I doubt fans are going to give up the NFL because it is so popular. So that leaves the owners.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that the owners of a business should take advantage of workers, but to term it "modern day slavery" as Adrian Peterson recently did is laughable. Consider, a modern NFL player usually works for five to six months and receives anywhere from the league minimum $300,000 to upward of several millions. It could be argued the player might have to play in a city he doesn't want to for anywhere from three to five years (or whatever the current free agency agreement is). Then, he can become a free agent and go wherever he wants to. He might be an indentured servant, but not a slave.

If that's what a slave is, where do I sign up?

Recently, the wife of Browns linebacker, Scott Fujita wrote a letter about the problems of an NFL player from the wife's perspective. She discussed some of pitfalls of being a professional football player and brought up many good points in supporting the players and what they are fighting for in this standoff.

But once again, with no disrespect to Mrs. Fujita, no one is forcing someone to play a game that a lot of guys would jump at if given the chance.

The last time I checked nobody is putting a gun to the players' heads to play football. If they don't like the benefits, the pay structure or whatever it might be, they can take their talents to the real world and get a real job like most of us.

I don't begrudge the players to get as much as they can, while they can, but the game will go on.

College football is extremely popular. In fact, many of my friends and acquaintances tell me they enjoy the college game more so than the NFL. I'm not one of those, but I do watch college football more than a casual fan.

When you stop and analyze it, we're watching college teams where only a few players from the game's top teams make it to the NFL each year. If we only watch the game because of stars then the popularity of the college game doesn't make sense. It's popular because we like to watch football, period.

My point is this: If the current NFL players don't want to play the game, there will be others who will. If you look at the strike of 1987, replacement players stepped in. Although they weren't good, they came from all walks of life -- truck drivers, teachers and insurance salesmen. They jumped at the chance to play professional football. Most replacement players played on teams we watched on Saturdays. Yet they still weren't as good as the ‘real' NFL players.

However, it is my contention that if the same players were on television week after week, year after year, they would be household names and the cream would rise to the top. In the strike of 1987, the ‘real' players realized that and came back by the third game. The ‘replacement' players never were able to become household names.

There are always going to be stars, but the vast majority of the players on NFL rosters are not separated by a lot of talent. Those players can and will be replaced.

It wouldn't be surprising to me if the players and the owners don't reach an agreement, the owners would again use replacement players.

The players don't have much choice. If they want to play football their options are limited. They could go to the Canadian Football League, Arena Football League or the United Football League. The UFL was started with hopes of luring the players from the NFL if and when a lockout happened. Yet until the money is comparable, the NFL will always be king.

Let's just hope the players figure this out, sooner rather than later.

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