On the Lockout and PR Battle

Even before the lockout started the NFL Players Association was putting on the full court press when it came to trying to win the PR battle. Whether it be inviting fans and media types (us included!) to events like the One Team Tailgate, or filling our in-boxes with the now infamous “Let Us Play” campaign, the players have been trying to get the public on their side. And yet, every single time one of these guys opens their mouth they seem to Plaxico Burress themselves in the leg and do a disservice to their message — whatever it is — and shift support away from them.

On Tuesday, Doug Farrar at Yahoo! Sports Shutdown Corner blog posted an interview with Vikings running back Adrian Peterson — arguably the best running back in the league – where he uttered the following quote:

It’s modern-day slavery, you know? People kind of laugh at that, but there are people working at regular jobs who get treated the same way, too. With all the money … the owners are trying to get a different percentage, and bring in more money. I understand that; these are business-minded people. Of course this is what they are going to want to do. I understand that; it’s how they got to where they are now. But as players, we have to stand our ground and say, ‘Hey — without us, there’s no football.’ There are so many different perspectives from different players, and obviously we’re not all on the same page — I don’t know. I don’t really see this going to where we’ll be without football for a long time; there’s too much money lost for the owners. Eventually, I feel that we’ll get something done.

The first sentence is obviously the PR dagger. Adrian Peterson’s 2011 salary, it should be pointed out, is scheduled to be $10.72 million. Modern day slavery, indeed. You don’t need me to tell you everything that is wrong with that comparison (he chooses to play football, he gets paid to be there, etc. etc. etc.)

Fortunately, Peterson’s comments don’t represent the opinion of all the players (Packers running back Ryan Grant, for example, took issue with Peterson’s analogy. Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall, however, did agree with Peterson.) but it’s the one that’s going to get talked about the most and get all of the attention, for obvious reasons. And it’s not going to win any sympathy for their cause, especially given Peterson’s status as one of the highest paid players in the league.

After Peterson’s comments hit the news cycle, Steelers safety Ryan Clark made some waves of his own by taking a shot at heredity owners (you know, like the guys that own the Steelers). Via CBS Eye on Football

“The difference between us and the owners is, my daddy didn’t give me this job. . . . When I leave this game, I can’t give my jersey to [son] Jordan and tell him to play,” he said. “There are going to be [the Giants’] Maras and Rooneys and all these guys forever who own these teams.”

He then referred to NFL lead negotiator Jeff Pash as an “obviously deceitful man” and then told fans, “If there’s a way we can play football and not be a victim of robbery, we’ll be out there.”

Bah.

Here’s the thing. I don’t begrudge any player for trying to get all the money he can while he can, whether it be as an individual in free agency, or as a group in collective bargaining. These guys have short careers, destroy their bodies for our amusement and not all of them are making $10 million a year. Get the money while it’s there. I would. Most people would.

If Ike Taylor leaves as a free agent and signs with the Washington Redskins for $12 million a year, good for him. I certainly won’t hold it against him or boo him when he makes his return to Heinz Field in a different uniform. That’s the way the system is set up, and Taylor (or any other player in his position) has earned the right to use it to his advantage.

But these guys have to realize that the fans aren’t going to feel sympathy for them when they compare themselves to $10 million dollar per year slaves, or in the case of Ryan Clark, get robbed by making $14 million over four years. The loyalty of most fans doesn’t rest with the players. They don’t pay money to see the Minnesota Adrian Peterson’s play the Pittsburgh Ryan Clark’s. Their loyalty is with the city, team name, logo and colors, because that’s the constant. Players come and go and are, for lack of a better word, replaceable. The guys that are on the team today weren’t on the team eight years ago, and the players that are on the team today won’t be on the team eight years from now. They’ve replaced other players and will be replaced by more.

Ryan Clark is correct that he wasn’t handed his job by his dad. Quite the opposite, actually. He had to work his way up as an undrafted free agent and play for a couple of different teams before he hit his big pay day and became a regular starter in the NFL. But don’t sit there and pretend like he hasn’t been handed things in life. The reason he was even signed into the NFL was because of his four years at LSU where he was, most likely, handed a free college education, or at least some sort of scholarship, simply because he was a great athlete.

Maybe Jeff Pash is a terrible person and is doing a horrible job with the negotiations. The owners certainly aren’t without blame in this mess. Roger Goodell and company, along with DeMaurice Smith and the players, had one job to do this offseason, and so far have failed miserably at it. They’re both to blame for that. Jerry Jones certainly didn’t help things if this report from Sports Illustrated‘s Jim Trotter is true. But the players aren’t helping themselves in the eyes of the fans with comments like the ones from Peterson, Mendenhall and Clark.

I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m tired of hearing Drew Brees apologize.

Stop telling me what you want to see happen, and start doing it and get a fucking deal done so we can get back to worrying about important football-related shit: like how the Steelers are going to replace Ike Taylor.

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  • Randy Steele

    No doubt about it, the players are losing the PR battle.

    No surprise, really. Most of them have little or no public speaking skills.

    What they should do–what they must do–is shut up, appoint a handful of clear-headed players to speak only for the entire group, and find a consistent message that sums up their side of the argument, and stick to it.

  • RoB D

    AD showing once again that these guys aren’t always the brightest coin on the counter. That’s a quote that will be repeated ad nausem and makes the players look like morons. Modern day slavery indeed? I can see him jumping into his Ferrari and texting his butler to tell the maid that there will be 40 for dinner in the grand ballroom…

    And he feels like a motherless child!

  • GlennW

    A few clueless quotes notwithstanding, I don’t sense that the players are losing the PR battle (an overrated battle in this matter anyway– because when it’s over we’re all going to forgive and forget, as always– overrated as compared to the court proceedings and the like). Not as long as the players are countered by the likes of the Jerrys (Jones and Richardson), not to mention Roger Goodell. I’d call it a dead-even draw…