Leave Le'Veon alone

There are certain things in sports that are weird and mostly irrational that drive me completely crazy. No, I’m not talking about how in football many times the game, that has been played by literal modern-day gladiators, is decided by a someone significantly smaller that no one would mistake for a gladiator kicking a ball through some arbitrary yellow poles when they really don't contribute to the rest of the game at all.  

I’m not talking about how a multi-billion dollar corporation like the NFL still chooses to measure its first downs, that sometimes can change the outcomes of games, by having old men carry two sticks with a chain tethered between them. I’m not even talking about how baseball managers wear the same uniforms as their players during games while no other sport does because that is super weird.

No, what I am talking about how time and time again fans side with their professional sports teams over the players when it comes to contract negotiations and player mobility. It is the only place in our society where the general population, that almost entirely works as labor, continually chooses to side with management over labor.

Most recently, it is Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers running back is in the middle of a holdout because he wants a long-term contract with a certain amount of guaranteed money that he has unquestionably earned. I understand that fans have loyalty to their teams and I understand that the word “fan” is short for fanatic, but some people are incredibly short-sighted.

The first problem really is the NFL Draft, it shouldn’t exist, but that is for a different time. Lets take away all the outside noise and get down to the root of this. Lets replace Bell, with you. So now you just signed a contract (four years) at a company (the Steelers) as an employee that, lets say, you worked as an intern (college football) for a few years before being hired, so they know you are qualified. After two years at the compan,y it becomes obvious that you have far and away out performed your contract because you have access to everyone's contract at every company in the industry.

Rather than reward you for your outstanding work the company decides to keep you on that terrible contract because its economic and because, of course, that is what huge corporations do. Did I mention this job is super dangerous and most employees don’t make it more than a year?

So you keep your head down and grind for the entirety of the contract with faith that it will come back around. Now, when your contract is up, rather than reward you with a new hefty one that might even make up for some of that time you were severely underpaid they choose to use a loophole that keeps you at the company for one more year. Sure, you get a pay raise but you still aren’t the highest paid at your position even though you are regarded as one of the top two, if not the best.

Did I mention that this job is super dangerous and any work day could be your last? Now, you work for another year for the company expecting to be compensated correctly at the end of the year because you are an integral part of the company, but the company again uses the loophole that not only robs you of the financial security that you have earned through your service in the form of a long-term contract, but also robs you of the opportunity to get paid at a different company. The company is literally holding you hostage because it is what is best for them. They could trade you or they could pay you, but instead they choose to use this loophole for the company because that is what matters to the company, the money, not the employee.

Now you are six years into a job that most people don’t make for a year and you still haven’t been offered a contract that seems fair and compensates you for what you deserve. It is clear the company just wants to use you up while you are somewhat of an economic asset because they know how dangerous the job is and once they are done with you your value will decrease because everyone knows you can’t work this job for very long.

Does that sound like a place you would want to work? Do you read that and go, “I would stay at  the company and just sign whatever?” No. You would be irate and would want out or want your money. This is exactly what is happening to Le’Veon Bell.

Bell is a human being, just like any of us, working a job, just like any of us, and wants fair compensation, just like any of us.

I know you like your teams, I understand, and I know you want them to win games, but at the end of the day they are just gigantic Fortune 500-type businesses that only care about one thing, money.  So next time a star is in the middle of a holdout or wants to change teams, ask yourself, are you really going to side with some old crusty billionaire that owns the team or the guy out there busting his butt to make that billionaire even more money just like the rest of us?

Ask yourself, do these billionaires care about fans when they move teams to a different city or suddenly trade your favorite player? How about when teams strategically sit players so they can’t achieve incentive bonuses on their contract? Do you rush to the internet to curse out the owners when this happens? A little bit of perspective can go a long way. Bell doesn’t owe me, you, any Steelers fan, or the Steelers themselves anything and I hope someone else pays him the money he deserves.


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