Earlier today, in an appearance on ProFootballTalk Live, Seahawks guard and NFLPA* player rep Chester Pitts pointed out that he’s a football player, not a lawyer, which makes it hard for him to comment in detail on the pending legal actions between the players and the league.
That said, Pitts does a pretty good job of breaking it all down.
Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth, a member of the NFLPA* Executive Committee and likely the group’s next president, made similar — yet more colorful — remarks on Monday night, per Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News.
“I’m not a business man. I’m a football player,” Foxworth said after participating in a panel discussion at Rutgers-Camden Law School. “I want to play football. All these media wranglings . . . it’s not what we do. It’s not something we’re comfortable with. We want something that’s fair to continue to play. That’s what stresses me out the most.
“We get kind of dragged through the mud in this whole thing. It [seems] like we’re doing this media wrangling and tricking. I’m not. The Executive Committee is not. We’re trying to get a deal done. We want to play football. The [owners] don’t play football. They’re businessman. They’re lawyers. They’re strategists. That’s who they are. And that’s what they’re doing.
“We’ve made the mistake, I think, of getting sucked into it at times,” Foxworth added. “No one cares. No one wants to hear this. No one wants to read about, ‘We said this. They said that.’ We recognize that. It’s embarrassing to be a part of that. . . . But it pisses me off. We just want to play. The audited financials got built up as this kind of dead end that we set up. But we also said we can continue with the way the deal was and you don’t have to show us anything. Let’s keep it going. So we’ve tried every avenue short of selling out every former and future player in the National Football League.”
That’s a bit of an overstatement. The players have tried two avenues — demanding 10 years of audited financial statements or sticking with a status quo that the owners clearly don’t intend to follow. There’s a broad middle ground between those two positions that, for whatever reason, the players refuse to explore.
Actually, Foxworth’s comments on the financial transparency issue confirm his concerns regarding the players’ inability to secure victory in the court of public opinion. In too many instances, the players are parroting talking points that overly simplify the issues. Though men like Pitts are capable of delving into the details and the nuances, hyperbolic comments describing the league’s offer as “the worst deal in the history of sports” will do nothing to win over the fans.
The league, on the other hand, has a pre-existing P.R. apparatus, honed by years of having to clean up messes caused by players who find trouble, or vice versa. The players as a group rarely have to worry about P.R. issues, and NFLPA* spokesman George Atallah simply has too many balls to juggle, given that he has more than 1,800 players who may decide at any given moment to say or do something that undermines the cause.
Indeed, Foxworth’s commentary about the imbalance in the P.R. operations undermines the cause by giving the NFL even more reason to believe that, eventually, the players will decide that the time has come to do the best possible deal and get back to their comfort zone — playing football.
We’ve got a feeling that, if the NFL wins the hearing on the motion to lift the lockout, that time could come sooner rather than later.