In the aftermath of Wednesday’s decision by the NFL to alter the anthem policy in a way that managed to do more harm than good, the NFL Players Association wasn’t happy. The NFL’s players can do something about that in a way that is far more immediate and tangible than pursuing legal remedies over the next several months.
The NFL’s players can make their displeasure known by boycotting OTAs.
Technically (but not actually), these ongoing offseason workouts are voluntary. There’s no requirement to be there. So if the players aren’t happy with ownership right now, all they have to do is nothing.
Yes, some players would jeopardize offseason workout bonuses if they miss more than 10 or 20 percent of the total offseason program. But if players aren’t willing to go without a six-figure payment in order to prove a point now, how will they ever go without seven-figure salaries when the time comes to consider striking, or not caving in the face of a lockout?
Besides, it’s not as if all players need to not show up. If the NFL’s starting quarterbacks come together and agree to make it known to all other quarterbacks on the roster that none of them will be working, well, good luck having football practice with no quarterbacks.
And if any of the young quarterbacks decide to cross the de facto picket line, consider this cautionary tale from Paul Zimmerman’s memoir.
In 1974, Chiefs quarterback David Jaynes, a third-round rookie, crossed the picket line. Center Jack Rudnay, who was the leader of Kansas City’s strike effort, had a message for Jaynes when the strike ended.
“Before practice Rudnay had taken a pair of scissors and cut out the crotch of his football pants,” Zimmerman writes. “When he got down to snap the ball, everything was hanging out. Jaynes began his call . . . he reached down . . . and the ball went flying out of his hands.”
Coach Hank Stram, monitoring practice from a tower, yelled, “What’s the hell’s going on down there?”
“He won’t take the snap, Coach,” Rudnay replied.
“Well, get another quarterback in there,” Stram said.
And that, according to Zimmerman, was the beginning of the end for David Jaynes.
At best, it’s the end of the beginning of the NFL’s anthem controversy. If the players are genuinely upset about what has happened, it also could be the beginning of perhaps the most significant thing they can do.
Come Tuesday morning, they can not show up.