“I didn’t know I was a slave until I found out I couldn’t do the things I wanted” – Frederick Douglas
I admittedly don’t follow the NFL as closely as I follow college football. But there are several NFL teams that I love to pull against, though for quite different reasons.
The first is the Indianapolis Colts. It has nothing to do with the fact that the Colts used to be a Baltimore team and left for Indy. Nor does it have anything to do with this or that player on the Colts. (I actually rather like Peyton Manning, for instance.) No, the reason I don’t like the Colts is the franchise owner Jim Irsay. A few years back, a group that included Rush Limbaugh (at a 5% stake), was attempting to buy the hapless St. Louis Rams. Some players were adamant about not wanting to play for a team owned by Limbaugh, even if it was only 5%. Apparently being a conservative makes you a racist. That’s fine, I don’t have a very high standard for the rationality and logical discourse of professional athletes. But then Irsay chimed in, trying to make some moral high & mighty statements about not wanting the players to have to play for a guy like Limbaugh.
Now, if Irsay had simply said “in this business it’s better not to have strong political standing one way or the other” I would have been fine – in fact I’d agree. But no, he made an issue out of conservatism. To that end I would ask, “why would the fans, who are by and large conservative, want to cheer for a team (and buy merchandise) owned by a raging liberal?” Now, I don’t know much about Irsay’s politics, but the fact that he got involved was enough for me to find the Colts disagreeable. It’s a good year to find the Colts disagreeable, by the way – they’re 0-10.
The other team is the Minnesota Vikings. This one is a bit harder, as I grew up a Vikings fan (I lived in Minnesota for a few years when I was a child). During the NFL lockout, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson made statements that playing for the NFL was like modern day slavery. Seriously? It was one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard. Nobody owns you Adrian. You are more than welcome to go find a job in any other field you desire. You are more than welcome to negotiate with the owners for a bigger share of the pie, and you can negotiate collectively (freedom of association). But spare me to sob story about how you’re a victim.
It turns out it’s also a good year to dislike the Vikings. They’re 2-7 and got blasted 45-7 last night by the rival Greenbay Packers. Fortunately the Vikings do not play the Colts this season, and I can continue to pull against both teams. The current Viking downfall is made sweeter by the fact that, shortly after Peterson’s victim diatribe, he was signed a contract making him the highest paid running back in NFL history. Perhaps spending all that money on Peterson wasn’t a good business decision.
The Peterson syndrome is apparently spreading. The NBA is also in a lockout and has already had to cancel quite a few games. A lawyer for the players, Jeffrey Kessler, says “instead of treating the players like partners, [the owners are] treating them like plantation workers.” Yes, that’s exactly what’s going on. The NBA owners have put out a ton of money to purchase teams, negotiate functional arenas, advertise, and all sorts of other expenses. How dare they try to get as much money as possible out of the deal.
Are the players underpaid? Who knows? I don’t have any problem with the players getting as much as they can get either. Negotiation is fair (as long as it’s fair). I, unlike so many progressives in the world, feel no need, right, or authority to say “this or that person is overpaid” when I’m not the one doing the paying (directly or indirectly). But when I am doing the paying – as with all public workers – I feel no compunction about griping when I see overpayment and graft. As for the rest, the free market, where free people interact freely with one another to buy and sell goods and services as they see fit, will determine who is or isn’t overpaid.
So I don’t mind the negotiations of these parties. The owners can negotiate collectively and so can the players. (And if the owners decided they would no longer negotiate collectively with the players, that too is a legitimate collective negotiation tactic – and the players can decide to stand together or fall apart.) But spare me the “slavery” nonsense. You guys are not victims. You are not entitled to vast sums of money, but you are more than welcome to have them if you acquire them through fair dealing.