Antonio Brown got his way. Good for him. I’ve never been one who thought that NFL players were “product” the way most of its uneducated fans portray them.
The NFL owners are in their glory years of control because of one entity… the NFLPA. Unlike the NBPA, the NFLPA has shown how years of incompetent negotiations can put the people you represent in the worst positions.
Antonio Brown wasn’t wrong in wanting out of Pittsburgh. The organization had decided that everyone was expendable except for the quarterback. It’s Ben Roethlisberger who has been allowed to break every code of the locker room and run to the media to throw his teammates under the bus. And, anyone who is paying attention has seen Roethlisberger do this to his teammates and his coach. If you want to play for the Steelers, you have to put up with the ultimate diva who has won two Super Bowls, even though, his biggest victory was beating a sexual assault claim. That’s your leader.
Brown wanted out of Pittsburgh and in the NFL, there’s only one way to do it, become a distraction. Players in untenable situations have to go out and humiliate and devalue themselves to get out of negative situations.
This is the fault of the NFLPA who has allowed owners to give the Commissioner more power than any other league. They’ve allowed the owners to limit movement through several mechanisms. The Franchise tag prevents movement. The Transition tag discourages it. The cap rules prevents players from having as many suitors as they could have.
When the NFL players whined about NBA guaranteed contracts they only had themselves to blame. The NBA has correctly recognized that the owners and players have to be partners for the league to work. The NFLPA has allowed the NFL owners to convince everyone and their Mom that the players have no value unless they are the quarterback. Everyone else is nothing more than unskilled labor.
The NBA players never let that happen for a couple of reasons. The main one being, the NBA consumer is smart enough to know that the skillset of the players is the most important thing about a game that is based on continuous action. Also, NBA fans don’t want to see mediocre play that produces a bunch of 40-42 teams. NFL fans crave it as the league packages mediocrity as parity.
If the NFL players want this to change, they will probably have to live through an extended lockout or strike. The NFL owners have no reason to consider change when the NFLPA’s incompetence has allowed the owners to milk this cash cow for all its worth. And unlike NBA fans, NFL fans are of an ilk that you would expect them not to understand all that is at work nor do they care.
Going forward it will be interesting to see if we see more Antonio Brown like behavior or another Le’veon Bell type of holdout. Since the players can’t get leadership becoming of a multi-billion dollar business, they have no choice but to act like a fool.