Mark Madden: Don’t feel bad for NFL players

October 3, 2018

Le’Veon Bell told ESPN, “I want to play, but I’ve got to take this stand.”

After Seattle safety Earl Thomas broke his leg Sunday, Bell posted this on social media: “I’ll continue to be the bad guy for all of us.”

Workers of the world, unite!

Does anybody believe Bell is taking “this stand” for the greater good? He isn’t. Bell wants to add to his mad stacks. He’s a multimillionaire who wants even more.

That’s OK. But don’t pretend to represent the proletariat.

Same applies to Thomas, who skipped practice to protect his body because he’s in the last year of his contract.

It didn’t work. Thomas broke his leg Sunday, then inexplicably flipped off the Seahawks bench as he was carted off. NBC’s Rodney Harrison called Thomas “a classy guy.” Thomas isn’t. Neither was Harrison when he played.

Thomas isn’t a victim in any way. He’s a contracted employee making $10.5 million this year, but he refused to work and got away with it. Until his leg broke.

Thomas wants a new, long-term deal. But Seattle doesn’t think he’s worth what he’s asking. Seahawks ownership and management have that right, just like Steelers ownership and management don’t have to give Bell what he wants.

Players and agents can’t unilaterally impose their demands. There isn’t a reverse franchise tag.

NFL players want to “get theirs,” but it’s not theirs. Not until the owner signs the check.

NFL owners are old, white jerks. But it’s their league, teams and money. If you want to change that, don’t ditch practice. Call Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

The quest of Bell and Thomas doesn’t parallel Cesar Chavez organizing farm workers. Bell is 26, and he has made $16 million. Thomas is 29, and he has made $55 million. “Theirs” is more than “mine” or “yours” or any schoolteacher’s. Bell and Thomas can live more than comfortably on what they’ve already made.

Bell got screwed by the franchise tag, which keeps free agency from being free. But the franchise tag is part of the NFL CBA, which Bell’s union agreed to.

NFL players should have guaranteed contracts like baseball, basketball and hockey. But they don’t, because the NFL Players’ Association also agreed to that.

The CBA expires in 2020. The NFLPA needs to do a better job negotiating. But the players must be prepared to miss some paychecks, because shutting down the league is their only leverage. (Anybody see “The Replacements”?)

We get told players sacrifice their bodies and their brains, blah, blah, blah, and it’s made to sound noble, except it’s not. Playing football is a choice. If the risk outweighs the reward for you, don’t play. Many don’t.

The average NFL career is just a little more than three years. But good players play longer, so be good. Duh.

NFL players get 48.5 percent of revenue. That’s fair. Find me a work force outside pro sports that get a bigger percentage of the industry’s take. Truck drivers, steamfitters and steelworkers don’t get 48.5 percent. Bell isn’t Norma Rae.

Nothing is more boring than rich folk complaining about a work situation that’s better than what 99.9 percent of the hoi polloi have to deal with.

Thomas broke his leg. Boo-hoo. Sorry, but it’s difficult to feel pity for somebody that made $55 million before he was 30.

Ryan Shazier suffered a catastrophic injury, and thank God he’s able to mostly live normally. But Shazier made $16 million.

Millions are dissatisfied with their jobs. There’s misfortune in the workplace every day. NFL players are people, just like everybody else. They would do well to remember that occasionally.

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