Richard Sherman’s rallying cry at the ESPYS earlier this week accomplished what a good motivational speech is supposed to do. It fired up the troops.
Sherman, a member of the NFL Player Association’s Executive Committee, used his soapbox on the red carpet to express his discontent with the wage gap between his peers and other professional sports leagues, particularly the NBA, which had just handed out about $1 billion to its players during the first 24 hours of its free-agency period.
Asked by Jalen Rose if NFL players would consider striking to get similar deals, Sherman took the bait and ran with it.
“Oh, 100 percent. If we want as the NFL, as a union, to get anything done, players have to be willing to strike. That’s the thing that guys need to 100 percent realize,” Sherman answered.
Then he went down the wrong path, at least from a factual standpoint.
“You’re going to have to miss games, you’re going to have to lose some money if you’re willing to make the point, because that’s how MLB and NBA got it done,” Sherman claimed. “They missed games, they struck, they flexed every bit of power they had, and it was awesome. It worked out for them.”
Sounds like a great stump speech, right?
And one seconded by the NFLPA.
The problem is no matter how many times you repeat specious information, it doesn’t magically become true.
While Sherman and the social media arm of the NFLPA may not understand what took place in 2011 over in the NBA, the union’s negotiators certainly are well aware.
The NBA players were actually locked out by their owners, who were intent on fixing what they called a broken system, claiming 22 of its member teams were losing money at the time. Furthermore, by the time it was over, those players who “flexed every bit of power they had” didn’t get such an “awesome” outcome. Their cut of BRI (Basketball Related Income) was lowered from 57 percent to essentially a 50-50 split.
Neither a strike nor collective bargaining had anything to do with NBA player salaries spiking; an explosion of BRI, due to a monster new television deal kicking in, did. Pre-2011 lockout, the numbers you have all been reading about would have been even larger.
That’s not to say the NFL players shouldn’t pick a hill to die on if they believe in it, but it’s a good idea to make sure that hill exists.
This fight has to be defined correctly before the next round of CBA negotiations. For instance, as the most popular sport in this country, it’s fair for NFL players to argue they deserve a higher percentage of their split (48.5 percent) with owners than NBA players get (51 percent in 2017-18).
Expecting to get James Harden or Stephen Curry-like contracts is the hill that doesn’t exist because the NFL’s pie — while much larger — has to be shared with far more people and the league’s injury rate prohibits long-term guaranteed contracts.
Educating players on the pros and cons of realistic goals is always a better strategy than hyperbole.
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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