As Tomlinson mentioned in today’s links, a Cleveland man is suing the the NFL and its teams over the lockout, which is pretty awesome. It’s also something that was suggested by Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post last week. We can only hope that more fans will follow suit and put pressure on the league to drop the lockout.
That said, I do want to point out an unfortunate flaw in the argument made by Browns season-ticket holder Ken Lanci. Here’s how Lanci frames his case in comments made to The Associated Press:
“It’s a fight between billionaires and millionaires,” Lanci said Friday in a phone interview. “There isn’t any sympathy for multi-millionaires.
“It’s just not going to happen. And somebody has to stand up and say, ‘Enough’s enough.’”
That’s as ignorant as anything the owners and players have said, and it’s completely unfair to both parties.
First of all, the majority of NFL players do not make a million dollars per year and nearly half will not net over $1 million in their careers. Yes, they’re all paid extremely well, but people like Lanci have to consider that the average NFL career lasts three years.
Beyond that, players who qualify for post-career health coverage — only those who last three seasons make the cut — are only on the NFL’s tab for about five years. Those who don’t qualify are on their own, left to find an insurance company willing to cover their astronomical health care costs.
The irony, of course, is that a large chunk of the players who don’t last three years retire because of injuries. Many of them spend the rest of their lives trying to avoid paying expensive medical bills. Getting another job is easier said than done when you carry that much baggage.
So yes, many NFL players are multi-millionaires, but it’s important to consider that the Peyton Mannings and Tom Bradys aren’t fighting for themselves. They’re fighting for their peers — their friends — many of whom aren’t filthy rich and aren’t set for life.
Wait, is that the sound of us showing sympathy for the players? What the hell is going on around here?
Now, Lanci’s lawsuit is actually against the league, not the players (despite the fact that his comments reveal frustration in both, which is understandable). And it’s a lot harder to have sympathy for the owners, many of whom are not just multi-millionaires, but billionaires. But they’re businessmen, and without them the NFL wouldn’t be where it is today. They have the right to collectively bargain, litigate and take the steps they feel are necessary to continue to grow the game.
“Growing the game” and “getting richer” do go hand-in-hand, but that’s the reality of the situation.
The fact that the parties involved in this fight are extremely wealthy doesn’t make them ineligible to fight for what they feel is right, either in bargaining sessions or in federal courtrooms. They don’t want your sympathy, but they deserve your understanding.