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Fans Unreceptive To NFL Players' Gestures Of Union Solidarity
Published September 15, 2010
The move by players on several teams to show solidarity by "hoisting an index finger in the air" prior to Week One kickoffs "wasn't received well everywhere," including boos from fans in Houston and St. Louis, but Vikings G Steve Hutchinson said he did not know "what could be misconstrued as being any kind of negativity toward the fans with that," according to Zulgad & Scoggins of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Hutchinson, who is the team's player rep, said, "I don't know if they just misunderstood what that was supposed to mean. Maybe they thought that was a different finger being stuck up there. I don't know. But from a players' standpoint, I know our way of thinking in the game on Thursday night was just to show everyone who cares to put their two cents in about it that we are one as a players' association." He added, "I don't think the majority of the fan base really understands how serious it is yet. They probably would just think, 'They'll get it ironed [out].' Hopefully, that's what we feel as well. But the reality of it is there has been no real try of negotiation at the table, so we have to assume that they are aiming for a lockout" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 9/15). NATIONAL FOOTBALL POST's Andrew Brandt wrote the gesture of solidarity is "another strategic negotiating play in the ongoing dormant collective bargaining negotiations with the NFL." The gesture itself is "relatively innocuous," but the organizers "knew it would receive national attention to the union's mantra that they are united." The NFLPA, "leaning heavily on its communications counsel," is following a "basic principle of publicity: perception can become reality." The union is "seeking the hearts and minds of its fan base, as well as the media" (NATIONALFOOTBALLPOST.com, 9/14).
WHAT FANS WANT: In California, Jim Carlisle wrote under the header, "Leave Us Out Of Your Solidarity Displays." Carlisle: "By coming onto the field before the game and raising their index fingers, the players are saying they're all in this together, no matter what. Unfortunately, as fans, so are we. The players, in this public display, are dragging us right along with them into this whole unpleasant business, whether we want to go or not. I don't know about you, but I don't want to go" (VENTURA COUNTY STAR, 9/13). ESPN.com's Jemele Hill wrote, "I thought we liked it when athletes showed they believed in something that wasn't superficial. ... But I forgot the fine print. We want athletes to have a voice only when they utter something we all agree with; that makes us comfortable." ESPN.com's Jeff MacGregor wrote, "Sympathy of any kind is going to be a tough sell when you're talking about a union that protects the bargaining rights of 'millionaires.' ... Selling this to the public, to the fans, has to be a delicate thing. That's why the index finger is a bad idea. Looks too much like 'We're No. 1!' So it looks like a sports cliché built on brag and ego" (ESPN.com, 9/14).
READING THE TEA LEAVES: Bears President & CEO Ted Phillips said there are a "lot of issues" involved with a possible 18-game regular schedule. Phillips: "The positive is that it would probably generate more revenue in which to be able to help get a new collective bargaining agreement. That's probably the overriding reason. There are obviously concerns on the football side of things … (but) I think the league is doing a good job of looking hard at every one of those and not minimizing any one. If I was a betting man I'd say that as part of a new collective bargaining agreement we'll see 18 regular-season games and two pre-season games" (CHICAGOBUSINESS.com, 9/15). FoxSports.com's Mark Kriegel said if the season goes to 18 games, "I just hope that the NFLPA really represents these guys and gets them bigger rosters and a lot more money because that's what they deserve. These players are systematically orthopedically ruined" ("Jim Rome Is Burning," ESPN, 9/14).