SBJ/Sept. 20-26, 2010/Opinion

Labor casts long shadow

If the NFL were a Hollywood summer release, its opening would rank as a blockbuster. Ratings for the league’s kickoff were up significantly in the biggest windows, especially in prime time, and the Back To Football promotional effort matched fan interest in seeing the game’s return.

Despite this focus on the field, the undertow of the NFL labor talks pulled the league and the players into a story line that bears watching. Many players took to the field before their openers and offered a show of solidarity by thrusting a finger in the air to signify “one” union, together, strong and unified. It could be seen as a public slap at ownership, who secretly believes it can break players’ will after a few missed paychecks.
Some found the gesture striking; others found it worthless. Fans in at least one market booed. When asked about the reaction, Vikings player rep Steve Hutchinson 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.” Fans got what the players were inferring, but to their credit, they don’t want it rubbed in their face.
When will players and owners understand there is no public appetite for disputes over money? The public won’t be a constituency that will take a side. The public won’t be a vocal advocate for either group. So don’t court them with antics that you feel may be powerful. They might deem them demeaning. If the labor tensions continue to creep onto Sunday story lines, the NFL’s blockbuster opening may quickly lose its legs.
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