Sunday Reading: NFL Players Get Real World Inspiration

Recently I've commented on the sometimes fractured solidarity of the NFL players as the expiration date for the league's collective bargaining agreement draws near.

News of a potential NFL work stoppage has begun to seep over from the sports sections to the business section. But in the past week, it appears that many "real world" issues are starting to find their way into the league's affairs.

Some inside and outside of the NFL Players Association have questioned union head DeMaurice Smith's ability to get a deal done without giving up major concessions. While other players have publicly expressed their support, Smith used the inspiration of the recent Egyptian revolution to help make his case and galvanize his constituents at the same time.

Via The Nation:
“You know,” he said, “we watched things unfold in a far-off country where a lot of the discussion preceding the protests was purely social media, people connecting. We have an ability to get our ‘let us play’ ad out. We know that anybody listening can type in ‘let us play’ and that ad will pop up and, frankly, if networks want to make a decision to boycott us, keep us off, those are the kind of things that get me fired up and let me know that I’m on the right side of right.”
His words were given a boost by a pair of news stories peripherally related to football later in the week. It began with the ongoing public worker protests in Wisconsin. Several current and former Green Bay Packers publicly extended their support for the unions, the most notable being All-Pro cornerback Charles Woodson.

Woodson's statement was about more than looking good in the eyes of Packer fans (although it certainly won't hurt). It was also a message to owners from one of the league's elected NFLPA player representatives about the union's resolve to fight.

The second story was the tragic suicide of former Chicago Bear Dave Duerson. Just a day after his death, reports surfaced that Duerson believed football led to a degenerative brain disease and left his brain intact in order to have it studied. The idea has strengthened current players' objections to the idea of an 18-game regular season. It should also boost the union's push for better benefits for retired players.

DeMaurice Smith: On an NFL Lockout and Inspiration From Egypt

For perhaps the first time in the history of NFL labor negotiations, the players have significant leverage. The league is reportedly earning billions every year (and was recently reported to be nearing a $2 billion extension with ESPN to continue broadcasting Monday Night Football), yet is asking the players to take a "trust us" approach over owners' claims of financial losses. The players are being asked to work more for less money while the league will still collect television revenue even if there is no football next season. 

Everything is aligned for Smith and the NFLPA to begin their stand here. If this week doesn't build player unity, what will?

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