A few weeks ago, I wrote about how players should be punished for holding out on their current contract. It’s time to look at the other side of the problem and how the NFL needs to hold team owners accountable. I’ve said many times before that the NFL has more player holdouts than any other sport than I can remember. You rarely see it in MLB, NBA or NHL. This offseason there has been so much turmoil with players like Ezekiel Elliott, Melvin Gordon and even more recently Julio Jones. The NFL could have used an arbitrator with all the issues Antonio Brown has caused this offseason. The one sport that gets it right is baseball. I’ve never seen a major player sit out due to contractual issues. There have been lockouts in the past as an entire league, but you don’t see stars like Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, Mookie Betts, or Bryce Harper sitting out due to not getting the money they want. They are usually in free agency without a team waiting to be paid.
Baseball teams fear going to arbitration because usually the player has the statistical proof of why they should be getting a raise. In 2019 alone, two of the biggest names got significant raises from what they made the previous year. Jacob deGrom made 7.4 million dollars in 2018 and now is making 17 million dollars in 2017. Mookie Betts made 10.5 million dollars in 2018 and now is make 20 million dollars in 2019. I believe the arbitration process in MLB is fair and it’s been proven that it hasn’t always ruled in favor of the player. In 2016, Lindsey Foltin (Current Sr. Producer Yahoo Sports/formerly worked for Fox Sports, NFL Media and CBS) wrote an article, “The most memorable arbitration hearings of the past 25 years.” If you don’t believe me just read the article and it shows that the arbitration process if fair in baseball.
Several weeks ago, I actually got into an interesting discussion with my good friend and sports radio host Big Drew of ESPN 96.1 and we talked about the Ezekiel Elliott situation. He had pointed out to me that football is a much more violent sport than baseball is, so he couldn’t fault someone for wanting the money they have worked hard for. To Drew’s point, he was absolutely right about that. Football is a much more violent sport and the shelf life of a superstar football player is much shorter than a superstar baseball player. You don’t see a lot of superstar football players going into their 40’s like you do baseball unless your name is Tom Brady. Even though the NFL has addressed concussions and has made more of an effort to protect it’s players, it’s still never going to be enough. It’s always going to be a violent, physical and contact sport. These NFL players live with some of their injuries for the rest of their lives, so from the perspective you cannot blame them for wanting to be paid in order to take care of themselves and their families. I firmly believe that if the NFL had a similar arbitration system that MLB does, I don’t think you would see players like Zeke, Melvin, Julio or AB make all these demands and threaten not to play.
An independent arbitrator is objective and views it from all sides. As I mentioned before in regards to baseball, the arbitrator doesn’t always side with the player. The statistical performances have to be there and proven why they should be making more money. Players holding out, threatening not to play and owners not willing to pay is not a good look for the sport. Also putting stipulations in regarding guaranteed money is very shady as well. Last I checked the definition of guarantee is, “a formal promise or assurance (typically in writing) that certain conditions will be fulfilled.” The subject of guaranteed money regarding NFL players is another big issue as we saw with what happened with Antonio Brown and the Oakland Raiders. At some point, the NFL is going to have to come up with a solution that benefits all parties. Last year, Le’veon Bell sat out and this year it’s Melvin Gordon. How many more players sitting out is it going to take for the NFL to realize there is a problem? Only the NFL can answer that question. Hopefully, it’s answered sooner rather than later.