New NFLPA Chief DeMaurice Smith is taking to the NFL practice facilities of America, trying to educate players as to what the NFL really is.
That’s one of the issues that Gene Upshaw apparently never dealt with…the education of players as to what they were doing as a union and who they were playing for. Smith is trying to get players to point out to the media that NFL stadiums are built with public funds…and if the league locks players out, teams will be backing out on promises that were made when those stadiums were built.
Smith is going to have to change his message in different markets. Here in St. Louis, any promises about jobs and development that were made to build the Edward Jones Dome were made well before the Rams came to town.
He needs to make sure Cowboy players know about Jerry Jones spending $750 million of his own money on the Cowboys new stadium. He probably needs to educate Patriots players about Robert Kraft footing the bill for Gillette Stadium. Or the league’s $300 million loan to the Jets and Giants for their new palace, bringing the NFL outlay of stadium loans to more than $700 million.
This is a lot for players to digest, and I’m sure they can do it.
Here’s my suggestion to DeMaurice Smith. Educate your players that if they want to be true union members, if they want the support of unions, then understand that they shouldn’t be crossing the picket lines of other unions. That they should be buying American cars to support the UAW, rather than their Mercedes and BMW’s. That they should understand that that Chrysler worker in Fenton is their brother, despite their socioeconomic differences.
I’ll never forget the NFL work stoppage in 1987, when striking St. Louis Cardinal players attended a concert at the Fox Theatre, walking right past striking ushers and ticket takers that had set up a picket line. Players were on strike, but had no clue about what unions do.
The sooner NFL players start relating to fans as equals, the sooner fans will be able to appreciate the hardships players are dealing with as owners present a new economic plan for the league.