Perhaps emboldened by the lockout, there has been a small, but loud chorus of players who have publicly questioned the authority of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. The loudest of these outbursts have come from Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker and frequent recipient of Goodell's discipline, James Harrison, who called Goodell a "devil" and vowed that he "wouldn't piss on (Goodell) if he was on fire."
With the lockout ending, several other players have stepped forward to add their opinions regarding Goodell's discipline. Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White referred to Goodell as a "dictator" in an ESPN interview. Harrison's teammate and NFLPA representative Ryan Clark questioned Goodell's role as "judge, jury, and appeals process" regarding player discipline. In the words of another frequent guest in Goodell's office, Cincinnati receiver Chad Ochocinco, "Child, please!"
Most, if not all of these NFL players have never held a job outside of football. They're probably not aware that the rest of us, who fork over considerable sums of our salaries to watch them play a game, work under the same "Draconian" conditions as they do, except for much, much less financial reward. It's not at all unusual for an employee to be unilaterally disciplined or even terminated without any appeals process whatsoever. If the marketing director of XYZ Inc. goes out and gets arrested on Saturday for driving drunk, or violates company policy, there's a pretty good chance he or she is going to be summoned to the boss's office on Monday morning… and that's the best case. There's also a great chance that they may arrive at the office with their stuff packed in a box and security guards waiting to escort them from the building. That decision would come from the boss and would not be negotiable or subject to appeal. In fact, for those of us who have lived in "at will" employment states, there's not even any legal recourse to be pursued. Maybe, if the company is gracious, you'll receive a severance package. Otherwise, it's time to file for unemployment and COBRA.
If James Harrison and his NFL cohorts feel put upon by Roger Goodell's "dictatorship," perhaps they should do what the rest of us do when we're tired of "taking it from the man." Hang out your own shingle, James. Roddy White could form his own LLC, "Pass Catching R Us." He could market his skills and see how many people would pay to see him catch footballs as an independent contractor.
I don't begrudge NFL players for the money they make. They're fabulous athletes who provide entertainment at a price dictated by the market. They deserve what they make. What I take issue with is players like Harrison and White who, when something goes against them all of a sudden don't want to abide by the market. Both players are immensely talented individuals, but they're not the show. The game is the show. And if Harrison and others want to be upset with what they see as excessive punishment, they should really be talking to their peers who went to Goodell and specifically asked him to crack down on offenders, both for the safety and the reputation of everyone else in the league.
So, flee the "devil" Larry. Retire from the NFL, come on out and join the rest of us in this job market. Get an eight to four job (if you can) and see if you can find a boss that treats you more fairly than Roger Goodell. I warn you though, you'll probably take a pay cut.
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