November 20, 2007

Would you know the right thing if you saw it? : Currently, the front page has the most recent of several FPPs about injured NFL players being tossed on the scrap-heap. We know it happens, now let's talk about doing the right thing.

posted by lil_brown_bat to navel gazing at 07:40 AM - 21 comments

For several days, I have wanted to start this locker room thread, with the intention of tossing around ideas about what we, as fans, can do about the situation. My perspective is the fan's perspective. I'm not a player, a coach, an NFL executive or shareholder or ad-seller or vendor of logo gear. I'm not a decision-maker, but my dollars are the engine that drives the machine. To my way of thinking, that creates a situation of moral responsibility for me. Despite the fact that I'm not well-positioned to do so, I guess I've come to the conclusion that I have to do something besides sit on my couch and watch the gladiators, I mean players, batter each other into infirmity. So, if you share my belief that the situation needs to change -- what are the best ways for a fan to change it? I'll turn off the TV if that's what it takes, but I'm afraid that even if half a million people do the same, the NFL would simply misinterpret it and go for even more drama (read: brutality) to bring the ratings back. What's the right thing to do, and what's the way to do it?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 07:47 AM on November 20, 2007

I don't pretend it makes a difference, but I don't go to games for the big leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA). Of course, now that I live in the middle of nowhere it is very easy to commit to this :) However, when I lived in DC I would only pay to go to WNBA and NCAA events. I still watch games on TV, but not nearly as religiously as some. I am not a big consumer though so I don't think there is a conflict of interest in watching "free" television because I believe I am not influenced by commercials. In fact, I mute every single one of them and usually am multi-tasking anyway (IRC or Campfire sometimes). Lastly, I don't go overboard on sport clothing. I have one Steelers t-shirt that my wife got me as a gift a few years back. She has one too. I have one Arsenal shirt. All the other clothing items I have are from WNBA (Mystics tie dye!) or the University of Maryland—and I went to that school, so they already have much of my money. Oh, and my Terrible Towell is 30 years old, so that doesn't count :) 20 years ago when my father told me he envisaged a day when all sports were on pay-per-view and no one could afford to watch or go see their favourite team play. It was about then that I tried to avoid giving the big leagues too much of my money. Anyway, it is a huge windmill. Good luck!

posted by scully at 08:24 AM on November 20, 2007

Is there any solution here other than boycotting the sport? The NFL and the misnamed NFLPA are like tobacco executives in the '50s. They're not going to change unless it's forced on them.

posted by rcade at 09:11 AM on November 20, 2007

I don't know that voting with one's dollars are the only solution. I think a more successful approach might be some sort of PR offensive with the hopes of getting congressional hearings. If they could get congressional hearings for steroids in baseball, why not do it with this? Some might argue it would still be a waste of government resources, but better than the steroids thing in my mind. Get some congressmen and congresswomen to wag fingers ("For shame!!!"), make Upshaw and his consort and Goodell et al really uncomfortable, promise to have the FCC look into whether the Sunday ticket arrangement with DirecTV is anticompetitive, threaten to revisit the NFL's antitrust exemption, etc. and see what kind of leverage the Washington-types can bring to bear. Bullying and an invitation to grandstanding? For sure. But for a better cause than getting to the bottom of whether the assault on the MLB record books is tainted.

posted by holden at 10:27 AM on November 20, 2007

One suggestion in the comments to the FPP was to write the owners (link here). I would second the suggestion, recommending that the letters ask the owner what he and his organization are doing about the problem. The replies (if any) from the various teams might be interesting.

posted by Howard_T at 10:32 AM on November 20, 2007

rcade: Is there any solution here other than boycotting the sport? The NFL and the misnamed NFLPA are like tobacco executives in the '50s. They're not going to change unless it's forced on them. Well...I have a few thoughts about boycotts. The conventional wisdom says that boycotts don't work, but I wonder if that's really true. Perhaps the truth is that some people don't want them to work, or don't want others to believe that they can work, or that we don't really understand what it would mean for a boycott to "work". I think that the idea of boycotts generally gets shot down because the goal of a boycott is assumed to be something like, "Bring x company/organization to its economic knees." That would indeed be a tall order, and if one were to go about organizing a boycott with that as the objective, it would probably "fail". I think, though, that a boycott -- or don't use the word, if it makes you itchy; call it "consumer action" or something -- might succeed if it had different goals in mind. Some of these could be: - Creating a principled example. When a "boycott" consists of not buying product X, but instead walking across the street and buying equivalent product Y for the same price, no one's too impressed by that action. On the other hand, when people actually give up something they really like, without any replacement, because they don't want to give their support to something that they think is wrong, others are more likely to think there's something worth considering in the issue. - Shaming. People will argue the point about millionaire salaries, but I think there's pretty strong consensus that it's wrong to ruin someone's health and leave them eating cat food. An organization that lets this happen when it could extend considerable help for a pittance of its profits is very vulnerable to shaming. - Solidarity. It's got to be pretty hard on an ex-NFL player, feeling that the fans don't care what's become of him...or hard on a current player, feeling that as soon as he's no longer useful, he'll be forgotten. If fans say that they care enough about the problem to engage in some consumer action, maybe that helps. - Economic impact, negative. It doesn't have to be 50% of the business to have an impact. - Economic impact, positive. What if consumers redirect their economic activity into something that addresses the problem directly? What if an NFL fan takes the $150 they'd spend on a jersey and donates it instead to a fund for retired players? And what if that's done in a very public way? So, would a "boycott" like this work?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 10:49 AM on November 20, 2007

PR offensive with the hopes of getting congressional hearings That seems like the best possible outcome, but last time they had hearings, it became an excuse for Upshaw to take a vacation in a foreign land.

posted by yerfatma at 11:09 AM on November 20, 2007

Here's a write-up from the Senate hearing. For what it's worth, looks like Upshaw did make it to that one. I thought I had read additional hearings (perhaps House) were being called for, but who knows.

posted by holden at 11:26 AM on November 20, 2007

Upshaw invited Congress for help in streamlining the disability plan, asking lawmakers to exempt the Players Association from a layer of legally mandated bureaucracy and to change federal law to eliminate management representatives on the six-person board that reviews disability claims . . . "Since we are getting blamed for denying disabilities, we should be the sole voice," Upshaw said. What a complete snake. Doesn't sound like ex-players think the ownership representatives on the board are the problem: "The NFLPA approaches this as an economic issue and we all know it is a moral issue," said Daryl Johnston

posted by yerfatma at 12:36 PM on November 20, 2007

The media loves visuals, so signs held up outside stadiums on game day might be a start. Inside the game - very unlikely to be shown on TV. A web site that collates all these stories with some work to googlebomb it to a high NFL-injury ranking would be something. Maybe writing to senior star players asking them for their thoughts. I agree writing to the owners is a good idea, though they probably have PR hacks just for this job. Maybe a few would get through. They'll be quick to blame the players union, I suspect. This actually became a big issue in the NHL when Eric Lindros claimed the Flyers' physicians were either incompetent or venal in treating his concussions. So a player-led objection might be the best thing to try to foment. Should this thread be linked to the Front Page threads? Not sure of etiquette.

posted by rumple at 03:36 PM on November 20, 2007

My feeling is that this only works if the current players get behind it. I've enjoyed screaming until I'm blue in the face about other public issues that have gone nowhere, but I think this one is unworkable without some kind of internal support.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 04:16 PM on November 20, 2007

spitztengle and I were working on something quite independent before we read lil_brown_bat's locker room post (I haven't been able to spend as much time here for a while, but now I'm really glad I stopped by). Him and I are planning to try and achieve a one-game TV boycott (Dec.16), since that's what we feel is sustainable and suitable for the primary goal lbb points out -- the public shaming rather than the economic hit. It is the former that will get the media partners and corporate sponsors asking questions about their investment, and from our perspective is the more strategic lever to action than via the congressional politics route. It can't be a continual drone of negative press, however, but one hot flash mob of attention. The idea is to use the social networking services like Facebook to create the initial momentum, and then to jump tracks so to speak, via connections we have in the mainstream media and the academic world, etc. Ideally, by the third week our (refined) meme is into the sports talk echo chamber leading up to the game. Not that this is the sole approach. rumple's idea to googlebomb to an informational web site is also excellent, and there are other complementary activities for sure. We think we can make that happen in 3 weeks, though it would be much more likely to occur with the support of those interested in the SpoFi community (which begs the question of where/how political action fits into the SpoFi community). If anyone else is interested in seeing what is possible and either being a part of, or welding something else onto, or offering feedback/ideas/etc., please let us know as soon as you can. We plan to make our FB group public tomorrow so to take the plunge this week.

posted by smithers at 04:41 PM on November 24, 2007

Kyle Turley steps up. Maybe the ball is rolling. Good idea, smithers. Mods, consider sidebarring what smithers comes up with?

posted by rumple at 03:00 PM on November 27, 2007

Yeah, seems there's a couple of things going on. smithers, can you give some more details on what's involved, apart from turning off the tee vee? And are there others besides me who would be willing to start a "I'm gonna take the $ I would have spent on this NFL gear and give it to the former players instead" thing?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 03:34 PM on November 27, 2007

Good for Kyle Turley and especially so considering that he (presumably) is not a player with a lot of secondary income from endorsements and the like, meaning this is probably more of a sacrifice for him than it might be for certain others.

posted by holden at 04:18 PM on November 27, 2007

Very quickly (as I'm off to work), the first task is to try and generate awareness through social networks. We have just started a Facebook group at: So anyone on SportsFilter who is also on Facebook and is interested: 1. Please join the group. 2. Please invite all your friends. In the invite, briefly explain why you think it's important and send a link to the original article so they can read it *before* deciding whether or not to join. As for further details, more to come, but keep in mind that this is very flexible....I am more interested to hear other's ideas and we can figure out how they might work in synergy. Should we have a page for this on the SpoFiWiki so that we can all edit it and direct those not on FB there for further information?

posted by smithers at 07:29 AM on November 28, 2007

Thanks for doing this, smithers. I joined up -- hopefully other spofites will do the same. (Damn, I'm gonna miss that Pats-jets beatdown...)

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:56 AM on November 28, 2007

Damn, I'm gonna miss that Pats-jets beatdown... Well, that raises an interesting question: Turley is picking the Dec. 23 game as the game he will donate his salary from. Does it make sense to try a media boycott on the same day as him for further impact (and to give more time to grow the group)? Or do you stay with the 16th with the hopes that it "spurs" players into joining Turley?

posted by smithers at 09:30 PM on November 28, 2007

BTW, Bob McCown of Prime Time Sports was discussing the issue today on the radio and said he was planning to have Turley on the show Thursday to talk more. McCown seemed to think that Turley is being or will be blackballed by the league and union for taking this stand, which seems to make it even more important that the fans stand up and be counted as much as possible.

posted by smithers at 09:35 PM on November 28, 2007

smithers, I'm not so sure coinciding the 16th boycott plans with the 23rd Gridiron Guardian game is necessary. I think we stick with the 16th, 'cause that was the plan regardless of other action ... and then make contingency plans based on what happens after the 23rd. Continue to raise awareness about this issue via the 16th boycott. Anticipate a positive response from the 23rd ... but plan to sustain action afterwards ... until it's fixed! On another note, does anyone find it incredibly ironic to hear that someone "might" be blackballed for standing up and doing the right thing ... by the very stakeholders that he's trying to benefit? Improve football afterlife for current players = good thing. Improve conditions that tarnish the League = good thing also. This is that much sought-after win-win, folks! imho anyway.

posted by Spitztengle at 11:40 PM on November 28, 2007

On another note, does anyone find it incredibly ironic to hear that someone "might" be blackballed for standing up and doing the right thing ... by the very stakeholders that he's trying to benefit? Ironic but not surprising. The history of labor organizing is full of just such incidents. I agree about the timing -- if this gets fixed, it won't be with one big action but with a lot of smaller ones. The advantage is to allow different concerned individuals and organizations to focus in ways that work for them, maybe emphasizing the aspects that they feel are most important, and also to convey that the concern comes from more than one source. Ditka and Co. represent oneconcerned group; Turley represents another (and God bless him for doing the right thing even though it makes him unpopular with one fo the groups he's trying to help). Fans are a third. My thought for a follow-on is a campaign to get fans to take the money they would have spent on NFL gear and instead pay it directly to a fund for retired players (maybe Ditka's). A lot of so-called political organizations, particularly ones with an internet presence, fall over themselves these days to make involvement in political or social causes easy and pain-free. I think they're barking up the wrong tree. Checking a web petition doesn't make you involved, and anyone receiving such a petition is going to measure it by the commitment of those who "signed" in -- IOW, they're going to take it very lightly indeed. When you give up something you want, whether it be watching a game on the 16th or a Randy Moss jersey, to do the right thing, then you are involved, and you're a lot more likely to stay with it and insist on seeing some results for your action.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 07:49 AM on November 29, 2007

You're not logged in. Please log in or register.