“TAMBA HALI IS TWEETING HIS THOUGHTS.”
According to head coach Andy Reid, there’s definitely something. But it wasn’t what Hali complained about – his own role on the team, playing time, and how players who show commitment are treated versus those who don’t – that upset Reid; it was how he voiced his opinion.
“The fact that the guy wants to get out there and go, absolutely (I approve), but let’s not do it through tweeting or whatever he did,” Reid said Monday.
It’s long been the norm in the NFL, and across professional sports, to keep any complaints in-house, deal with them among your teammates and coaches, and move on.
However, as the sports landscape continues to evolve and NFL players are regularly pushed to just accept the way things are, using social media to directly voice opinions is more important than ever.
Players cannot rely on their teams to accurately portray them, as we’ve recently seen with the Washington Redskins trying to use the media to make Kirk Cousins seem greedy. While some reporters are very trustworthy, anyone can take a quote or an action and spin it in the direction they want.
On the other hand, social media and personal blogs give players a direct line to fans and the public in general. They also allow players to present their own news with their own takes – something Reed took issue with. But if teams and media are allowed to do it, why can’t players?
Whether playing time, safety, treatment by management, or contract structure, there are plenty of valid reasons for players to feel a need to address the public and tell their own side of the story. And with a strike potentially looming at the end of the current CBA, it will be crucial for players like Hali, Richard Sherman, Le’Veon Bell, and anyone else willing to speak their minds to be able to do so.
The NFL has gone through six lockouts in its history, beginning with a 12-day boycott in 1968 and most recently with a five-month stretch in 2011. Though the narrative has moved more toward favoring the players in these disputes, there’s still a large portion of fans who lash out at the athletes for wanting more money.
Those fans are wrong. The players may be looking for more dollars, but the league and its owners who refuse to pay them their worth are far, far richer and greedier.
If the players do decide to strike when the current CBA expires in 2020, they will be under enough pressure from the league and its owners; they certainly don’t need droves of uneducated fans calling them out with no way to respond.
There’s also the issue of player safety. The Journal of the American Medical Association’s recent study of NFL players’ brains revealed a startlingly high frequency of CTE diagnosis – certainly no small development. Several players immediately shared the article on Twitter after reading, sending the message to fans that all these new findings are concerning. Many observers still aren’t getting the message that players are putting their lives on the line every game, and until they learn about those personal struggles, pressure to make real player safety changes may never reach the league office.
This all comes back to the players’ ability to have a voice – their own voice. Whether through The Players’ Tribune, Twitter, Instagram, personal websites, or whatever else can be used to get the word out, they have a right to be heard. The days of just doing what you’re told because that’s the way things are is disappearing from society, and football should be no different.
Copyright © 2017 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.