The Real Reason for the Lockout

By Je’Rod Cherry

The NFL owners continued willingness to lock out players should serves as a two minute warning to all Americans, that things are going to drastically change financially in America.  Think about it, why would ultra-successful business men jeopardize the health, popularity, and profitability of their enterprise if there were not a greater fear?

Recently, Standard and Poors, a credit rating agency, suggested that America may soon loose its AAA credit status.  A lower credit rating translates to a loss of purchasing  power for every one in America, and that includes wealthy NFL owners. If Standard and Poors lowers the US credit rating, the end result is that it will require more dollars to buy products in a global open market trade system.  In essence, America will become a poorer nation.

In the global economy,  US consumers compete with other countries for the right to buy goods and services from both domestic and international producers.

For the past sixty to seventy years, Americans have been the possessor  of a more valuable currency.  With a more valuable currency Americans have had the luxury of paying less for the right to purchase domestic and international products.   It appears moving forward, Americans will have an internationally less valuable currency.  This means that we will have to spend much more to acquire goods and services both at home and abroad.

Oil, groceries, clothing, and other items we Americans purchase will cost significantly more if, and when, America’s credit score is lowered and demand for products like energy, and food remain high.

The International Monetary Fund, or IMF, just projected that by 2016 the US economy will began to  loose ground to China as the economic world power.

This is important because NFL owners get paid in dollars, not euros, pesos, and or yuans. Thus, if the IMF is correct, and due to our overwhelming national debt they probably are correct, nine billion dollars today that the NFL owners and players are fighting over will not have the same value or purchasing power in the future if America looses it’s top tier credit status, coupled with a shrinking economy and devalued dollar.

In my opinion the real reason owners imposed and are continuing to impose a lockout is because they realize that moving forward with a future devalued dollar is highly probable.  A devalued dollar can significantly lessen a NFL owners personal level of wealth, return on investment, and may possibly jeopardize a NFL owners ability to operate a NFL team at a profit.

Consequently, the now defunct NFLPA is aware of the potential future financial woes and refuses to make a financial sacrifice and acquiesce to the NFL owners demands.  The NFLPA leaders mindset is that the NFL owners financial gain equates to NFL players financial loss, and vice-versa for the owners, thus the gridlock and a continued lockout.  Yes, the NFL lockout is about money, however, if our country was not loosing ground to China and our nations financial future was not in serious turmoil, we are not having this discussion.


Wrong or Right

By Je’Rod Cherry

Unless you have been under a rock, Andrian Peterson, the star running back for the Minnesota Vikings, is under fire for comparing his plight as a NFL player and the structure of the NFL system as the equivalent to modern day slavery. Despite being banned in 1865, aka the 13th Amendment, slavery does still exist in America.

True modern day slavery in America exist in the form of human trafficking, in which the laborers are typically sex slaves and forced laborers in restaurants, hotels, domestic services, industrial sweatshops, and agricultural settings.

If you take a trip outside of our America, you will find classic slavery is not hidden like in America. Instead, it is openly practiced in certain countries, despite United Nations sanctions and accords that are anti-slavery in nature and sentiment.

So for starters, there is sadly modern day slavery in which one human being controls the fate of another human being and treats that person as personal property to be used at the owner/master discretion, with the slave receiving nothing in return in regards to a better “quality of life” for his or her labor.

That right there eliminates Peterson’s claim that the NFL and his plight as a player within the NFL laborer system is the equivalent to modern day slavery.  As far as I can tell, no one is allowing true modern day slaves to eat in restaurants and stay in hotels for free, or paying thousands of dollars for their signature.

Yet, before we cast collective stones at Peterson and dismiss him as foolish, irrational, and misguided, for the sake of open dialogue I will explain to you how Peterson could derive the notion that the NFL labor structure parallels slavery. We will assume that Peterson was paralleling the NFL with classic American Southern antebellum slavery, in which slaves worked on a plantation and were traded at slave trade auctions.

As a former player, I can recall having conversations about our plight at the combine with other rookie NFL hopefuls. Though misguided, we felt like we were at a slave auction. We were asked to strip down to our under pants while team doctors and officials would ask us to turn around so that they could observe and measure our dimensions. Some team officials would even ask you to open your mouth, in similar fashion to how a veterinarian may diagnose the health of a horse and or livestock.

During slavery, slaves were also put on a platform and observed so that slave purchasers could diagnose the health of potential slaves. This was done so that the slave owner or purchaser did not make a bad investment and purchase a slave that had poor health or undesirable physical measurements that would prevent him or her from doing their physical task.

In essence, my experience at the combine as well as Peterson’s, served the same functional purpose as a slave auction in that if you are going to make an investment in a person’s physical ability to perform a certain task you should, and will, look over and under the hood and investigate a person health through observation, especially considering that thousands to millions of dollars are going to be invested in that person’s ability to perform a physical task. Thus the “parallel” to slavery is there.

The issue of being property is another “parallel” that exist between slavery and the NFL system. Once purchased, the the slave master owned all the physical rights of the slave, because at that time the slave was not viewed as having natural or inalienable rights, the bill of rights did not apply. Slaves were viewed as personal property. For example, if a slave had a a baby, the slave owner could sell that child to another slave purchaser and the slave had no legal say in the matter.

In the NFL, once drafted or under contract, the team owns the rights of that player. If not identified in the contract the player has no say in if the owner wants to trade him to another team. So a “parallel” is there, but the the big difference is that a slave had no choice. If you do not like your situation as a football player today, you can quit or behave like disgruntled Cincinnati Bengals star quarterback Carson Palmer, and threaten to quit and not receive a physical beating in return for your insubordination.

From a physical stand point, slaves were worked into the ground from sun up to sun down. Believe me when I tell you that as a former player there were days, weeks and in some cases months where I felt that I could not go on physically. During those times, I was physically and mentally beat down, yet I kept on working by choice, not force. Thus the physical toll that a body takes in the NFL is harsh and at times comparable to the physical demands of slaves harvesting crops. Yet, unlike slaves, NFL players get certain days, weeks, and even months off to recover and recuperate.

When I examine Peterson’s comments, I think the real issue that he was attempting to convey is an ideal that NFL owners are promoting inequality and exploitation by enforcing certain demands as their rights to ownership, while at the same time disregarding the concerns and criticisms of their employees the players.

The freedom to protest is one of many things that makes our country great. However, comparing a person who got nothing but abuse, be it mental or physical, to a pampered athletic culture is misguided. Yet, based on what you just read I hope you can now infer on how Peterson may have derived his thought and sentiment be it wrong or right.


Keeping It Real

By Je’Rod Cherry

Because John Wall does the “Dougie Dance”, Colin Cowherd has lambasted him for lacking in maturity. Wall, the “flashy” rookie point guard for the Washington Wizards, was recently asked the following: “Who is your all time favorite NBA player?” Much to the chagrin of Cowherd, Wall did not proclaim the Golden Age NBA standard bearers like Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Dr. J, Isiah Thomas, Larry Bird, and Charles Barkley as his favorite all time players. Instead Wall, to his credit, “kept it real” and chose Allen Iverson, aka “The Answer.”  As I understood it, Colin’s main argument was that Wall’s admiration for Iverson is a poor business choice and a reflection of Wall being more of a ‘me guy” as opposed to a team player. Time will tell if Colin’s assertions are correct.

Considering Walls age, his high regard for Iverson is understandable. If you consider that except for MJ, most of the Hall of Famers just mentioned were either retired, near it, and/or on the decline, when Wall was born and coming of age.

If you think about it, during the mid to late 90’s the face of the NBA was thuggery.

During that time, we saw life imitating art in that hip hop cultures embracing of  “gangsta rap” and thuggery as a cultural medium was what most NBA players identified with. If I mention Spreewell, McGrady, Webber, Iverson, and Shaq, what comes to mind, poor attitude and insubordination? Those players, whether wrong or right, were perceived as thugs as opposed to the romanticized rebels with a cause.

Consider that during the late 90’s and early 2000’s the NBA was so unappealing to middle America that the NBA had to eventually issue a dress code to revamp the leagues image from do-rags and baggy sweats to business/ business casual.

Also at this time, NBA players and other athletes all over the world were beginning to lose off-the-court advertising dollars to a young Eldrick “Tiger” Woods.  With no NBA player possessing the charisma and appeal of Jordan, Tiger Woods was masterfully packaged by Madison Avenue as the heir apparent to Michael Jordan’s athletic advertising kingdom. And until recent activities, boy did Tiger flourish!

What NBA players like Iverson lacked, Tigers Woods had.  His value system on the surface aligned directly to the core values of Middle America: moral, ethical, clean cut, well spoken, great work ethic, calm under pressure, and a winner.  Who knew that when it came to his dealings with the “ladies” Tiger was as “gansta” and misogynistic as Snoop Dogg’s rap lyrics.

Which brings me to my point. Wall’s choice of Iverson as his favorite player will not sell well to the general public considering Iverson’s track record and recent problems. I am impressed however, with the fact that Wall did not choose the politically correct answer and decided to “keep it real.”  Yet the practical side of me wonders if maybe Wall is still so young and innocent, that he does not yet realize that if you say what you really do not mean, you can become even more rich and famous.

Fall From Grace

Jim Brown did it. Robert Smith did it. Brett Favre had the opportunity to do it. Carson Palmer is in the process of doing it. And for a short period of time, Tiki Barber did it as well.

What these football players did or are in the process of doing, few professional football players ever accomplish.

I would venture that the number of players that have achieved this feat is far less than the number of players that have won Super Bowl rings.

The feat that few players manage to accomplish is the ability to leave the game on their own terms.

Imagine a life in which you dictate your own terms and control your own destiny. Now that is what I call freedom! This sense of freedom equates to self-empowerment, which is not commonplace in the NFL.

Most players are forced out of the game due to injury. If injury does not get you, age discrimination will. Imagine at age thirty-three you are told you are too old, and we do not want you anymore.

Besides injury and age discrimination, the other major factor that prevents players from leaving the game on their own terms is the fact that most players do not have the financial freedom to walk away from the game.

How is this, if players are paid so handsomely while playing?

Do the math. If you make a million a year or even a quarter of that but spend at a rate of 70-to-80 percent of your income, outside of football there are not many jobs available that allow players make the type of money they need to sustain their lifestyles, given their skills sets.

Thus players hang on as long as possible until they are graciously kicked out the door. These are the retirement ceremonies, and that type of treatment is reserved for star players. Role players do not even get this royal treatment. They are cut and sent packing unceremoniously via a phone call.

Because of poor off-the-field decisions, Tiki Barber has opted to return to the game that made him rich and famous. Tiki Barber and his decision to un-retire reflect a deep fall from grace.

To play professional football is both a financial blessing and a privilege. I can understand why Tiki would take advantage of the opportunity if in dire straits. However, you tell me, what is the more dignified story line: I walked away from the game a dignified and empowered man, or I had to swallow my pride and hope someone would give me another chance to play?

Applaud Jim Tressel for Following his Heart

By: Je’Rod Cherry

During German Nazi rule a Christian man by the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer had to make a literal life or death decision. The choices presented to Bonhoeffer were the following: Do I go along with state law and watch quietly as my Jewish countrymen are persecuted, or do I violate state law by assisting them?

Bonhoeffer, being led by his heart, violated Nazi state law and opted to aid, harbor, and hide his Jewish Countrymen. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s actions cost him his life.

Although nowhere near as historical as Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s experience, Jim Tressel has been living with his own dilemma.

Tressel’s dilemma: Do I protect my guys or do I report their infractions and uphold NCAA rules?

I am of the opinion that Coach Tressel did the right thing in keeping quiet and not reporting the infractions until there was more clarity regarding the federal drug case pending, in which OSU football players had a connection.

We live in a climate in which people will leak information and violate trust in order to get ahead. I understand Coach Tressel’s decision not to go to the NCAA, Big Ten, and OSU athletic department.

Coach Tressel’s involvement in bureaucratic culture must have led him to realize that none of these organizations could ensure complete confidentiality.

Furthermore, Tressel’s understanding of “street” culture must have influenced his decision making as well. On the “streets,” leaked information identifying players’ connection on any level, be it harmless or co-conspirator, can be perceived as being a “snitch,” and in real life “snitches” get killed even if they play football for OSU.

The longer we live, we find that sometimes things are not black and white. They can be (scarlet and) grey. Following the “rules” can create a paradox, in which we have to determine the greater good or lesser evil.

Over the course of this investigation, Coach Tressel said he made his decision to break NCAA rules because he followed his “heart.” Well I applaud Coach Tressel, because he made the hard decision, by protecting his players and placing his own reputation in harms way.

Athletes That Still Cares?

By Je’Rod Cherry

Last week Kendrick Perkins was traded from the Boston Celtics to the Oklahoma Thunder. The trade was a complete shock to sports pundits locally and nationally.  However, what was not covered enough was the fact that this man-child literally cried because he was leaving the Celtics.   And it was not like he was leaving the Celtics to join a non-contender like the Cavaliers.

I also found it very interesting that his former Celtics teammates went out and laid an egg by loosing to a depleted Denver Nuggets team that lost via trade two of their best players: Chauncy Billups and Carmelo Anthony.  Considering how much we hear about the “me first, team second” attitude in today’s sports, the Celtics response gives me hope for tomorrow that all star athletes are not self absorbed pompous you-know-whats!

On the flip side, the trade of Perkins and the Celtics visible response illustrates why we see players like LeBron and Carmello, that are in a position to take control of their own destiny, do so without consideration for others involved.  As a Cleveland Sports fan, think back on how you felt when the Browns moved or how you were floored by the “Decision” and you will understand how Perkins felt by having the rug completely pull from under him by Boston’s management.  And if you need another athlete’s perspective, ask Bernie how he felt when the Browns let him go under the direction of Belichick.

The next time a high profile athlete leaves a team, what the Celtics management did to Kendrick Perkins will be in the forefront of his or her mind. Players distrust management and episodes like this one -with the Celtics Management and Perkins – will reinforce that distrust. Yet, my hat goes off to Perkins for being transparent and a showing a skeptical public that there is still a pro athlete out there that cares where he plays and what that represents.

Serve Your Audience

By Je’Rod Cherry

As the world’s political stage remains in turmoil, especially in the Middle East, professional athletes and organizations alike can learn a thing or two in regards to the importance of serving your base.  As I write, Muammar al-Gaddafi, the dictator of Libya, is learning what former Egyptian ruler Mubarak has recently experienced: people will only tolerate for so long disregard and disrespect before they demand change and discontinue their support.

Rule number one in government, as well as the entertainment industry, should be: Do not alienate your base of support.

Over the weekend, Josh Cribbs, and on Tuesday Josh’s wife Maria, ignored the fact that they play and reside in Cleveland, not Miami. The end result of the Cribbs laissez-faire attitude on twitter has sparked a French Revolution amongst the Browns fan base in which Josh Cribbs, who is arguably Cleveland’s most popular athlete, is fast becoming Louis XVI. And his wife Maria is doing a stellar job of playing the part of Marie Antoinette.

So far, only feelings have been hurt and no one’s head has been chopped off. However, if Josh has another lackluster season there is always the possibility of getting the football equivalent of the guillotine, which is getting cut by the Browns, and the Browns fans would approve.

All is not lost for Cribbs. They can still maintain their title. When you serve and please your base, whether it is government or entertainment, people can be forgiving. A few touchdown returns and this is all water under the bridge. However, with average to poor football play, this episode will shorten Cribbs football shelf life in Cleveland.  I would suggest that the Cribbs family take a look at what is going on around them because history repeats itself. Although minor in comparison, the Cribbs family can learn from al-Gaddafi, Mubarak, as well as the late Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

Josh and Maria are the Duke and Duchess of sports entertainment for Northeast Ohio. Their reign may or may not last long.  You see, many “privileged” and or “noble” families can attest that when you give the “masses” a reason not to like you, they will generally take you up on that offer and eventually remove you from your seat of power if you do not give them enough reasons to continue their support.

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