Le'Veon Bell holdout is strictly NFL business, and that stinks
Le'Veon Bell isn't playing football this year. The now likely ex-Steelers running back forfeited more than $14 million, alienated himself from his former teammates and Pittsburgh fans, and made himself public enemy number one when he made it official last Tuesday that he wouldn't be lacing up the cleats in 2018.
Frustrated by the lack of an "acceptable" long-term contract from the Steelers, the standout NFL running back chose to sit out the year rather than risk injury prior to free agency following the 2018 season. In the process, he let his teammates down, irritated fans and fantasy football owners everywhere, and ignited yet another "conversation" about empowerment in sports.
But while the sports left and right again argue about the "exploitation" of Bell and athletes like him, I simply boil it down to this: business.
I hate the term in relation to sports because it takes from the nature of the games. It whittles away at what was designed as an escape, and leaves us with something closer to the very things we're escaping from.
Life is difficult. It's hard work, sacrifice, both physical and emotional distress, and hopefully — if you're lucky — just enough good times to make the rest worthwhile. It's about getting up early, often going to bed late, more frequently pain over pleasure, and responsibility beyond the bottom line. All of that necessitates abdication, and sports are often that.
Yet in the case of Bell and others like him, they're not looking at it from an entertainment perspective, but rather from the bottom-line one that's now poisoning our games.
To them, it is work. It's their means to an end, and negotiation is their way of making the most of it. NFL football players have a relatively small window to make their money. An average career lasts less than four years, and even for the most talented, they're a catastrophic injury away from it all being over. Meanwhile, on the other side of the coin, the franchises paying these players millions are that same play away from losing the asset they invested those same millions in. One is protecting future earnings while the other is doing the same regarding expense. Sounds simple to me, and ultimately, it is. But while both will eventually win in the end, the real loser here is us — the people just trying to get away.
Sometime between now and next season, Bell will get his money, the Steelers will get his cap space, and we'll all move on to the next "exploited" or "spoiled" (depending on how you look at it) athlete monopolizing our news cycle. There will be more articles, more Tweets, more banter between talking heads on shows built around topics such as these, and more columns like this, discussing the rights and wrongs of millionaire athletes, billionaire owners and the money they're fighting over. But meanwhile, we, the fans, will still be buying tickets, purchasing concessions and merchandise at games, and spending our hard-earned free time trying to get away from the very thing Bell and the Steelers are dragging into sports.
Thanks for nothing, guys. I know it's business, but your business is my entertainment, and I don't find it very entertaining.