On Any Given Sunday?

by Zack Mischo

I was expecting the full display of team pride from my brother, the cheese head.  That’s right, the Packers have won the Super Bowl, once again bringing the Lombardi title back to “Title Town”.   I thought I would be subject to a full on assault of the senses with  the nauseating hunter green and “taxicab” gold of the packer faithful, if not the cheese head hat.  What I got instead was a sort of nonchalance, heck, even smug attitude towards the victory in this year’s Super Bowl.

While I joke about things like the trivialities of the team colors, what is serious… is the issue of a potential lockout next season.  The threatened lockout by billionaire owners looking to line their already fat pockets, in the interest of greed alone, is something that has direct parallels to the theft of the American Dream from workers in general.  The theft of millions of jobs, of a guaranteed retirement, of dignity and respect in the workplace, of our homes and even a basic assurance at a chance of survival for our families, has been orchestrated by the kleptocrats, oligarchs and banksters that are members of the same country clubs and sit on the same boards of directors as the billionaire owners of the NFL.

This year’s game was unique in that it featured two teams named for workers and American industry.  The Steelers and Packers both have a long history and tradition rooted in the blue-collar cities from which they hail.  In fact, when we talk about the greed of the NFL owners, one thing most people do not realize, is the Packers are the only team in the NFL that is not owned by a billionaire or group of billionaires.  That’s right; the Green Bay Packers are the only team in the NFL that is owned by the community, by the people.  This is a fact that the NFL tried to downplay and not give attention to during the “big game”.   Why?  The answer, again, is simple greed.  At a time when the NFL has never been more popular, the owners are crying poverty and claim that their share of an estimated $1 Billion dollars in operating profit is too small.  They don’t want you to know, in the words of Dave Zirin, “…the team from Green Bay stand as a living breathing example that if you take the profit motive out of sports, you can get more than a team to be proud of: you get a Super Bowl Champion.”

Don’t you just feel for these fat-cat owners?  In an industry where, in the words of NFL player and NFPLA Executive Committee member Scott Fujita, “We’re the only business with a one-hundred percent injury rate.”, the owners are attempting to crush the player’s Union and steal not just from the pockets of players, but devastate communities around the country by not just locking out the players, but the concession workers, security guards, bar and restaurant workers and others who derive direct benefit from the games played in the form of local income.   In most cases the average player’s career is only four years, makes the league minimum, and when discarded by teams and ownership (who talk about “business decisions”), faces a life after football of financial uncertainty, debilitating injuries and health problems.  And we’re expected to feel sorry for the owners? 

The issue of profit-sharing and an extension of the regular season from 16 to 18 games are the main points of contention between the NFL and the NFLPA.  These issues are something that can be directly compared to the current theft from American workers.  You heard it before, right?  “We need to do more with less” or, “We all need to tighten our belts and share the pain”.  In effect, what they’re telling us and what they’re telling the players is, “you need to give more, and expect less compensation.  You need to feel the pain, because I’m going to get mine."

The NFLPA and its members have stayed strong and come together as one voice to stand up and say, “Let Us Play”.  These guys love their job, do it well, and want to be able to continue to perform at the highest level of competition for their chosen field.  It’s no different than us; we want to work, we want to be the best at what we do, we want to contribute – what we don’t want is to be taken advantage of by those who would seek to enrich themselves from our efforts and say that we need to endure needless struggle and sacrifices for their greed.

Corporations are holding on to enormous cash reserves and not hiring, in the interest of depressing real wages for the rest of us.  Massive unemployment has led to record home foreclosures.  Our jobs, our homes, our chances at a meaningful existence for us and our families are being stolen from us.  The NFL has refused to open its books to show how bad they are “hurting” and why they need a bigger share of the profits.  Our fight is one in the same - The fight for dignity and respect in the workplace, for safety and security for our families at home and in the workplace, for recognition of the honor in work, for a decent wage.  This is the labor exchange and we demand nothing less.

This March marks the expiration of the current CBA, with the owners holding steadfast that if they don’t get what they want from the players, they will be locked out.  The NFLPA is standing up to the attacks on its membership; we need to do the same.  Kyle Orton, QB of the Denver Broncos and NFLPA player rep has said, “As a proud affiliate of the AFL-CIO, the National Football League Players Association is a part of the world's most responsible labor organization. Fair and equitable compensation along with a safe working environment are legitimate goals of tens of millions of working Americans, including the players of the NFL.  As we enter negotiations for a fair and equitable collective bargaining agreement, the interests of our loyal fans and the impact on the very livelihoods of thousands of game day employees are in our thoughts.  We are truly blessed to have our sisters and brothers of the AFL-CIO stand with us.”  You can help the players in their efforts by going to NFLockout.com and signing a petition demanding the owners let them play, recognizing our common cause with the brothers of the NFLPA and not crossing any picket lines or putting one single dollar in the pockets of greedy owners who refuse to negotiate in good faith.  We can help ourselves by keeping in mind (especially with our own contract negotiations around the corner) that we must stand in solidarity and demand the things we need for us and our families, in exchange of the blood, sweat, and tears we give every day, just like the players are doing now.

So, while we look toward the future and the possibility of no football next season, I’d like to ask that you take a minute to consider what the players are asking for, and how their demands are no different from ours in terms our labor exchange with our employer.  Also, congratulations to the Packers and their fans….a victory well deserved.  In fact, I’m thinking that Green Bay should be held up as the new model, and more closely resembles the moniker – America’s Team (sorry, Claude), than any other.  Just don’t ask me to wear that ridiculous cheese head hat!

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