Just a little over a month ago, I wrote about how the NFL and NFLPA, and the league’s fans, should take notice of the labor controversy that was stirring over in baseball. At one point, the MLB more or less declared that the season was going to be cancelled after the two sides reached an impasse, though it was more of a pressure tactic than anything.
The weekend, however, has seen the first baseball games of the year take place, a hopeful indication of the trajectory that football can still take from where we now stand. In the MLB, players took to social media to voice their concerns with the league’s negotiating tactics, using public opinion to highlight the issues that felt needed to be raised.
NFL players used that same approach yesterday in a coordinated effort, featuring a large number of high-profile players voicing their concerns about the lack of clarity on a number of key issues about returning to play in the middle of a pandemic, using the hashtag, #WeWantToPlay.
Sense a trend…. pic.twitter.com/KJQqo7nKSI
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 19, 2020
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 19, 2020
Once again in the interest of keeping everyone (players & fans) as informed as possible, here is an updated list of what we as players know and don’t know as the first group gets set to report to training camp tomorrow.#WeWantToPlay pic.twitter.com/xQcjs33zgM
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) July 19, 2020
The Pittsburgh Steelers were a part of this. While I didn’t aim to compile an exhaustive list, Joe Haden, Vince Williams, Mike Hilton, James Conner, and Eric Ebron were among those who Tweeted out at least the hashtag, if not a message. “#WeWantToPlay but not if we are not protected”, Ebron wrote. “We want to know that PLAYERS safety is important. At this point it hasn’t been a priority. We report back in a week. Some sooner”.
— Eric Ebron (@Ebron85) July 19, 2020
With more than 20 million Americans tapping into unemployment benefits, I’m thankful to have my job. However, everyone deserves a safe workplace. #WeWantToPlay
— Vince Williams (@VinnyVidiVici98) July 19, 2020
Health and Safety is most important! We need answers…..#WeWantToPlay
— Mike Hilton (@MikeHilton_28) July 19, 2020
— James Conner (@JamesConner_) July 19, 2020
— Joe Haden (@joehaden23) July 19, 2020
Among the many outstanding issues that remain are whether or not there will be a preseason, if so, how many games, potential opt-out opportunities and requirements and compensation, protocols for preventing Covid-19 spread, plans for response to a potential outbreak, drills that will be allowed in practice, etc.
In other words, there is still a lot going on that remains unresolved, as we sit here on July 20. The Steelers are supposed to open training camp next Tuesday. The ‘deadline’ is fast approaching…but the good news is that deadlines tend to bring about the immediacy required to generate resolutions.
The MLB worked through their issues. The NBA and NHL were not nearly as contentious as that, but they, too, had squabbles that they resolved. The NFL has more on the line financially than any of them. It’s extremely improbable that they fail to come to a resolution and miss games because of this.
But the work now must be done to bring this all to a conclusion. The players threw down a gauntlet by taking a coordinated approach to getting their message out to the public. Now it’s the NFL’s turn to respond.