One of the most challenging aspects of player union negotiations with the NFL is actually in selling support for their message to the fans. Even though the owners are the billionaires, some fans tend to grow spiteful toward players when they complain about their pay or other types of compensation, insurance, workplace conditions, and things of that nature. Even as it regards concerns over concussions, what they often hear back is, ‘you knew what you signed up for’.
Players are more engaged than ever before, though, using social media not just to communicate with fans and to emphasize messages, but simply to function as any normal person would in today’s day and age. Almost everybody has a social media presence, so why not players? And many use it to comment on what is going on in their lives—including players, such as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Steven Nelson, who has historically not been shy about responding to criticism.
Over the course of the past couple of weeks, he has made a number of references to the backlash that he and other players have experienced from fans toward those who have commented on the NFLPA’s health and safety negotiations with the NFL over the coronavirus.
“It’s crazy when I see people say shut up and play”, he said earlier this week, for example. “It’s crazy how much people hate on Pro Athletes for making the money they make its not our fault God gave us talent and not you! #WeWantToPlay”.
It’s crazy when I see people say shut up and play lmao it’s crazy how much peope hate on Pro Athletes for making the money they make its not our fault God gave us talent and not you! #WeWantToPlay
— Steve Nelson (@Nelson_Island) July 19, 2020
Of course, talking like that isn’t going to garner him much sympathy from the types of fans to which he is responding, when one of their main sources of grievance against these professional athletes is the idea that they are more than well-compensated enough to be willing to take risks while others far less well-off don’t even get the option to not work. He clarified his feelings a day later:
“And just to be clear we respect all people who risk there lives to provide for there family”, he wrote. “Players have showed countless gratitude to everyone don’t try to make us the bad guy that’s going against the grain when we do our best to make you guys happy #church”.
And just to be clear we respect all people who risk there lives to provide for there family Players have showed countless gratitude to everyone don’t try to make us the bad guy that’s going against the grain when we do our best to make you guys happy #church
— Steve Nelson (@Nelson_Island) July 20, 2020
One of the confounding issues is actually the circumstances themselves. Perhaps more than ever, the average citizen wants to be able to turn to something like professional sports as a much-needed distraction. Now they’re watching their favorite athletes balk about the idea of playing—even pushing to cancel the preseason, while they watch preseason baseball taking place at the same time.
It’s not an easy position to take, but needless to say, the players as a union are well within their rights to fight for what they have so far gained and are continuing to push for, related to player safety. As another union representative recently said, it’s not one side caving to another, but both sides conceding to the virus, which is still very much in our midst.