What I am about to write might ruffle some feathers in here, so before you read on, I would like to ask some of you to put on your Helmet of Reasonable Reactions in the hopes of producing a manageable comments section.
All it takes is your own employer, your NFL team, to remind you that signing a contact to play football is ultimately a business decision. When you come into the league and you sign with a team, you’re not swearing a blood oath of loyalty. You’re agreeing to employment and to fulfill your obligations.
That doesn’t mean you put your employer above yourself, and when it comes to living your life, you make decisions based on what is best for you. In today’s age, younger players are entering the league with a greater business sense, understanding that they can also ‘build a brand’ and generate a following and an independent source of income.
This has been a source of ire for some Pittsburgh Steelers fans when it comes to the 24-year-old wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. Some have already gone so far as to accuse him of influencing rookie Chase Claypool in this regard. As it turns out—and it’s certainly no surprise—they’re right, but it’s a matter of subjectivity, and bias, as to whether or not that is a negative.
The rookie was asked about how Smith-Schuster has helped him adjust to life in the NFL, speaking to reporters on Wednesday, it being previously established that they are neighbors. “I’m always asking him little questions here and there and he always has an answer for me”, he said. “I’m always asking him for little favors. He’s always there for me, always helping me. There’s little things, like off the field, how I handle myself in the offseason, what to do”.
“I think the biggest thing is just how to grow your brand and how to manage that brand if it’s too much”, he added. “He’s given me good advice. I don’t need to worry too much about letting the quick start get to me because I don’t really want that to change me. I don’t think it has. Just, helping me grow my brand”.
As many have observed, like Smith-Schuster, Claypool is working on getting social media savvy, and he has made progress toward building a following and establishing himself as a ‘brand’, currently dubbed ‘Mapletron’.
I will leave it up to everyone else to debate whether or not all or any of this has actually in any way been a hindrance on his ability to do his job. NFL players are employees like anybody else and are permitted to have personal lives, I will remind, however, before turning the conversation over to you.