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What was learned from the referee strike

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This call may have spearheaded the return of the regular referees but it left permanent messages on our consciousness.

The referee strike that had pestered the National Football League since the preseason ended practically Thursday morning with cheers ringing out from players, coaches and fans alike.

But as an impartial observer, there were some lessons that I took away from the strike that speaks volumes about society and the inter-workings of big business.

1) No one is accountable for their own faults

It’s amazing to me that in a profession that is suppose to be all about me, me, me, the players and the coaches were quick to point a finger elsewhere, at the referees, for situations that occurred on the field.

Let’s take the infamous Monday night game between Green Bay and Seattle that is getting the bulk of the reason for a deal being made. Both the Packers organization, fans and NFL pundits blamed the replacement referees for making human errors.  Did anyone once stop to think if either team played better both offensively and defensively that the final play wouldn’t even have come into play?

It speaks a lot about how we, as a people, will want to point the blame on some external force besides ourselves. In athletics it is very prevalent. Just about every person who was caught with performance enhancers screamed out: ‘It wasn’t me” in the early stages (i.e. Marion Jones) only to have it revealed later that yes, it was you.

I watch enough “The First 48” to know folks will blame it on everyone else to protect their own neck when they’re as guilty as the Joker in “The Dark Knight.”

2) Indentured servitude is still alive and stronger than ever

I’ve known this for a long time but I feel that people need to be reminded of it.

To go as far as to say we’re living in an age of institutional slavery would be a bit much, but indentured servitude is stronger than ever.

The NCAA and all professional leagues practice indentured servitude as part of every day-to-day activities.

Let’s take the NFL. In consecutive summers, the league went through first a player strike and then a referee stoppage. Why? You have billion dollar OWNERS (keyword) who didn’t want to fairly compensate the WORKERS (another keyword) for the output that said workers do. Owners can’t make their money unless the workers produce a product that will generate financial gain (in other words, no football, no ticket sales, no concession sales, no money).

In the same token, players, or the workers, know that ‘no play, no pay.’ So, they’ll allow themselves to be under-appreciated, under-valued and take a financial hit just to get the little bit of a check that they do bring in even though their work may cause permanent physical damage.

If the owners really cared about the integrity of the game and “their workers’ safety,” a deal would have been done with the refs a long time ago. But as long as the money kept coming in from the product, there wasn’t any reason for a deal. It wasn’t affecting their bottom line.

And who’s getting butt fucked?

In the general public, how many of you readers work for a company that makes you miserable, that is under-paying you but you can’t leave because they have you by the nuts and the economy won’t allow you to go elsewhere? (Walmart and Nike fit this description pretty nicely.)

Yep, you’re a slave to the system too.

3) Dollars make more sense than being right

“I’m not sure that it’s ever a good idea to punish our fans because we’re mad at the owners.” -NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith

I want to blame this on the youth but there are many elder statesmen in professional sports that should know better so I won’t use that excuse.

So the next logical explanation is that when it’s about one’s pocket, everything else is meaningless.

What made Muhammad Ali the legendary figure that he is isn’t solely because of his boxing prowess. It was because of his social awareness. He joined the Nation of Islam when it was viewed as a hate group. He risked his professional career speaking out and refusing to go to the Vietnam War.

It wasn’t about money. It was about something larger than sport.

Athletes nowadays worry more about their finances than social policy. That’s why the late Pat Tillman’s story was major news. He is the rare exception to the rule. He walked away from NFL millions because he understood that there is something bigger than the game.

The players bickered and complained about just how bad the replacements referees were. They had the power to make it change. If the players felt so strongly about it, they could have easily boycotted. They could have easily refused to step onto the field again until the regular referees were signed.

“I’m not sure that it’s ever a good idea to punish our fans because we’re mad at the owners,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith is reported as saying.

But you wouldn’t have mind punishing the fans last year if the players didn’t get their money uh Smith?

That’s what made the Civil Rights Movement so powerful. Deprived peoples wanted a change. It wasn’t about money, it was about what is right. Deprived peoples boycotted, deprived peoples had sit-ins, deprived peoples went on strike (Union workers) to force a change.

The NFL players had the right to boycott and force the owners to pay the referees — but it wouldn’t have been financially viable  for them to do so.

As a people we need to not allow our fandom to get in the way of what these strikes really mean and the social implications therein.


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