ESPN journalist: Obama is betraying union families by not supporting NFL players, or something

posted at 5:00 pm on April 11, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Union activists blasted Barack Obama for reneging on his campaign promise to put on some comfortable shoes and walk the picket line in Wisconsin during the debate over the budget-reform bill in February.  Does he own a pair of comfortable cleats instead?  In an unintentionally hilarious column at Politico, ESPN journalist Kevin Blackistone argues that Obama’s failure to take the side of NFL players in the current lockout betrays unions everywhere, invoking Martin Luther King, Jr to make his point, such as it is:

Obama may have made a politically astute move by not picking a side in pro football’s offseason showdown. But it smacked of disingenuousness after he criticized as “an assault on unions” Walker’s proposal to strip public-sector employees of collective-bargaining rights. The NFL owners’ fight against the league’s proletariat, regardless of the players’ wealth or the public’s perception of it, differs very little from the Wisconsin battle.

The NFL fight is a serious attack on unions. In mid-March, team owners locked out the players, who decertified their union to challenge the league’s antitrust protection. The players then filed a court complaint to recoup more than $4 billion in TV revenue they claimed the league “left on the table” during recent contract negotiations. …

So, to riff on a quote from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., not to stand up for unions everywhere is a threat to unions everywhere. And unions seem to be under siege across the country now.

I’d be tempted to consider this satire if the publication was The Onion rather than Politico, and the writer wasn’t so obviously earnest about the subject matter.  Did Martin Luther King, Jr march to get equal treatment under the law and organizing rights for millionaires?  It’s indisputable that football players (and other professional athletes) were far more exploited before King’s assassination than they are today, and yet I don’t recall a March on Canton to demand that players be freed from the very oppressive reserve clause in baseball or from a lack of equity in revenue sharing in the NFL.  Frankly, I doubt that was high up on King’s priority list.

Blackistone seems to be unaware of the hyperbolic irony of this argument, too:

“If you look at the average salary [of an NFL player] for the first four years, it’s well below $1 million,” Ruettgers pointed out. “Plus, every year there’re about 300 new retirees — or I should say unemployed, because most don’t retire willingly.”

Horrors!  Why, it’s an absolute embarrassment that the average salary for a 26-year-old in the NFL comes in somewhere below twenty times the average annual household income in the United States (around $50,000 per year).  And how awful that some football players don’t perform well enough to guarantee their continued employment in this industry!  I never knew that the NFL didn’t have a no-cut policy.  How awful that this national industry terminates a whole 300 people a year, too.  Why, it’s enough to rock the national economy to its foundations.

Barack Obama wisely chose to stay out of the NFL impasse for good reasons.  First, it’s none of the government’s business; the NFL is a private enterprise in a free-market economy, and hardly an essential service as might be argued for the transportation industry, to use an example.  Second, despite Blackistone’s contentions, the public doesn’t see NFL players as an oppressed class of laborers.  Most men would give their eyeteeth to have played in the NFL, and the salaries of players dwarf those of most of their fans.  The owners generate even less sympathy, true, but that doesn’t make the players the darlings of those who are mostly priced out of ticket-buying for the games they play at stadiums that taxpayers usually end up subsidizing.

If the players and owners can’t figure out how to slice up a multibillion-dollar revenue stream in a manner that keeps the money flowing in 2011, a presidential nudge in one direction or another isn’t going to help matters anyway.  It may have escaped Blackistone’s notice at ESPN, but we have more important issues for the government at the moment than whether billionaires and millionaires can get along together.


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“If you look at the average salary [of an NFL player] for the first four years, it’s well below $1 million,” Ruettgers pointed out. “Plus, every year there’re about 300 new retirees — or I should say unemployed, because most don’t retire willingly.”

If this statement doesn’t come back to haunt him in the near future, we are doomed. I mean, Really?!

Johnnyreb on April 11, 2011 at 5:04 PM

Barack Obama wisely chose to stay out of the NFL impasse for good reasons.

Yeah, because the players are millionaires and the owners are billionaires. Who would you rather make nice with when you’re trying to solicit campaign contributions?

Doughboy on April 11, 2011 at 5:04 PM

It may have escaped Blackistone’s notice at ESPN, but we have more important issues for the government at the moment than whether billionaires and millionaires can get along together.

THIS

cmsinaz on April 11, 2011 at 5:05 PM

Is this the same Kevin Blackistone that writes for the Dallas Morning News and covers the Boys? Facepalm! MLK? really Kevin?

Brian on April 11, 2011 at 5:06 PM

This column will never come back to bite me.

-Kevin Blackistone

Keef Overbite on April 11, 2011 at 5:06 PM

I have a better idea. Let’s fire the commissioner, all the owners, and all the players and force them all to compete for new contracts.

Of course that’s pretty much communism, but that’s the only way to get rid of Dan “Pretzel Boy” Snyder.

fiatboomer on April 11, 2011 at 5:07 PM

ESPN is no different than the state-run media,it’s just disguised as sports news.

ohiobabe on April 11, 2011 at 5:07 PM

Did Martin Luther King, Jr march to get equal treatment under the law and organizing rights for millionaires? It’s indisputable that football players (and other professional athletes) were far more exploited before King’s assassination than they are today, and yet I don’t recall a March on Canton to demand that players be freed from the very oppressive reserve clause in baseball or from a lack of equity in revenue sharing in the NFL. Frankly, I doubt that was high up on King’s priority list.

Evidently you didn’t read about Adrian Peterson’s comments about how NFL players are in modern day slavery.

That’s how the bridge was built to MLK. Because being an NFL player means you’re a slave.

And even one of our own Pittsburgh Steelers agreed with and supported Peterson’s comments. (I’ll let you guess who)

ButterflyDragon on April 11, 2011 at 5:08 PM

There is nothing more smug, more judgmental, more self-righteous, more condescending, and more ignorant of real life than liberal sports writers.

Thankfully, they are a dieing breed.

Captain Kirock on April 11, 2011 at 5:10 PM

Is this the same Kevin Blackistone that writes for the Dallas Morning News and covers the Boys? Facepalm! MLK? really Kevin?

Brian on April 11, 2011 at 5:06 PM

Just insuring player interview access when they get the deal done. Think Bill O’Reilly and Obama.

a capella on April 11, 2011 at 5:11 PM

The NFL is a travesty just begging for government intervention, and the unions are just playing along with the owners.

The Department of Labor needs to step in and require less discriminatory practices. There needs to be racial and gender-based quotas rigidly enforced. And did they ever hear of the ADA? How long will this evil be allowed to continue?

malclave on April 11, 2011 at 5:14 PM

The union will demand that Obama put a sign in a White House window that state’s that he supports the player’s union. If no sign is displayed it will be assumed he does NOT support the players and he will be boycotted.

WashJeff on April 11, 2011 at 5:15 PM

WashJeff on April 11, 2011 at 5:15 PM

heh….nice

cmsinaz on April 11, 2011 at 5:18 PM

Don’t golf shoes count as cleats?

Left Coast Right Mind on April 11, 2011 at 5:22 PM

Sure it’s ridiculous to suggest that little Bammie should do anything for the NFL players union, but little Bammie went to the wall for the greedy thugs at the UAW, who on average make about twice the national average and have gold-plated retirement benefits that a United States Senator would admire.

But wait, there’s more, -then for dessert, little Bammie made them part owners of Government Motors.

slickwillie2001 on April 11, 2011 at 5:22 PM

He doesn’t seem too concerned when athletes are exploited by the NCAA, why would he care when a bunch of millionaire athletes are “exploited?”

rw on April 11, 2011 at 5:27 PM

WashJeff on April 11, 2011 at 5:15 PM

I’m having a hard time making my fist look like a football. Whoops, oh, neverming got it..

Fallon on April 11, 2011 at 5:28 PM

neverming? LOL

Fallon on April 11, 2011 at 5:28 PM

“If you look at the average salary [of an NFL player] for the first four years, it’s well below $1 million,” Ruettgers pointed out. “Plus, every year there’re about 300 new retirees — or I should say unemployed, because most don’t retire willingly.”

Wow, Wish the military would pay out like that. It irks me that these athletes complain about making $750,000 minimum starting salary. Then they talk about starving. There is no reason if there is a shutdown these guys and their families should starve.

Maybe they should save part of that like many told the military members who should of had 6 month emergency fund set aside.

Brat4life on April 11, 2011 at 5:30 PM

Yeah….Fight for the “working class”!

Where’s Trumka?

Ha!

Opposite Day on April 11, 2011 at 5:32 PM

The NFL owners’ fight against the league’s proletariat, regardless of the players’ wealth or the public’s perception of it, differs very little from the Wisconsin battle.

-calling nfl players the proletariat?

-differ’s little from the WI battle?

step away from the crack pipe!

DrW on April 11, 2011 at 5:34 PM

My husband and sons will go through withdrawal if there isn’t a season, but the ONLY professional football game I’ve ever been to was a Bronco’s replacement game during the last shutout. I don’t remember it really, but I’m sure the players played with more heart than a bunch of whiny millionaires.

Common Sense on April 11, 2011 at 5:38 PM

I’m surprised that piece of stupidity wasn’t authored by Jemele Hill.

teke184 on April 11, 2011 at 5:38 PM

Personally, I think BHO is staying out of the NFL dispute because he’s just as big an NFL fan as he is a MLB fan, which is to say he’s not. If this were an NBA dispute, I think we’d hear a different tone from the Punahou (bench) shooting guard.

At least Obama has been wise enough not to let himself be photographed trying to play football. John Kerry? Not so much.

L.N. Smithee on April 11, 2011 at 5:44 PM

HA HA HA HA HA

NFL players making $5M a year are now considered the proletariat.

HA HA HA HA HA HA

Man I often joke that liberalism is a mental disease. Articles like this prove it’s no joke.

angryed on April 11, 2011 at 5:53 PM

Obama may not be publicly involved in this dispute, but I think he is involved behind the scenes.

The man who recently became the head of the NFLPA is a Washington DC lawyer who was working with
Janet Reno and Eric Holder at the Justice Department.

He is also African American and a Democrat.

Brian1972 on April 11, 2011 at 6:01 PM

So what was the Hmmmmmmm press conference from Madison scheduled for today?

Cindy Munford on April 11, 2011 at 6:08 PM

Cindy Munford on April 11, 2011 at 6:08 PM

Sorry, wrong thread. Please Obama, march with the players, please.

Cindy Munford on April 11, 2011 at 6:09 PM

The sooner these racist, thug, NFL cry babies shut up and stop pounding their high chairs the better. I’m all for affirmative action in professional sports.

frizzbee on April 11, 2011 at 6:36 PM

“I think at some point you’ve made enough money.” Sound familiar?

chewmeister on April 11, 2011 at 6:46 PM

I think The O should seize control of the teams and give them to the players, as compensation for their long weeks of slave labor at the hands of heartless owners, often earning as little as a gazillion times minimum wage….and many of those weeks with far too many minutes between breaks….

n0doz on April 11, 2011 at 7:02 PM

If Obama cared about principles he’d side with the players. I wish he would. What’s the difference between over paid public employees (as compared to private sector) and over paid football players?

It’s the principle of the thing, right?

petunia on April 11, 2011 at 7:03 PM

Blackistone appears occasionally on the ESPN talking heads programs that amount to filler between actual sporting events. He is clearly a member of an overpopulated segment of sports reporters, composed of “racialist” black sports reporter. For members of this community all questions and issues in sports involving black players and white management, including coaches, must first be addressed in terms of race, essentially “why and how are they keeping the black man down.” A portion of this phenomenon is the complaining about successful black athletes – such as Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan – who are viewed as just not speaking out loudly enough about social and economic issues affecting the “black community.” I suspect that Blackistone is tip-toeing around this point when he complains that Obama has not spoken out in favor of the union (a large number of whose members are black athletes) in negotiations with the overwhelmingly white management and ownership in the NFL. It’s not just Blackistone’s left-liberal politics; it’s also very much about race.

boqueronman on April 11, 2011 at 7:07 PM

This is the idiot who was upset when Pat Tillman was awarded the Arthur Ashe courage award. I don’t know if he apologized for that after Tillman’s death or not. I wish he had just gone away in shame.

Gordon Winslow on April 11, 2011 at 8:05 PM

Wow…another whiny black race-victim who calls himself a “journalist”. I never saw this coming…

Jaibones on April 11, 2011 at 8:15 PM

Actually, I have been reading and watching Blackistone for YEARS and just don’t see it that way…

Khun Joe on April 11, 2011 at 8:21 PM

It may have escaped Blackistone’s notice at ESPN, but we have more important issues for the government at the moment than whether billionaires and millionaires can get along together.

No, Ed. Talentless pro-athlete wannabees like Blackistone think that the world revolves around their heroes, the idle rich athlete.

Jaibones on April 11, 2011 at 8:23 PM

L.N. Smithee on April 11, 2011 at 5:44 PM

At least Obama has been wise enough not to let himself be photographed trying to play football.

sandspur on April 11, 2011 at 9:32 PM

boqueronman on April 11, 2011 at 7:07 PM

William C. Rhoden of the New York Times and ESPN’s “Sports Reporters” is king of that genre. John Saunders could ask the panel “What day does the NFL Draft start on?” and Rhoden could launch into a 15-minute diatribe on the racially oppressive nature of the draft system. Only Mike Lupica’s presence on the show keeps Bill from cornering the title of Most Annoying Panelist.

jon1979 on April 12, 2011 at 12:54 AM

Horrors! Why, it’s an absolute embarrassment that the average salary for a 26-year-old in the NFL comes in somewhere below twenty times the average annual household income in the United States (around $50,000 per year).

And you thought public employees were brats.

Keep it up jerks, and you’ll find fewer willing to part with their unemployment checks. Baseball’s roidy ingrates called a strike and got three. Subsidized stadiums earned the gratitude of robber barons — blackouts.

There’s a rooftop antenna in cable’s future. Satellite too.

Feedie on April 12, 2011 at 2:30 AM

When are sports fans going to realize they’re just —-ing dorks, like everyone else? Nobody in the broader world cares about these irrelevant wastes of time. And I say this as a regular ESPN watcher.

Thousands of other sportswriters considered this angle and discarded it, thinking “No, that’s a stupid comparison. Major sports ‘unions’ aren’t really unions in any of the ways that term is used to invoke sympathy and solidarity. The members are fabulously wealthy, their living is a game that most men would play for 5% of their salary plus medical insurance, and there are only about 1500 of them. It would be really stupid to try and take some angle pretending that they’re a real “union” fighting to maintain quality of life. And it would really, really stupid to attack a politician over it.”

HitNRun on April 12, 2011 at 2:44 AM

HitNRun on April 12, 2011 at 2:44 AM

Don’t care much about sports, but some fans amaze me with their command of names and numbers. Too bad they don’t spend a tenth the effort on politicians gutting them as they cheer.

Feedie on April 12, 2011 at 2:59 AM