I am a huge sports fan. When I was little, instead of watching cartoons in the morning, I used to get up and watch the Sportscentre morning loop on TSN (it was Sportsdesk back then). I would park myself in front of the TV and watch the same hour of programming broadcasted over and over for hours. I couldn’t get enough: still can’t. The TSN morning loop is still part of my morning routine. I have my Cheerios, my 18-month old daughter has her milk, and we watch Sportscentre.
One of my favourite sports to watch is NFL football. Ask my wife; if I was allowed to, I would watch football ALL day. I can’t really explain why I enjoy it so much, but I do. I’ve never played organized football in my life so I have no real perspective of what goes on down on the field, but somehow I have become borderline obsessed with the game.
Last night was the kickoff of the regular season, which was exciting in itself, but not the point of the post. I want to address an ongoing issue I have with professional athletes; specifically how Maurice Jones-Drew treated his teammates, his franchise and his fans during a recent hold out.
During the preseason, teams focus on auditioning players to fill roster spots and continue to develop returning players within their given system. Having no official off-season last year (due to lockout) this year’s off and preseason came with an increased emphasis. What was team captain Maurice Jones-Drew, running back for the Jacksonville Jaguars doing? Holding out for more money.
A little background.
Maurice Jones-Drew (MJD) signed a 5-year $31 million contract prior to the 2009 season. The structure of the contract (which was obviously agreed upon by both the team and the player) paid him roughly $22 million in the first 3 seasons. Not a bad payday! Last year MJD rushed for a league leading 1606 yards, adding 8 touchdowns: his best year as a pro. Since he signed his contract, teams have been handing out big contracts to several of the NFL’s elite running backs: an elite group which certainly includes MJD. However, MJD saw his scheduled $4.45 million in 2012 and $4.95 million in 2013 to be too little, and held out to re-negotiate his contract. He missed 38 days of team workouts, meetings, practice and preseason games.
This is not the first time a player has held out for more money and it certainly will not be the last, but what I found unique about this story was the team’s reaction. Jaguars owner Shahid Khan made it perfectly clear from day 1 that the organization had no plans to re-negotiate a contract with the star back. Partially due to principle, and partially because 71% of his contract had already been paid. Shahid Khan made a stand, put his foot down and did not waiver. I say: It’s about time!! The result: Maurice Jones-Drew said he “didn’t feel right” being away from his teammates and decided to report to the team days before the regular season opened.
It frustrates me that professional athletes seem to be able to honour a contract, an obligation, until it’s convenient for them not to. As much as I like watching MJD do what he does, I’ve lost all respect for him and numerous others who cannot respect their contracts and their agreements.
Okay, I’ve finished the rant portion of this post: I’ll tie it up now.
I can’t help but think of the times I’ve made promises (not legal, mind you) and haven’t produced the desired results. I’m sure we all have. This holdout serves as a reminder that no matter how big or how small a commitment we make, if don’t live up to it, we let others down. Intentionally or not, when we fail to meet expectations, people and feelings can get hurt. These actions are selfish and those around us deserve better.
Let me know your thoughts. Does athlete holdouts grind your gears like they do mine?