2020 was an odd year for American sports fans. However, for those looking for a return to normalcy in 2021, “normal” will have a new look. For better and for worse, many found the virtual life of last year, one they would like to replicate. From teachers’ unions to players’ unions, doing business as usual is not usual at all.
Late last week, JC Tretter of the Cleveland Browns, who’s taken over as head of the NFLPA, told players he is pushing for a virtual offseason. The NFL had made it known that both OTA’s and minicamps were to resume, to get back to business as players and organizations had known pre-COVID. Heading into the 2021 offseason, the NFLPA is making it clear that with COVID still an issue. While it is a smaller one than last year at this time, voluntary workouts are not part of the unions’ plan.
OTA’s are always a regular bone of contention, as are minicamps. It’s not uncommon to hear veteran players not attending. However, making this a long-term part of an offseason where activities cannot be monitored, is not a winning issue. It won’t go down easy with the NFL, and it shouldn’t.
A pandemic on the wane should not be cover for unions looking to alter how organizations do business. One look at how teacher unions across the country are summarily destroying the education of young people should be enough warning. Granted, this isn’t necessarily a comparable parallel, but while COVID is but one of their reasons for shutting down the offseason, it’s a trend worth noting.
That said, the impact will be noticeable. It always is. The NFLPA says soft tissue injuries, as well as concussions, were down last season. There is data that supports that. Still, the quality of play is also worth noting.
Tackling is horrendous with defensive backs being one-hit wonders. The lack of contact does lead to injuries. And lastly, can the NFL sustain the kind of PR mess that is sure to follow.
Hard Lessons Could Be Ahead For Players, NFL
From social media self-exploitation to the ever-growing culture war, fans are not interested in the esoteric. If tuning in on Sundays, Sunday night, Monday night, and Thursday night means another round of SJW slogans and a one-sided message, fans will continue to turn away. The MLB All-Star Game, recently moved from Atlanta to Denver, shows that patience is short.
The NFLPA is in for a hard lesson learned. Viewership is down, meaning interest is down. Facts are facts, and if players continue to ignore such numbers, then ultimately, they will be the authors of their own demise. Post-COVID, fans are less apt to tolerate those who choose not to go to work. When those players are making more money than the rank and file fan could ever imagine, those fans will find something else to watch.
It just is not complicated. But leave it to highly paid athletes to make “not complicated”, another reason for fans to do something else.