Game Recognizes Game

By Wendell P. Simpson
Updated: January 20, 2009

ORLANDO– No corporate entity in America reflects the disconnection between labor and management as does the National Football League.

John Mackey, Brent Boyd, Bruce Laird, Andre Walters, Bernie Parrish — all members of a working class neglected by the corporate entity for whom they labored so long and hard and sacrificed so much for the sake of the game only to be cast aside when the lights faded on their careers.

Over several weekends, ESPN hyped and re-broadcast the NFL’s so-called “Greatest Game Ever.” It was a contest played in Yankee Stadium between the 1958 Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants amidst an explosion of fanfare.

Ostensibly, the event was recalled to pay homage to the players and the game that birthed the modern football era and the ubiquitous giant we now know as professional football.

But the truth is there was no honoring the players; instead, this was another in a long line of masturbations, a circle jerk, and a self-congratulatory fete for a league that has made itself a shrine unto itself.

It is corporate hubris of the highest order.

Lawrence Mitchell, a Professor of Law at George Washington University and an expert on corporate attitudes, has been a harsh critic of the mentality that emphasizes profit over socially responsible behavior.

All we have to do is look at the Union Carbide debacle in Bhopal, India in 1984 where more than 2,000 people were killed and 200,000 more injured to see the havoc irresponsible corporate behavior has wrought.

Corporations are often so focused on making short-term profits for their stockholders that they behave in ways that adversely affect their employees, the environment, consumers, American politics, and even the long-term well-being of the corporation, says Mitchell in this provocative book.

This is a significant issue not only in the United States but also in the world, for many countries are beginning to emulate the American model of corporate governance.

Mitchell criticizes this emphasis on profit maximization and the corporate legal structure that encourages it, and he offers concrete proposals to bring about more socially responsible corporate behavior.

For countless generations, American workers showed up to work on time, performed their jobs in sometimes harsh and uncomfortable conditions; sacrificing while performing to the utmost efficiency while ensuring that the work got done.

They took pride in maintaining a standard of excellence which reflected a thriving economy driven by manufacturing; whether it was coal miners in the hills of West Virginia, meat packers in Chicago, or automobile workers in Detroit.

No less an expert than Forbes Magazine has speculated that if the NFL was a publicly-held company, its stock would be worth more than that of debt-ravaged General Motors, the largest corporation the world has ever known.

What does it all mean? It means the NFL is a major player in the corporate machinery that bolsters more than an entertainment entity; and how it treats those who were in its employ is a reflection of America’s repudiation of what helped it to become great.

In this era of shallow pockets, deficit-ridden governments and Depression-era economics, when the little people are being asked to sacrifice, to give more and take less, to consider greater good and ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do to get us out of this quagmire that corporate greed made, it behooves the giant behemoths that stand astride the economic with full, corpulent coffers to step up.

This is no time for doing shit on the cheap; especially when flush with full, corpulent coffers, the sheer arrogance in their resistance to pay what is in effect, chump change in comparison to the billions of dollars made by this league is no different than the WorldCom/Enron gorging of livelihoods and dignity.

I’m not suggesting the NFL doesn’t have the right to make money; what I am saying is, take care of those who took care of you.

There are people who will say that the athletes are a bunch of spoiled, coddled millionaires who don’t appreciate the opportunity they’ve been given.

You’ll get no argument from me that sports salaries are way out of line relative to the contributions they make to the betterment of society—but it is what the market will bear, and they are the front line workers whose labor enriches the coffers of spoiled, coddled billionaires.

And the Old School players of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s were neither spoiled nor coddled; rather, I contend they punched a clock — only to have the clock punch them back years later.

Unless the NFL wants to willingly embrace this mentality and join the company of those infamous corporations — whose greed has created an atmosphere where the “employee of the month” is lauded for ruining lives instead of improving them.

We won’t even talk special interest legislation that has exempted the NFL from the anti-trust laws and the tax burdens that have historically allowed free enterprise competition to thrive, thus crushing exemption crush the competition and avoid the same tax burdens everybody else has had to bear — laws and a declining shift from manufacturers to consumers which has left us with nothing but our culture to import.

The rise of the NFL coincided with the turn from manufacturing to a service/conspicuous consumer driven economy, feeding the mindset that has spun the Gordon Gecko ‘greed is good’ mantra from a proclamation of individual self-interest into corporate economic policy.

Americans once embraced the ideology that hard work in honorable jobs should be rewarded; and corporations used to buttress said belief.

But America has lost the notion of the working person as the backbone of society, discarding the idea that honorable work be recognized and companies whose coffers have been built upon the backs of the worker have an obligation to look after them after the sun has set on their careers.

Repeal Taft-Hartley!