On July 25th 2011, football fans who had been left in limbo since March had begun rejoicing on blogs and in barbershops all across America. It had been exactly 132 days since the owners and the NFLPA began negotiating on ways to end the lockout of their league and resume operations of America’s favorite and most profitable major league sports enterprise.
Most, if not all African American sports fans rely on the NFL and the NBA for their entertainment purposes, and with both leagues facing labor issues for the majority of the summer, what did they do with their spare time? Maybe they got into baseball? Or maybe they got into the political, ideological mess that the White House found itself in as President Obama and Congress debate on what to do with the debt ceiling. Probably not.
Politics and sports have been joined at the hip for decades . From William Taft being the first president to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day in baseball to Teddy Roosevelt calling for the formation of the NCAA to protect college football players, politicians have not shielded their affection or admiration for sports. The two mayors of Baltimore and Pittsburgh waged a friendly bet when the two teams met in the divisional round of the 2011 playoffs. The Redskins’ home game before the presidential elections has been said to predict whether or not the incumbent party retains the Oval Office or if they will lose. Congress takes time out of its busy schedule to take baseball players like Roger Clemens and Mark McGuire to task for using performance enhancing steroids in baseball, regarded as illegal and cheating. If you need any further evidence of the connection between politics and sports, look no further than the politics involved in the NFL and NBA lockouts.
It’s interesting that the richest and most powerful men in politics and in sports have been locked into legal rhetoric at the same time, rhetoric that would bore any outsider or layman but had huge implications on the future of the country and the sports world, respectively. It should be no surprise that African Americans and Americans in general are giving more attention to sports and other means of distraction than the debt ceiling debate. It has become much easier to follow celebrities and their petty squabbles and abrupt relationship changes than to follow the dealings going on in the nation’s capital.
If we would stop and pay attention to what is going on in Washington, D.C., we would find that the Democrat-controlled Senate and the Republican led House of Representatives were deadlocked in bitter disputes over the national debt that were more intense than the ones the NFL’s owners and their players found themselves in for four months.
If this bill did not get passed by the August 2nd deadline, the government would run out of money to pay its bills. There has been legislation drawn up to raise the debt ceiling and budget the deficit, but each side has met criticism and progress had been stale. Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner’s proposals have been shot down by the Senate, as were Democratic Senate Majority leader Harry Reid’s by the House of Representatives. A week before the bill was due, Boehner could not even gather enough support from his own party to support his bill. It’s amazing how even at the highest level of government, by politicians that we elected, that people would rather be right than wrong and engage in stubborn behavior than do what’s good for the country.
But what’s good for the country is not necessarily what’s good for the African American community. A deal is expected to be done on the debt ceiling, but if there had not been a deal done, the aftermath would have devastating effects on the black community. If the debt ceiling is not raised, the United States Treasury would have to prioritize as to which legal obligations they should pay. Pell grants, Medicare and active military personal salaries are not at the top of the priority list, a pending concern for African Americans who insist that those needs be met . Black men aren’t living long enough to collect on their Social Security, and they want to raise the age qualification and reduce its funding . We have too many African Americans enlisted in the armed forces to not pay them for their service protecting our country. The federal departments in which thousands of Blacks work could see severe cutbacks in employment. Food stamps, temporary welfare and other social service departments could see major setbacks in funding .
The NFL found itself in a similar tug of war battle. The NFL lockout can be summed up as billionaire owners trying everything they can to make more money, even if that means exploiting the players that make them their money. The biggest issues of the NFL lockout were the 18 game schedule, which was denied because the NFLPA said it would indefinitely cause more injuries to their players (the 2010 NFL season alone had more injuries than previous seasons ); the rookie pay scale, which had been an issue for veteran players alike who felt that unproven 1st round draft picks should not be paid more money then the veteran players, like Sam Bradford’s rookie contract which was worth $86 million dollars, with $50 million guaranteed ; and retired veteran benefits, to ensure that the NFL does not turn its back on its legends of the past.
While Americans need their football, there is also a need for leadership in the nation’s capital. The people should pay close attention to the action taking place in Washington as well as on the gridiron. At the end of the negotiations, politicians, owners and players came together for the well being of their citizens and their fans. In Washington, D.C., a deal has been made, but the Republicans are not getting enough spending cuts, and the Democrats might not see as many tax increases as they wish. They are not satisfied but they will compromise for the benefit of the country. The NFL won’t be worrying about another labor dispute for the next ten years. It got to the point where everyone invested and involved in the lockout stopped caring about who was right and who was wrong; the only thing that mattered was bringing football back.
The lockout and the debt crisis both show that egotistical and greedy businessmen and Congressmen might be more lucky than smart. The owners were lucky enough to hold out long enough to agree to a new labor deal amongst themselves and make the players, who had been the good guys and the “victims” in this situation, look like the stingy ones. The players voted so as to save face and get football back. All signs point to Congress approving the new debt ceiling bill the day before the deadline.
Just like the owners, the players, Congressmen and the President learned, fans and everyday people need to understand it too: You have to give to get. It’s good that the NFL is back in full force. It is always a captivating product, and is easily the best of the Big Four major league professional sports. It would have lost billions had the labor issues not been resolved, because of greedy owners and disadvantaged players fighting for a piece of the billion dollar pie. It’s great that the country isn’t going to go into default. The people that we entrusted to lead this country aren’t going to lead us into another financial debacle. Football is still on track, and looks to be another great season with the Packers, Eagles, Jets and Patriots battling to be the favorites in their respective conferences. With the debt ceiling raised, political pundits now focus on the upcoming presidential elections and other domestic and international issues. Despite the drawn out proceedings of the NFL and Congress, they both ended with inspirational images. In the NFL, Patriots owner Robert Kraft exchanged a hug with Colts offensive lineman Jeff Saturday, a major plaintiff and representative for the players against the NFL, when both sides had come to an agreement. On August 1st, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords returned to Washington to cast her vote on the new bill, months after suffering what was thought to be a fatal shooting in the head .
That’s how history should remember the NFL lockout and the debt ceiling bill debate: as lengthy back and forth bargaining and dealing that in the end did more good than harm.
HBCU Buzz Staff