NFLPA president J.C. Tretter claps back against narratives as players prepare to return amid coronavirus

Anytime there is labor strife in sports, the same anti-labor tropes reappear.

For some reason, many fans like taking the franchise owners’ side when it comes to money. It’s strange but predictable. The players get blamed, with plenty of the same tired lines regarding how lucky athletes are to get to play a kids’ game. That’s ridiculous, but it doesn’t stop. We saw it again when Major League Baseball players battled club owners before announcing a 60-game season.

The fights over player safety and fair pay during the coronavirus pandemic aren’t going away. NFL Players Association president and Cleveland Browns center J.C. Tretter took aim at the common narratives that are heard in opposition to players, even though the NFL hasn’t had much blowback this year in that regard. Yet, anyway.

Cleveland Browns center and NFLPA president J.C. Tretter wanted to address some misconceptions about players. (AP Photo/David Richard, File)
Cleveland Browns center and NFLPA president J.C. Tretter wanted to address some misconceptions about players. (AP Photo/David Richard, File)

J.C. Tretter battles misconceptions

Writing on the NFLPA’s site, Tretter discussed some of the common things said about players. It was like he copied the most repeated gripes against MLB players in the past month.

He broke down a lot of the false comments, like “Playing in the NFL is a privilege, not a right.”

“It’s neither. It’s your job,” Tretter wrote. “It is a highly sought-after job and a childhood dream, but it is a job, nonetheless.”

Tretter went on to smartly explain why it’s inaccurate that players should just play for the love of the game, or that athletes are overpaid because professions like teaching and nursing are underpaid.

“I hope every worker can maximize their talents and use their leverage to get paid more — especially essential workers,” Tretter wrote. “To be clear, though, there is no correlation between a football player’s paycheck and a nurse’s paycheck. As employees of NFL teams, we put a product on the field that brings in billions of dollars. The NFLPA collectively bargained for a percentage of that revenue. When the NFL and NFLPA split up billions of dollars, that leaves players in a position to make life-changing money. If less money was allocated to players, NFL owners would not turn around and gift the extra revenue to pay teachers, nurses, or other workers more money.”

His article was spot on in many ways. It won’t stop some fans from railing against players without considering there are actual human beings playing the games they love, but Tretter is trying.

The underlying theme to his thoughts might be that there are still hurdles to cross before training camps start next month.

There are still safety concerns

NFL players are always targets for some fans who are jealous about the salaries they make, but when speaking about this year and the coronavirus, NFL players haven’t had much opportunity to do anything that would put them in the spotlight.

NFL players have been working out on their own. If anything, the biggest headlines have been players having extra workouts on their own despite NFLPA concerns about safety amid the pandemic.

There could be fights down the road if the salary cap gets cut significantly due to lost revenue in 2020. Players will express concerns about safety. Some could opt out of the season, as a few MLB and NBA players have. Even though nobody has really ripped the NFL players over this yet — they haven’t had anything to report for or opt out of during this odd offseason — it’s probably coming.

“More so than any other sport, the game of football is the perfect storm for virus transmission,” Tretter said. “There are protections, both short and long term, that must be agreed upon before we can safely return to work. The NFLPA will be diligent as we demand that the NFL provide us the safest workplace possible.”

To this point, the NFL has maintained an approach of optimism and normalcy, not making any significant changes to the schedule outside of canceling the Hall of Fame Game. But Tretter’s post was a reminder that there are still union concerns that will have to be addressed.

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