Here is Steve Young giving a decidedly Older Football Guy take about the burgeoning player empowerment movement in the NFL, one that Young likened to the NBA.
Steve Young says the NFL is heading towards being like the NBA with big-name players demanding trades. pic.twitter.com/KOxzbqhNB1
— ESPN (@espn) September 17, 2019
Young, despite never saying “this is bad,” thinks this is bad. In his eyes, it is bad that teams are “capitulating” to the requests players put forth for a move — it is important to player that there have been three players who have openly wanted to be moved in recent weeks: Antonio Brown, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and the person who sparked this discussion, Jalen Ramsey — and believes they need to draw a “hard line” by refusing to trade anyone who wants out.
It is also important to point out two things. The first is that this is three players (or a few more, if you count holdouts like Melvin Gordon and Jadeveon Clowney, which I do not) in a sport that features nearly 1,700 on active rosters, which doesn’t mark an epidemic as much as it does, well, I am not quite sure. But like any minor ripple in the world of football and sport, it has to be discussed in this overly-broad terms in an attempt to stomp out this threat to how the league has always operated — see also: the discussion of players skipping college basketball to play overseas or in the G League.
The second is that Young, a former player, is not talking about this as a player, because in the world of football, there are not players. There are people who represent a team, which is part of the league, and that is more important than any person and anything they may experience.
Football is a brutal sport, both because of what it does to players physically (more on this in a moment) and what it does to each athlete’s personhood. Bomani Jones touched on this during the most recent edition of his podcast, but the concept of a player having agency is foreign in the world of football. The sport exists so that players are perpetually reduced to being less than the piece of laundry that they wear on their torsos and helmets that protect their heads every Sunday, and god forbid if they ever do anything that flies in the face of THE SHIELD.
In the world of football, a player trying to take control of their life, regardless of the situation, is met with resistance. Brown (depending on which reporting you believe) had a preferred destination in mind after wanting to leave the Pittsburgh Steelers, but they refused to send him there, so he did everything in his power to get there and succeeded. The Dolphins are going through as blatant of a tank as we have seen a team embark upon in recent memory, so Fitzpatrick, a wonderful player who has been a winner going back to his days as a five-star recruit at one of the best high school football programs in the country, wanted to go somewhere where he could at least try to win.
Relations are obviously tense between the Jaguars and Ramsey, and during a press conference on Tuesday, the All-Pro corner said his request for a trade stems from the fact that he wants to win football games. This shouldn’t really come as a surprise for anyone, because as Mina Kimes pointed out, this is the same player who was seen crying on the bench during his rookie season because his team was really bad.