I’ve written numerous times about the challenges of building championship teams in today’s professional sports environment. Changes to the system through financial compensation brought on by the advent of Free Agency has especially been challenging for NFL General Managers. Today’s GM is not only responsible for the Football Operations of his owner’s “Billion dollar” organization, he’s also responsible for negotiating with the 53 individual LLC and or corporate identities that are the NFL players on his roster.
Fans and the media often become frustrated, if not downright “pissed off” at players that don’t show the loyalty that they feel they’ve given their own team in return. That unwavering loyalty doesn’t often (or ever) sit at the top of the priority list of an NFL player’s personal mission statement. Corey Jackson, one of my former players with the Denver Broncos, wrote a recent article that touched on the perceived disloyalty of NBA players like LeBron James and Carmello Anthony. His unique perspective comes from a knowledge of the industry from inside the lockerroom, and not looking outside/in as a fan or journalist.
BTW, I couldn’t agree with him more. But I believe with this freedom comes a responsibility of understanding the role of the professional athlete in modern society. That’s for another post.
The Football Educator
By Corey Jackson – Former Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns
Superstar athletes get tons of criticism when they’re considering leaving their current team for a new, and possibly better, opportunity. They get ridiculed and accused of chasing rings or money. For those of you who think this way, it’s important for you to realize these are not just athletes. They are corporate entities. As the head of a corporate entity, the athlete must make a decision based upon the greater good of the corporation.
When Lebron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers four years ago to join the Miami Heat, the media and many fans greatly criticized the way in which he made his exit. What many people fail to realize is that there are two Lebron’s. You have the basketball player Lebron and then you have the Chairman and CEO Lebron. The Chairman and CEO Lebron is going to do what any good leader of a corporation would do. And that’s look out for the best interest of his company. We see giant corporations make mergers and acquisitions all day long. No one gets upset or questions why Procter & Gamble acquired Gillette. Why? It is because we understand this is business and any good business is going to do what’s best for the company. Likewise, when it comes to superstar athletes like Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony, they are going to make the correct business decision whether people like it or not.
Most people don’t want to hear this, but I will say it any way. Athletes are not individuals; they are corporations. So when you see these guys playing in their respective sports, just know that they are playing as representatives of their corporations. And they are driving revenue for many people and businesses. These businesses include sports bars, apparel companies, owners of sports franchises, sports books in Las Vegas, and many more. This is big business and the athletes are at the center of it and we can’t ignore that. Fans are starting to get it. Many fans are becoming fans of the individual players now. This makes the player business much more powerful. No matter what team Lebron plays for, there always will be tons of fans who will follow him to his new partnership. As a former athlete, I think it’s awesome for athletes to have so much brand power. At the end of the day, it’s all business. The sports clubs, as well as the players are going to be loyal first and foremost to their own corporations.