You might have noticed prior to last night’s game — and I know you were watching; 28 percent of the country was — when members of the Vikings and Saints each raised a single finger together.
As NBC’s Al Michaels noted: It was not an “I’m No. 1” statement, but rather a “we’re in this together” edict for all of the players.
It was a bold statement of solidarity orchestrated by the NFL Players Association — the same one that appears to be steamrolling toward loggerheads with the team owners over the soon-to-expire labor deal.
Fans appear disinterested, for the most part, with this conflict right now. Union research shows that a little more than a third of NFL fans are following the union-owners Collective Bargaining Agreement battle. But trust me, it will get their attention when the owners lock out the players come March 1.
This is an aggressive and interesting approach to take. The NFLPA reps were talking last week, and they collectively decided to show their support by raising the single finger to show their solidarity.
The hope among the union reps is that the gesture will catch on and become a staple of pregame routines.
And that’s about all the union can hope. A bunch of players raising fingers won’t scare any owners; they are more likely to see the gesture as “cute.” But the public is up for grabs right now — sides can be won or lost on this debate. The players can grab the public’s attention on this matter early and perhaps win its support.
On the NFLPA Web site, there is a “Kickoff Message” from the players that goes hand in hand with the solidarity gesture. It reads:
“We are men, and we are family men who love our country, our game and our fans.
“As we face an uncertain future and the threat of being locked out of the game we love and rely on to provide for our families, we make to you this solemn promise:
“To the Players who have come before us, fought and paid the price for pensions, health care and free agency — to men like John Mackey, Alan Page, Dan Marino, Freeman McNeil, Boomer Esiason, Reggie White and Kevin Mawae;
“To the stadium workers, officers, businesses and everyone who gets their hands dirty working for this game;
“To each and every player who risks everything for the thrill of this game;
“To everyone who loves this game and lives as we do for kickoff;
“And to the few who stand against us;
“The Players and fans will STAND AS ONE.”
It is signed by the NFLPA executive committee: Charlie Batch, Drew Brees, Brian Dawkins, Domonique Foxworth, Scott Fujita, Sean Morey, Tony Richardson, Jeff Saturday, Mike Vrabel, Brian Waters and the Players of the National Football League.
It will be interesting to see if this helps raise fans’ attention to a matter that isn’t going away. The war of words is on, and the media are not the only conduit for the message.
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