NFL Labor Dispute: Cromartie's Heart In Right Place, Should Have Foot In Mouth

Devon MooreContributor IJanuary 30, 2011

Antonio Cromartie: NFLPA Public Relations Extraordinaire
Antonio Cromartie: NFLPA Public Relations Extraordinaire

Well, that didn't take long.

The New York Jets, who just suffered a defeat in the AFC Championship game for the second year in a row, left Pittsburgh and went quietly into the night. One would think, with no more upcoming games to play, there would be nothing left to say.

Not a chance. The Jets, with their large crop of colorful characters, have found their way back into the spotlight this week.

In this week's game of media controversy roulette, the ball dropped onto cornerback/kick return/baby-making specialist Antonio Cromartie, who decided to take it upon himself to send a message to the NFLPA and ownership. For lack of worse words, stop being a bunch of sticks in the mud and get to the bottom of this.

I could not agree with him more.

But where Cromartie fails is his approach. He is certainly right, from everybody’s perspective, from the owners and players and on down to the fans, that they want a deal in place by March. Everybody feels this way.

There isn't anybody out there with a vested interest in this that doesn’t want to see football being played come fall. In the first game of the season, the Vikings and Saints all stood on the field before the game as a symbolization of the unified front they have towards the upcoming labor dispute.

But here we are at the end of the season, and you are seeing some of that solidarity beginning to wilt away. Cromartie’s comments stink of desperation. It’s a blinking contest, and the owners are more than willing to wait, maybe past the last second for the player’s union to concede, “we just want to play, we just want to get paid, we just want a deal done”.

This isn't even the last second. Five weeks left, and one bird has already chirped to the media about something that other players have to be feeling too. That even though they don’t want their salary cut by one-fifth, and they don’t want to play 18 games, and believe me, no player in their right mind does, they will accept the terms handed to them to keep getting paid.

Cromartie going to the media was a mistake. It showed the players' vulnerability. Somewhere, every owner reading Cromarties statement or seeing it on TV was grinning from ear to ear, “so that's what these guys are thinking?”

Watching the players jaw back and forth through the media and twitter was also a nice comedy side reel for the owners to laugh at. 

If Antonio Cromartie knew how unions work, then he would know that squabbling and in-fighting between members is a sign of weakness, and increases the ownership’s bargaining power. It will be much more difficult to move them on important issues if the owners are under the impression that most of the players attitude towards this situation is similar to Cromartie's.

DeMaurice Smith knows this. Ray Lewis knows this, too. Ray is right, that IS why they have leaders. Each and every player supports the same cause, but Smith is the man they hired to speak for them collectively. The leaders of the union were put there for their expertise in this matter.

I have read bloggers calling Cromartie “the voice of reason”. That's a load of crap. He’s nothing but the voice of reason for every single player in the NFL to be upset with him. Even if it’s only one player, he’s shown his cards—just get a deal done. The owners will certainly play off that sentiment at crunch time. 

There is probably a ratio of players in the league that, depending on their financial situation, could afford to sit out a year, and then there’s some that would probably play no matter what.

Regardless of who is who, being critical of the union that represents you through the media and exposing it to everyone else is a bad idea. It shows a chink in the union’s proverbial armor...and a cracked union is tantamount to no union at all.