Winning the Battle, Losing the War

by dave on August 28, 2013

This week, the NFL Players Association announced they are filing a grievance to recoup $82,000 in unpaid workout bonuses for Aaron Hernandez. Work outs, I assume, that will be critical in Aaron’s efforts to not become someone’s bitch for the next couple of decades in prison if he is found guilty of the myriad of criminal charges he faces.

The NFLPA justifies its very public stand with an accused murderer on the grounds that “for the benefit of all players, there are important precedents here we must protect.”

Basically, to summarize: the NFLPA, after getting repeatedly abused by the NFL owners at the negotiating table over the years, has decided to take a stand to seek $82,000 for a man who celebrated signing a new $40m contract by shooting someone three or four times (allegedly). And they cloak this in the ‘greater good’ argument.

The NFLPA is just the latest proponent of an all-or-nothing, black-or-white, with-us-or-against-us mindset that has slowly taken over the U.S.; a mindset whose primary victim is common sense.

The NFLPA and others are so set on winning this battle that they are going to slowly lose the war of public credibility.

I understand why the NFLPA thinks it needs to fight this battle. It feels one of its members has been wronged and wants to ensure that this doesn’t become, as they say, a ‘precedent’ that impacts other members. It is the slippery slope argument made up of nonsensical logical leaps that result in decisions like this. If they don’t pay an (alleged) multi-murderer his bonus, what is next? A lost bonus for a traffic violation on the way to practice? Lost bonuses for turning your back on the Hard Knocks cameras?

(Though, in fairness, under Roger Goodell anything to distract from the league’s complacency in head injuries is possible.)

The NFLPA thinks it is fighting for the greater good, but what they are doing instead is ensuring their increasing irrelevancy. Can we take anything they say seriously when they take large public stands with the worst possible embodiment of their organization? Just imagine in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations when the NFLPA tries to sway public opinion and the owners reply back “yes, let’s make sure the guys that use their power to benefit murderers are given more power to wield.” Even Goodell’s arbitrary approach to player punishment will seem sane in comparison.

Shouldn’t instead of trying to teach the owners a lesson, the NFLPA be teaching their members a lesson? Shouldn’t this lesson be that we are here for you, unless you are a criminal, then you are on your own. I know Hernandez has been convicted of nothing yet, but maybe the NFLPA should remain silent and step in only upon his acquittal.

But common sense has no place in today’s world. If the President can essentially label an entire religion as terrorists, then a Union sees no choice but to defend to the letter of the law. In a sane, rational world, the NFLPA would wait until criminal proceedings are finished or if they feel it is necessary to intervene would pledge that $82,000 to an anti-violence or victim’s charity. But they can’t do that. Nuance is a dirty word in a world of absolutes.

The NFLPA isn’t the only organization that falls victim to this mindset. The NRA has made an entire mission statement out of this approach. Forget any logic or sanity in the gun control discussion, the NRA views any proposal that might restrict the worst people in the country from getting the worst weapons in the country as an act of treason.

In the face of rising violence against children the NRA says with a straight face that it is more guns, not fewer that we need. We can’t ban weapons which have no practical, legal use; we should instead give those same weapons to teachers.

Their belief is that once assault weapons are banned, or oversized magazines are eliminated the anti-gun lobby will next come for shotguns and hunting rifles. It is this boogey man of this slippery slope that they sell to law-abiding gun users around the country, whose sheer volume (and money) is then used to strike the fear in spineless lawmakers whose only ambition is to keep a job that gives them power and prestige.

The NRA’s slippery slope mindset has become so pervasive despite its complete lack of logic we can’t have a sane conversation about guns anymore. They have effectively changed the entire conversation in the halls of power, despite rampant growing unrest in the broader public for action to be taken.

Colorado, a state built by hunters and mountain men, passed tighter gun control measures last fall after repeated tragic gun incidents. Today, words like Columbine and Aurora carry greater weight than all of the illogical arguments and money the NRA can muster. There will still be hunting this fall all across the state – including my own father and brother – but maybe some psychopath will have a harder time procuring the weapons needed for a rampage and either be found out or seek help before tragedy strikes again.

Maybe this is the writing on the wall for the NRA. The extreme our-way-or-the-highway approach can’t work forever. Sooner or later, people will realize the insanity of catering to the farthest out 1%and that taking rational steps toward a middle ground won’t result in total anarchy.

There was once another organization that held important power. For a period it was one of the most dominant forces in American government. It single-handedly removed politicians who stood in the way of its objectives and got like-minded people elected. For awhile it even shaped the rule of the land.

But in the end, it’s own unyielding, inflexible views were increasingly out of step with the public. Where it was intended to make the country better it instead fostered illegal activity. When it refused to compromise to find a middle ground that balanced its aims with a more centrist view it was defeated and disappeared so completely from the political landscape it is now viewed solely as a historic curiosity.

The NFLPA and the NRA continue to argue that giving even an inch is not an option. They have decided to take a stand and their reward may be the same as it was for the prohibition movement.

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