Earlier this week, Cory Redding signed on with the Indianapolis Colts and he caught a lot of grief from Ravens fans for making the switch. The same fans who rooted for him through his years in Baltimore now found themselves railing against him for making the same kind of decision that brought him to the team in the first place. We as fans view our teams as an emotional investments, but for players they are a financial investment, trying to make as much money as they can in the 10-15 years that they have to earn income as professional athletes.
Now, I have heard all the excuses about players “deserving” whatever they receive from fans because they aren’t properly loyal, but frankly that argument doesn’t hold any water, no matter how much money these athletes make.
Take a moment to think about what you do for a living. You have probably worked there for anywhere between 1 and 20 years. Maybe you feel some loyalty to them because they offered you your first job or they have promoted you and appreciated your work over the years. A competitor has just offered to double your salary but you have to move across the country. You go to your boss and not only can he or she not double your salary he or she can’t even increase it by more than a token amount. The competitor is also willing to commit to employ you for more years. What do you do? You aren’t a multimillionaire, just an average Joe. Chances are you make the move, especially if you don’t have any tie to the area you live in now (Redding for instance is from Houston, TX).
But these athletes are millionaires, you say. Once you have a certain amount of money, even in a precarious job like a professional athlete, you should be satisfied and not ask any more. Exactly how much would that be? If you made $2M a year what exactly would make you turn down $3M (or any increase for that matter)? How much money would you have to make a year for you to allow random strangers to tell you to stay in that job no matter how much more you could make elsewhere?
It is often said that the NFL is a business though fans tend to only apply that part to teams, which are given carte blanche to cut any players they want as long as the team gets better. But when a player looks out for his own well-being it is seen as a betrayal. A company’s job is to improve the bottom line, and an employee’s job is to do his best and be rewarded for it. My father worked for the same company for over 20 years while he turned down better opportunities elsewhere due to loyalty to the company. They let him go a few years before he was going to retire. Countless of employees have lost their jobs during this recession after staying committed to their companies. Why should the employers receive our applause while they look out for #1 while the employees are ridiculed for doing the same?
Cory Redding, Ben Grubbs, Haruki Nakamura, Tom Zbikowski, Jarret Johnson, and others should be given our warm thanks and best wishes as they continue their careers in other uniforms. We can root for our teams without demanding that our fandoms take priority over the livelihoods of other individuals, no matter how wealthy we might think they are.