The holdout crisis in the National Football League

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The holdout crisis in the National Football League

PHOTO BY JEFFREY BEALL/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

PHOTO BY JEFFREY BEALL/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

PHOTO BY JEFFREY BEALL/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

By Edward Soper, SPORTS EDITOR

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The NFL has entered an era that the league simply cannot afford to enable. Prominent players have recently decided that, rather than play out the final year of their contracts, they would rather sit out and force the team to give them a lucrative extension.
It all began with former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell. He announced that he would sit out the 2018 NFL season unless the team gave him a handsome raise and contract extension. Despite getting a five-year $70 million offer from the team, he decided it was in his best interest to hold out in the hopes the team would offer him more. Instead, the six-time Super Bowl champions decided that they weren’t going to cave and Bell kept his word, forfeiting $14.5 million and sitting out the entire 2018 season.
Bell and the Steelers went back and forth on contract negotiations before both sides decided it was time to move on. Pittsburgh released Bell, who later took less than the Steelers offered him to play for the New York Jets.
The precedent that Bell set has since affected other teams, notably the Oakland Raiders, Dallas Cowboys, and Los Angeles Chargers. However, these three teams have all gone about handling the situation a different way.
Before the start of the 2018-2019 NFL season, the Oakland Raiders, rather than continue a contract stalemate with defensive end Khalil Mack, opted to trade him to the Chicago Bears. The Bears quickly signed him to a record contract, making Mack the highest-paid defensive player of all-time.
The Dallas Cowboys, on the other hand, caved almost immediately and extended their running back, Ezekiel Elliot, to a six-year deal worth $90 million before this season began.
The Los Angeles Chargers have taken a Steelers-like approach to their own running back, Melvin Gordon, and his holdout. The team has decided that they would rather tread water with Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson at running back than give in to Gordon’s demands. Los Angeles has actually given Gordon and his agent the power to look for a potential trade. It seems that the Chargers aren’t going to let Gordon set this precedent with them, which could inspire some of their other players to follow suit.
This is a trend that needs to be nipped in the bud before it gets more out of hand. These players are being paid large sums of money to live out their dreams and play football professionally. There are countless people that would kill for an opportunity to make a fraction of what they make.
“It needs to stop. [The holdouts] are going to ruin professional sports. First it’s the NFL, then it will be the NBA, and then who knows. They’re bad for the teams, the fans, and potentially even for the guy that’s holding out,” said Walnut Creek native and die-hard Raiders fan Michael Porter Sr.
Unfortunately for football fans, there is no end in sight for the holdout epidemic. There is nothing the league can do and the more players that holdout successfully, the more common it will become. At the end of the day is an issue of players’ egos and attitudes, and unless teams start cracking down on these situations, this is only the beginning.