Gonzalez shouldn't expect much sympathy from fans

August 31, 2011
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For those who complain every time an NFL player holds out for a new contract, I present to you Exhibit A: Anthony Gonzalez.

The Ohio State graduate is due $1.11 million this year from the Indianapolis Colts, but is in serious jeopardy of getting cut as the team trims its roster from 80 to 53. The injury-prone Gonzalez is nursing a hamstring injury this year.

And Gonzalez’s paycheck if he’s cut?


But wait. Colts owner Jim Irsay and team President Bill Polian pledged to pay Gonzalez that money. After all, he has a contract. They signed it.

Oh well. There’s no such thing as a guaranteed contract in the NFL.

I’m not asking you to cry for Gonzalez. If he’s been smart with his money, he’s probably made enough in his first four years with the Colts to weather this storm—should there be one—just fine.

But the reality is, if you get hurt or don’t live up to expectations in the NFL, you get cut and you don’t get paid. In many ways it’s no different for you and me. Minus the six- and seven-digit paychecks.

But if this system is going to put players and management on anything resembling a level playing field, the reverse paradigm to Gonzalez’s situation must hold true, as well.

When a player like Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson holds out for a big payday, the player is often seen as greedy. How many times have we heard, “He has a contract. He signed a contract. He should honor the contract?”

Why should he? Management only honors its contracts with players when it suits them.

The shelf life of professional football players is extremely short. For every Peyton Manning or Brett Favre there are dozens and dozens of guys like Gonzalez—or worse. The average career in the NFL is 3.4 years.

So it stands to reason that if a player can get cut simply for being hurt or underperforming expectations, then a player who over-performs or outplays their contract should be entitled to a renegotiated deal with higher pay.

The part where an employee doesn’t show up for work until he gets a giant raise, that’s not the way most of us are used to working. So it can be a little difficult to swallow sometimes.

But Indiana is an at-will state, where you can be fired for just about any reason. You wouldn’t think it would be all that difficult for people to identify with these players. But more often you here them siding with management.

Go team!


  • Contract
    Unless a contract grants either party the right to hold out, then it is wrong for a player to hold out for a new contract. I've never read an NFL contract, but I assume the contract specifically grants the team the right to cut a player for x, y, or z reasons. Consequently, the team has done nothing wrong if it cuts a player for x, y, or z reason.

    Players are contractors just like millions of other self-employed contractors, owner- operators, small business owners etc. They must abide by the contracts they signed or face the consequences. I wish the all professional sports players would stop being treated like prima donnas. They can and will be replaced.
  • Yeah, But...
    The employment relationship in the NFL is not the same as private industry. You do not get to pick who you play for until you gain free agency status, for example. Even then you might have restricted status.
  • Agreed
    To "Employer" - how is it "it is wrong for a player to hold out for a new contract"? Do you mean morally wrong? Contract law does not deal in terms of right & wrong - only if one party has been damaged or not. This is determined by pure monetary damages.

    I agree with Schoettle. At-will goes both ways. If a team wants to cut a player, they can and do. If a player doesn't want to play, they should be able to exercise that right. There may be some financial penalty for that, but it is not "wrong" anymore that it would be "wrong" for you to refuse to work or perform a job.

    "Players are contractors just like millions of other self-employed contractors" -- agreed, so why must they be treated any differently? Any one of those millions can refuse to work, even if there is a contract saying they should.
  • Good job Anthony
    I completely agree with you...I just don't get people (Employer) who keep trying to liken pro sports to their business. It is nothing like real business, it is entertainment, it is fantasy, and the owners bring almost no football acumen to the table, they just have a fat wallet (remember when Irsay used to be involved in player personnel? and how great the Redskins have been with Dan Snyder just throwing money at things...and the Cowboys are so good now that Jerry Jones is the final authority on everything). I don't see anything wrong at all with a player holding out, especially if the owner can cut him at will. The owner won't pay him anymore than he absolutely has to...whatever the player has to do to get what he thinks he is worth is fine...and if the owner doesn't want to pay him then let him sit. It is not hard, and "employer" is the one who is wrong...everyone involved here still has a choice and free will...nothing wrong with that, as long as you accept whatever comes with the territory.

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