The NFL's Player Empowerment Movement

For better or for worse, the NFL has reached a changing of the guard. The player empowerment movement has officially begun in the NFL, and the Rams are the first team to take advantage of the turning tide. Similar to the 2010 version of the Miami Heat, players are banding together to form championship-contending teams. While superteams don't necessarily guarantee championships, certain teams have a leg up on others when it comes to the formation of a superteam. Take the Rams as a perfect example, everybody wants to live by the beach in Los Angeles; for similar reasons, Lebron James and Anthony Davis play for the Lakers. Los Angeles is a city capable of hosting a superteam; players will take less money to live in a certain destination. Miami and New York are also proficient landing spots for superteams.

People have a negative connotation around superteams, but I think they make the NFL more fun. I consider myself a fan of the game of football; if you are reading this article, you are also probably a fan. I love watching football, and the Rams are going to play this game at the highest level. With the late additions of Odell Beckham Jr. and Von Miller, this team is going to be dominant. Having Aaron Donald and Von Miller on the same defensive line is like having Steph Curry and Klay Thompson on the same offense. It is fun to watch; both players will bring the best out of each other. Sticking with the basketball references, having Matthew Stafford throwing the ball to Beckham Jr. is like Kyrie Irving passing the ball to Kevin Durant. Love them or hate them, they are both at the top of their positions and will bring out the best in each other. I want to see the best version of Stafford just as much as I want to see the best version of Beckham. Don't hate the players, hate the game. 

Change isn't a bad thing, it is just different; fans of the NFL will have to get used to it. It is important to ask, "why is the player empowerment movement happening now as opposed to before?". It is because the players are understanding how to leverage their influence. The players are the ones that drive in money for the NFL. The players have personalities, they have flare, but they also have something that no other humans on the planet can replicate. They have freak athleticism that is genuinely fun to watch. People love watching Tyreek Hill outrun other absurd athletes; they love watching Derrick Henry use his pure strength to stiff-arm other insanely strong humans. Nobody wants to watch a group of unathletic people without any personality play bad football. While the owners may be the ones paying the contracts, if these players chose not to play, the owners would have nobody to pay. Jed York and Jerry Jones aren't handing out millions of dollars to the average Joe.

 

The players are a union of people who interact; they work out together, have the same agents, go to the same events. Through these shared experiences, they create connections. Those connections can lead to conversations like, "what if we played together" or "what if we won a Super Bowl together?". In this case, Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr., both had a say in where they were going. While Beckham had more freedom than Miller, both players were willing to take less money to play in Los Angeles together. 

The beautiful piece in this entire equation is how they learned to leverage. Beckham Jr. and Miller were able to look at the NBA to see how Kevin Durant was able to pair with Curry, Thompson, and Draymond Green. Beckham Jr. isn't going to get paid as much as he would be if he was still in Cleveland, but he wouldn't be in as good of a spot to win if he was still in Cleveland. The age-old question in sports that all athletes are asked is "would you rather make a lot of money and lose or less money and win?" Beckham Jr. has already made lots of money through his time with the Giants and Browns, he is now in the position to take less and win more. While he may be making less off his football contract, he will have more "off-field opportunities" in Los Angeles rather than Cleveland. Commercials, advertisements, and cameos; that is where Beckham's money will be made. Anthony Davis is still making a lot of money from the Lakers, but he is also making a lot of money from his role in "Space Jam 2" and has set himself up for a career outside of basketball. This is an opportunity for Beckham Jr. and Miller to start making a name for themselves in the city of Los Angeles and think about their post-playing careers. This is how generational wealth is built; Michael Jordan doesn't have generational wealth because of his contract with the Bulls, it is because of his shoe deal, Space Jam, and his influence off the court. Beckham Jr. and Miller's popularity will only grow the more often they are in the spotlight. 

Just because these two players are the only ones who have done it in the NFL, doesn't mean it won't continue happening in the future. Players' voices are finally being heard. Players can have podcasts now, YouTube channels and social media pages. This is a good thing, the audience will get to hear stories from inside locker rooms, in the huddle, and on the sideline. We will be hearing everything straight from the source. We are entering the player empowerment movement in the NFL. It's a beautiful thing to watch; the fans will receive better content from the players and better football will be played because of it.