I have never liked players who put themselves above the team. Players who hold out because they don't like where they play for or who their coach is or their contract or for any other reason. Steve Francis whining on draft day until he was traded from Vancouver to Houston. John Elway threatening to play baseball if the Colts drafted him. Bo Jackson actually PLAYING baseball instead of playing for the Bucaneers. And the last two aren't as bad as the fist one. One that REALLY gets me is Terrell Owens last year trying to renegotiate ONE YEAR after signing a contract. There is no excuse, if you agree to a contract for ANYTHING, you need to honor it. If you contract a company to put a new roof on your house, and one third of the way through the job they decide that they are not going to finish unless you re-negotiate a new price for them, you would call the Better Business Bureau and possibly that local news station that does the "We're on your side fighting fraud in YOUR community" pieces. It isn't done in "real life", so why is it okay in the world of sports? I am no apologist for owners, they have spent 100 years making money off of the labor of those in the spotlight. But how does that make them any different from Bill Gates or he guy who owns stock in Exxon/Mobil? That is business. And yes I know that, at least in football where there are no guaranteed contracts, holding out is the only way a player can make himself heard. And no, an NFL player can't just go looking for another job like I could if I was unhappy with my current employer. But here is the thing, they knew that before they signed the contract. They knew that from the time they were big time high school players being recruited by big time colleges. There are no secrets to this, no mysteries. Professional sports is a business, and if you don't like the business model pick a different profession or shut up and go with the system that is in place. That is why you have a union and collective bargaining. If enough of you want the system to change than make it a point in the next CBA. If the union decides to strike over what is considered by them to be unfair labor conditions, they have every legal right to do so and I would support their decision even if I didn't agree with their position. I would even sacrifice being able to watch the games. However, negotiations are never about things that noble. They are about money, and how each side can get the biggest piece. That is the way it is. And this is what brings me to Ashley Lelie.
A little background on Lelie. He was drafted out of Hawaii by the Denver Broncos in the 1st Round of the 2002 Draft, 19th pick overall. And (this is important) he signed a contract to play for the Denver Broncos. He decided this offseason that he should be classified as (and paid like) a #1 receiver instead of the 3rd receiver he was. And if you look at his stats (courtesy of http://espn.go.com )...
Stat Overview Receiving Rushing Fumbles
SPLIT REC YDS AVG LNG TD ATT YDS AVG LNG TD FUM LST
2005 42 770 18.3 56 1 5 84 16.8 39 0 0 0
Career 168 3007 17.9 60 12 20 172 8.6 39 0 0 0
Postseason - 2005 7 118 16.9 38 1 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0
You can see that he does not deserve either the desination nor the compensation that would be paid to a #1 receiver. But he (and more likely his agent) was convinced that he should get those things, so he held out. And last week he was traded from the Broncos to the Atlanta Falcons. Where he will be...(wait for it)...the 3rd receiver. So what did the holdout get him? A chance to play the same position with a worse quarterback that he had (I would take Jake Plummer or Jay Cutler over Michael Vick ANYDAY, and I challenge anyone who reads this to prove to me that it would be a mistake. Fact: Kyle Boller has a better 2005 and a better career completion percentage than Michael Vick. In fact, with a couple of exceptions the stats are AMAZINGLY similar. So when Is Kyle going to get the cover of Madden?) and a lesser chance of making the playoffs and making a Super Bowl run. Brilliant move.
Oh yeah, there is one other thing the holdout got him. Debt. According to his contract, Lelie was due to make $700,000 this year. $100,000 was for participating in offseason workouts, and $600,000 would have been his base salary. Well toss the $100,000 out the window because he skipped the offseason workouts, and since he was such a shining example of how teams build chemistry and sacrifice the one for the many, he was fined about $11,000 for skipping the Bronco's minicamp in July and $14,000 per day for training camp. Grand total, over $375,000. But wait, there's more. The Broncos are ALSO going after part of his original signing bonus, which he agreed to allow them to do as part of them trading him (another brilliant career move on his part). Overall it is possible that he will have to pay the Broncos to play this year. He will OWE THE LEAGUE MONEY! And let's see what kind of contract he gets when this one ends. It just goes to show Karma is a bitch. So is my ex-girlfriend, but we don't need to go there.