Virtual Voices

Football civics

Congress

What in the world were NFL players doing in Washington last month? We usually don't see such a spectacle until the president invites the Super Bowl victors to the White House.

As the excitement of Green Bay's big victory fades, football fans will turn their attention to the looming deadline to extend the collective bargaining agreement between the National Football League and the National Football League Players Association union. Both sides are concerned about money, and the players' union has been lobbying to get Congress on its side. What kind of civics lesson is the union teaching?

The players and former players descended on the halls of Congress in January to make their case for getting a deal done before their agreement with the league expires on March 4. The current revenue split is 59 percent for the players and 41 percent for the owners. There's a lot at stake for everyone in a league that generates $9 billion in revenue, and the players would like to recruit Big Brother to their side of the field.

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OK, pull out your pocket Constitution and find where Congress might have the right to get involved in this dispute.

Find it yet?

I can't find anything either, but the justification rests on an arcane interpretation of anti-trust law. It's a stretch for Congress to intervene on such a flimsy interpretation of the rules. The players' union doesn't appear to be concerned. But should they care when our representatives routinely flex and bend the Constitution (think healthcare)?

Lobbying Congress, former Washington Redskins player Pete Kendall told CBS News, "I know this Congress in particular is concerned about three things: jobs, jobs, and jobs. . . . A lockout will affect jobs, jobs, and jobs. It will affect the local economies. It will affect not only just the players and just the owners, but also the people who attend the game, the people who work in service of the game."

Someone coached Kendall well on the talking points. NFL senior vice president for government affairs Pete Miller said, "We will respond to the Players Association's strategy of engaging Congress on labor issues-but only respond. We have no intention of trying to draw Congress into our negotiations."

I can't see politicians getting involved in a fight between rich owners and rich players, but I hope kids weren't watching Kendall on the news. What a poor civics lesson: Suggesting that Congress intervene in NFL negotiations violates the original intention of our nation's rulebook, the Constitution.

Lee Wishing
Lee Wishing

Lee is the administrative director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.

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