Click on the above photo to get linked to the NFLPA Super Bowl Ad “Let Us Play”

On the eve of the NFL Lockout I thought I would share this email I received last month from Cleveland Browns Linebacker Scott Fujita (formerly of the New Orleans Super Bowl Champs) which I thought was very fitting and informative for those of you who don’t know what is at stake here with the pending lockout. I had the pleasure of getting to know Scott after spending several hours with him on a NYC shoot for one of my long-standing clients, the NFL Players Association. Not only was I amazed how down to earth he was but also how extremely intelligent and well-spoken he was, which I would expect from a man with a BA in Political Science and Masters in Education from UC Berkeley. Scott, like many players in the NFL, are actively involved in the communities they live and play in as well as numerous charitable foundations they give their time selflessly to.
Part of the print ad series I shot for the NFLPA with Scott Fujita (Photo by Donald Miralle for the NFL Players Association)
I hope that with the recently announced 24-hour extension, the owners and players can meet somewhere in the middle and make a compromise that works for both sides before the current CBA expires. If not we’ll all lose…
Here’s Scott’s email:
Please accept my apologies for the mass email. I encourage everyone to view the links at the bottom of the page and share with anyone you think might be interested. We’re approaching the end of the current league year in the NFL, and if a new Collective Bargaining Agreement isn’t reached by midnight March 4, the players could be locked out. Translation: We can’t even show up for work. The players have suggested having a “lock-in,” where we would basically hunker down in a hotel somewhere for as long as needed and hammer out a new CBA before the clock strikes midnight. We have received no response from the league about this.  

What all this means is that our families will lose their health coverage, injured players will no longer get treated by our doctors and trainers, and games could be cancelled. Do I expect anyone to feel sorry for us? Absolutely not. The real issue is what’s at stake for everyone involved in the business of football and the undeniable impact that a lack of football will reap. Each NFL city is expected to lose about $150,000,000. Trust me, the city of Cleveland can’t afford that. And as for the city of New Orleans, whose economy is so dependent on the service industry and visitors staying in their hotels and eating in their restaurants, it’s just not fair to them. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones recently claimed a lockout wouldn’t be all that devastating. For someone with his level of influence, that’s one of the most irresponsible things I’ve heard yet. This is much bigger than some gripe the owners have with the players.

So what’s the gripe? In a nutshell, the owners are demanding that the players play two more games each year AND take an 18% pay-cut. And when we ask why, they tell us it’s none of our business. The players are willing to be reasonable about this, and if we knew the NFL had fallen on hard times and that sacrifices were a must, then that’s a different story. But as we all know, the league is doing just fine. Revenues are as high as they’ve ever been and the fan-base is growing every year. This season, TV ratings for regular season NFL games blew the World Series out of the water. The NFL has negotiated TV deals that will pay them $4.5 billion in 2011…even if NO games are played. So when we ask them to explain how the “current economic model is broken,” I think that’s a pretty justifiable question.

And this season, when it comes to player safety, the NFL suddenly pretended to be the flag-bearers for our health and well-being. This comes after years of denying even the possibility of a link between the game of football, concussions, and long-term traumatic brain injury. And despite the raised level of awareness concerning our post-career health realities, they still want two more games and haven’t even suggested any improvements in post-career care. Their hypocrisy infuriates me. Right now we get just five years of coverage after leaving this game. Five. And that’s only if you’re lucky enough to become vested. In the meantime, more and more of our brothers fall victim to ALS, dementia and depression, among other afflictions. My heart screams for these men. Add to that the hip and knee replacements that are sure to come up 10, 15, 20 years after we stop playing. And through the whole PR battle that’s currently being waged, in what some are calling a battle of greed between “millionaires and billionaires,” the players have asked for nothing. Ultimately, we just want to be taken care of after we leave this game. My message to the NFL: You say you care about us…Now please, prove it. For the sake of guys like Andre Waters, O.J. Brigance, Orlando Thomas, Earl Campbell and Mike Webster…prove it.

So what can you do? Visit NFLLockout.com to submit your petition to block this lockout and to find out how you can participate with  “Let us Play Day” on Tuesday, January 28.
And if you’re feeling really ambitious, a letter to your local Congressional leader could potentially go a long way. I know a lot of people would prefer that Washington just stay out of this; that it’s none of their business. But when whole communities of people will be adversely affected by this lockout, my feeling is that they absolutely have an obligation to take an interest in what’s at stake here.
Listen, I know there’s a lot of posturing out there right now, and I recognize that this email could be viewed in the same light. But everyone in this email chain are friends and family, and as things start to get cloudy these next few months, I wanted you to hear the truth from me. And trust me, I “get” that this is just a game. But I’ve lived and worked in communities that I’m convinced can’t afford to lose football. And there are people very dear to me whose current health and well-being may have been negatively influenced by this game. These are the issues I care about. These are the issues that light my fire.