From The Associated Press:
A Bloomberg National Poll conducted March 4-7 showed that 43 percent of those surveyed side with the players and 20 percent with the owners. The remaining 37 percent either don’t follow football or aren’t sure which side they favor.
“Fans live vicariously through the players, and are more sympathetic to player causes,” David Carter, executive director of the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California, said in an interview.
So, on one hand you have your NFL players, making no less than a million bucks, who work — at best — about five months a year and get into every party for free while getting their picks of the hottest women (or men) in the country. You’d think it would be pretty hard to feel sorry for them.
On the other you have the life of the average state employee: working like a dog for a salary determined by political forces beyond his or her control while advancement is stymied by a tenure system that keeps individuals static for their whole careers.
That’s a much more sympathetic story than the average NFL player, right?
Yet, it seems Americans support their surly DMV desk clerks with the same passion they support millionaire divas like Terrell Owens, proving that despite conservative opinion — organized labor is not a net-negative to the voting public.
For years, conservatives and FOX News told the public that Unions are full of lazy good-for-nothings who couldn’t hack it in the private sector. Union membership in the private sector hit an all-time low in 2010, and in February of last year, public support for unions had reached a 75-year low with only 41 percent of Americans holding a favorable opinion of the member-driven organizations. The NFL players faced similar shifts in public opinion.
While the NFL is clearly “America’s Game,” high profile scandals involving Ben Rothlisberger, Michael Vick and Plaxico Burress had the sports journalists tongue-wagging as hard core fans felt alienated.
But then, a funny thing happened on the way to the union funeral: Republicans got what they wanted and blew it while the NFL owners got what they wanted and lost it.
Republicans reached across the post-midterm election Thanksgiving table and made a mess of everything, getting into a long, protracted food fight with state employees in Wisconsin and Ohio.
The same overreach seemed to hit NFL owners. They got what they wanted: a highly-rated, shining example of a Super Bowl with two legendary, small-market blue collar franchises locking horns.
But, they lost the public relations war soon after by locking out the players union over a contract dispute, annoying fans and sports pundits alike.
What Republican governors and NFL owners fail to realize is that Americans are much smarter now. After a decade of financial misery and the longest recession in a half-century, the man/woman on the street finally understands the games between labor and management – and they don’t like the rules.
Today, mention Enron, housing and mortgage crisis, massive bank bailouts and the stimulus package and every “little guy” has a strong opinion about the rest of “us” getting the “raw deal.” Changing public sentiment is as much about falling out of love with bosses as it is about falling back in love with unions.
When the center of the new Union movement was taking place in Madison, Wisconsin, Charles Woodson – star player of the Super Bowl Champion Packers – threw his weight behind employees huddled up in hallways and broom closets. The symbolism of a blue-collar style champion standing with state employees is an image neither Gov. Scott Walker nor Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones can compete with.
So what does the future hold for public attitudes towards union battles? By all accounts, things are looking rosy for state employee unions. Public sector union membership is trending up. Further, the public relations work of the state employee and the NFL continue to outdo the competition. State employee unions have refrained from creating a Cindy Sheehan or Erin Brokovich leader that the right can target. On the NFL side, putting “golden boys” Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees on the face of a class action lawsuit showed who hired the better marketing reps.
As long as the fall brings back public school openings and the NFL kickoff, Unions will continue to ride high.
This article originally appeared in TheLoop21.com under the headline “On NFL Lockout and Wisconsin Protests: People Cheer For Labor Unions.”