The Business of Free Agency is Disloyalty
The phrase “it’s just a business” is one of the biggest cop outs in professional sports, and some NFL free agents are tired of hearing the nonsense.
Whenever organizations show players the “business” side of free agency it usually means a clean locker and hopes of a solid recommendation, but wide receiver Steve Smith decided not to take it and give the Panther’s organization the “business” himself.
After the team notified him of his release, Smith warned listeners on WFNZ that he has the worst intentions upon facing the team that drafted him then gave him the boot.
“I want to make sure that whatever team I go to, they’re going to get the best, in shape 35-year-old guy they can get,” Smith said. “If that happens to run through Bank of America Stadium, put your goggles on cause there’s going to be blood and guts everywhere,”
Every news outlet in America is running that quote and for good reason. Smith is undeniably the best and most consistent receiver in the history of Carolina’s franchise, and he expected to retire in Charlotte. His wife and children have an established life there, and Smith was given little to no notice of his impending release.
If your boss walked into your job of ten plus years and told you to pack up out of the blue, you’d most likely not go out thinking kind thoughts. Smith just decided to voice his distaste for General Manager Dave Gettleman’s interpretation of the word loyalty.
Smith isn’t the only one getting blindsided, and he’s far from the first victim. Just ask Darren Sproles’ wife about how free agency can feel.
Players have been dealing with phrases like “it’s just a business” and “it’s the nature of the beast” for decades, and the simple interpretation of those cliches is this: when players no longer live up to their bill on the field, no amount of loyalty in the world can save them from the chopping block.
Keep in mind, GMs and owners don’t have a monopoly on disloyalty. Players can do their fair share of deception when their time to collect comes up as well.
Cleveland fans still cringe at the minor mention of LeBron James, but players will make their hay while the sun is shining. Professional careers are short, and not all contracts are guaranteed. The only winners are those who are willing to throw feelings aside.
What it all boils down to is a sad revelation. Loyalty is truly a lost concept thanks to the introduction of free agency. The best we can hope for is a mutually beneficial partnership for an extended period of time between a franchise and a player, and boy, does that sound sexy or what?
Anybody who still believes in the concept of loyalty, just remember how long it took to get Drew Brees’ contract sealed up. You don’t get a tighter bond in sports than Brees and the city of New Orleans, but the gloves came off real quick when it came down to dollars and cents.
Call me cynical. Call me jaded. Just don’t tell me it’s all just “part of the business” because Steve Smith, Darren Sproles and I have heard just about enough of that.