A look at holdouts in sports
By Eric Wilkins, Sports Editor
Little Johnny has a dream: to one day be a professional thumb-twiddler. Johnny isn’t one to just sit on his hands though, he has the desire and the talent to make his dream come true. And so, Johnny trains hard and commits to achieving all that he’s ever wanted. When the day finally comes that a thumb-twiddling troupe decides to take a chance on him and offers Johnny a three-year contract, he doesn’t hesitate. He puts pen to paper and signs his name instantly, over the moon to even get an opportunity. But as the years go by and Johnny realizes he’s very good at thumb-twiddling, he grows dissatisfied with his deal. When he asks for more money, the troupe informs him that he signed a contract and they can talk about a new deal when the current one expires. Pouty and annoyed, Johnny tells them that he won’t be a part of the troupe until they show him the money. He then sits out and, well, twiddles his thumbs.
A holdout is one of the more irritating parts of sports. In what other profession is it acceptable to sign a legally binding contract, work for a time, and then decide that one is worth more and refuse to perform the agreed upon duties? None. To just sit out would result in being fired or possibly ending up settling the issue in court. So why is it alright for athletes to do so? What makes them so special that we condone the holding of their breath until someone caves and gives in to their demands?
It’s difficult to respect someone who so casually reneges on their contractual obligations. Likewise, it’s disappointing to see how fans have, and continue to, embrace their petulant stars with open arms when they return from their tantrums. Sports are often a good indicator of a person’s character. Quitters will always be quitters, no matter what they’re doing. The good ones will always find something left in the tank and dig deep. And the cheaters will look for every possible way they can get an edge on their opponent. Contracts, as an extension of sports, are the same way. If a player could likely get more, but plays out his deal nonetheless, that’s the kind of character you want to know and have in your locker room. A player who will hold out has a “me-first” mentality; it’s that kind of personality that causes rifts in team chemistry and can be a real cancer for the squad.
Two recent examples of either are Randall Cobb and Marshawn Lynch. Cobb is an electric playmaker for the Packers and one of the most dynamic wideouts in the game. He’s heading into the final year of his rookie deal but the words coming out of his mouth are far from what society has come to expect: “I don’t believe I’ve done enough [for a new deal], and I think that’s on me.” Never let that man leave Green Bay. Players have held out with much lesser resumés than Cobb and received massive new deals; it’s refreshing to see someone have an ounce of respectability.
On the flipside you have Lynch. “Beast Mode” is in the third year of his four-year contract signed in 2012—just two years ago. While Lynch could certainly stand to make a bit more given his performance, again, he signed a contract (one that pays him a handsome $5-million in base salary this season and $5.5-million next year) and should have just honoured it. His week-long holdout resulted in the Seahawks restructuring his deal to his advantage and is sad to see. Unfortunately the Seahawks are as human as the rest of the league and when the chance to make a real statement came up, they dropped the ball.
At the end of the day, there will always be holdouts. Teams will cave on multiple occasions and players will show their true colours in the worst possible fashion.