Chuck Stanley is the host of the Eagles FanCast. He and his EFC cohort Eric attended last night's "NFLPA One Team Tour"in Philadelphia for us and submitted this recap of the event.
The One Team Tour is a tailgate-style event thrown by the NFL Players Association, with the goal of thanking football fans, and to educate on labor issues in the NFL. Philadelphia was the latest stop on their tour. It was held at the Water Works Restaurant in Philadelphia, which has a great view of the Schuykill River and Boathouse Row... oh hell, we were not there for the view, we were there for some NFL festivities!
Some of the many union representatives, elected officials, business people and fans in attendance were sporting their Eagles green in various ways, and raucously cheered for the Eagles when mentioned. The NFLPA's Joe Briggs acted as MC, and introduced the speakers after thanking all of us for being there. The speakers included representatives of the AFL-CIO who boasted their support for the players' union. Then NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith was introduced. DeMaurice started off by saying how he grew up in a different city, Washington DC, which immediately brought about a flurry of boos. DeMaurice goodnaturedly appealed, "Brotherly love! Brotherly love!". When the boos started to fade, one person yelled out, "That WAS love!" Only in a Philly crowd!
He only spoke for a few minutes, but his message was clear in regards to why he does what he does, and why we were all there:
"The great thing about my job, regardless of the score, regardless of the game... players win, fans win, teams win. That's why I take my job every day."
"This is what football is about. Football is about hanging around people who love the game, who want to watch it, who want to enjoy it. I get to represent the people who play this game ... Organized labor is about representing people who get their hands dirty and get the job done. Representing my guys, it's getting their hands dirty, sometimes broken, but it's all about getting the job done."
DeMaurice went on to introduce Ron Davis (President, Philadelphia Chapter of NFLPA Former Players), Ellis Hobbs, Winston Justice, and former NFLer, Garo Yepremian.
In all, the speeches, applause, and introductions lasted only about eight minutes. After that everyone continued to partake of the free food and drink and wander about until some door prizes (jerseys and signed helmets) were given out. The players didn't stay long, but were happy to shake hands, talk and take photos when asked.
Despite the enthusiasm shown during the whole event, you couldn't help but see that this was mostly marketing to rally fans behind the players' cause in the ongoing player/owner dispute. With a lockout pending for March 2011, and less than a week after the union advised players to save money in anticipation of the lockout, this union solidarity and fan marketing tour seems just about right. Currently we cannot predict where the negotiations will lead, but the talk of the night was all about how the players want to play, the fans make the NFL what it is, and the players want to be treated fairly for the punishment they receive weekly during the season. There was even a petition they were asking us to sign as we waited in line for our swag bags; a petition to block the lockout. If you wish to sign it, you can do so online at http://NFLLockout.com.
As for the food, it was spread throughout the multiple rooms in the form of a fresh pig being sliced (complete with apple in it's mouth), mini cheese steaks in pretzel buns, wings, wraps, sandwiches and even hot dogs served outside among the many firepits. Because of the cold winds, very few stayed outside... obviously not seasoned tailgaters.
Near the end of the event, we were able to speak with DeMaurice Smith. He was very courteous and talked with us answering questions and eagerly shared some of the troubles the union has had the past few years with the owners. He touched on the owners wanting more, the impending lockout is unfair, and moving to an 18-game season would negatively impact the players, their career longevity and overall health. DeMaurice was able to spend about five minutes with us before being escorted away.
We may lose football because of a lockout in March of next year. The players will lose salary and health benefits, coaches will be paid a fraction, many team employees will lose their jobs, and local businesses will suffer... but the attitude and the message at The Water Works Tuesday night was clear: the players want to play, and they love the fans.