Opinion: Athletes Hold Out for Money, Not Loyalty

In recent years, we have seen Kawhi Leonard in the NBA and Le’Veon Bell in the NFL decide they are not going to play because they are unhappy with their current situations. Whether it be contract issues or the personnel on the field or court, they decided that they would not play for their respective teams, much to the dismay of thousands of fans. But we must remember that it wasn’t always like this.

Remember back to the days of Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and numerous others and think about how that time was. When you think of Wilt, yes you think the iconic photo after his 100-point game. Now think about Kareem. What do you think of? The sky-hook and the Lakers. What about Magic Johnson? Showtime Lakers. Allen Iverson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird?

The point is,  these players are associated with one team, because it wasn’t all about the money and the rings. It was about the team that allowed you to reach your childhood dream of getting drafted and staying with them for most or all your career.

There was no such thing as holding out because you didn’t get what you wanted. It just didn’t work like that, nor should it. Loyalty and sports went together for the most part. Players poured their heart and soul into their teams to win championships and be successful, but that is no longer the sports world we live in.

Kevin Durant, as great a player as he is, or LeBron James, left to “ring chase.” The formation of super teams and needing  three to four all-stars to have a chance at winning a championship has ruined loyalty. We see it in the NFL a lot, that players holdout of Optional Team Activities (OTA’s) or preseason in search of more money. Even rookies, who haven’t taken a pro snap will holdout for enormous amounts of money from a team betting on them to be good.

Now I won’t be close-minded and say that there is only a loyalty problem with players. I remember the Isaiah Thomas-Boston Celtics fiasco from two years ago?  Thomas played a playoff game after his sister was killed and scored 53 points and continued to pour his everything into that series, only to be traded in the offseason for Kyrie Irving. There is a problem on both sides.

Unfortunately, in either situation, professional sports have turned into more of a business, where money is everything rather that what it should be, which is a favor-for-a-favor, where players support teams and vice versa.