What If …?

How far have we come – or fallen- in 40 years?

Who says athletes don’t stand for anything any more? Okay, it wasn’t exactly John Carlos and Tommie Smith standing defiantly on the podium in Mexico City 40 years ago to protest racism in America. And so what the Boston Red Sox stood for today was money. Why be critical when at least some athletes stood up for something other than themselves?

In a unique display of cohesiveness and savvy, the Red Sox players delayed the start of their nationally televised exhibition game against the Toronto Blue Jays and threatened not to go to Japan for their season-opener when they heard that their coaches, trainers and staff would not receive the same $40,000 stipend they were getting.

Their timing was smart. “Being on ESPN did not hurt,” said third baseman Mike Powell. More important, their cause was worthy. Let’s not even debate the need for players, whose average salary last seasons was $2,824,751, to receive an additional $40G for their global goodwill journey. That the rest of their traveling party was making the same trip and receiving not an additional cent for their contribution to baseball’s world mission was, at minimum, disrespectful.

It was also stupid.

Last season was baseball’s most bountiful ever. The game generated a record $6.075 billion in gross revenue. Yeah, that’s billion.

Interestingly, manages and coaches were included in the compensation pool for the two prior excursions to Japan. Why get cheap now?

Sanity ultimately prevailed. According to the Associated Press, MLB agreed to pay the managers, coaches and trainers $20,000 each, a source said. AP also reported that the Red Sox players would to make up the difference to make the amount equal to their, and they would also offer funds to other team personnel making the trip.

Kevin Youkilis of the Red Sox called the effort “…an experience of a lifetime, and it ended in a good way.”

Perhaps even more impressive was that the Oakland A’s, who will face the Red Sox in Japan, watched the boycott unfold from their locker-room in Phoenix and decided to delay the start of their own exhibition game until they received word from their Boston brethren that there was a fair deal.

If we’re lucky this effort, as money-centric as it was, would sparked a similar consciousness across all sports.

What if prior to the start of the NCAA tournament tomorrow, young players refused to take the court until the nation’s colleges agreed to really educate student-athletes and ensure that they obtain degrees.

What if NFL players refused to report until former players, who paved the way for their own success, were ensured they’d never have to pay another medical bill for the rest of their lives.

What if college athletes refused to play unless they were allowed to change schools when the coach that recruited them either resigns or is fired?

What if college recruits – particularly young African-American recruits – refused to attend any school that did not have people who looked like them in positions of leadership on the coaching staff and at the university?

What if tennis players refused to hit another serve until the game came up with a system that actually explains the rankings?

What if baseball players refused to play until their union agreed to a drug-testing policy that finally rid the sport of performance enhancing drugs?

What if the Knicks refused to play again until owner Jim Dolan sold the team?

Hey, we can dream can’t we?


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