Eagles players and NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith stopped in Philly to thank fans and drum up support for the players in their ongoing labor dispute with the NFL owners.
John Lamb is a new contributor here on SBNation Philly, he attended last night's event and submitted this report. He covers Temple Sports at The T Stands Alone.
Last night, the NFL Players Association hosted a One Team Tour tailgate event at the upscale Water Works restaurant in the Art Museum District. NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith and current Eagles Winston Justice and Ellis Hobbs were there to thank Eagles fans and drum up support for the players union.
I would say that they accomplished both goals.
Philadelphia was the fourth stop of the One Team Tour as the NFLPA had previously visited Green Bay, Minnesota and Pittsburgh.
The event certainly had a tailgate feel - as long as you were able to overlook the fact that it was held in a posh restaurant as opposed to Lot K - with the likes of Guns N' Roses spinning on the ones and twos and a food spread that included hot dogs, wings and roast beef sandwiches.
While the free food and drinks were a nice touch the real reason most people attended the event was to hear what the Players Association had to say about the possible 2011 work stoppage.
Joe Briggs, the Public Policy Counsel and Manager of Government Relations for the NFLPA, kicked off the event by thanking the fans in attendance for supporting the Eagles players and noted that it is the support of the fans that allows players to "experience the great lives that they have been able to experience as players in the National Football League."
The two speakers that followed Briggs, Pat Eiding and Arlene Holt Baker, played up the strong trade union presence in Philadelphia.
"The [National Football League] Players Association is a part of the labor movement, they are part of our council, they're part of our national association," said Eiding, the President of the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO. "Whatever the case may be, we are together. It is called solidarity and we are here to show that solidarity to the Association."
"We are here today, we will be there tomorrow and we will be there next week. Whenever they need us we will be down there on Pattison Avenue."
Holt Baker, the Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO, gave an impassioned speech that Briggs later joked had him ready to "run through a brick wall."
"We are 11.5 million strong and we stand with our brothers who play football," said Holt Baker. "When we stick together as a community and in labor there is no way that we can be defeated."
She highlighted the fact that a potential work stoppage would put some 25,000 concession stand workers would be out of work. Holt Baker also stated that every city with a professional football team will stand to lose $160 million.
The figures that she threw out there do not match up with the ones that are posted on NFLLockout.com. According to that site NFL cities would potentially lose $140 million and roughly 150,000 jobs would be affected. Either way you slice it, the effects of a work stoppage would be far-reaching.
Smith was the last person to address the crowd and he had an interesting way of introducing himself: he mentioned that he grew up in Washington, D.C. as a Redskins fan. Once the playful boos and jokes died down (bonus points to the guy who ripped on Donovan McNabb so loudly that my audio recorder picked it up) Morris got down to business.
"This is what football is about. Football is about hanging around with people who love the game, who want to watch it, who want to enjoy it," said Smith. "I get to represent the people who play this game."
Smith also touched on the same union ideals that Eiding and Holt Baker hammered home earlier in the evening.
"I like to say that organized labor is about representing people who get their hands dirty and get the job done," said Smith. "Representing my guys, they're getting their hands dirty, sometimes broken, but it is all about getting the job done."
Before Smith finished up his speech, he introduced Ron Davis, the president of the Philadelphia Chapter of Former Players, and current Eagles Ellis Hobbs and Winston Justice.
Smith then met with the media for about seven minutes and touched on a wide range of topics that will be covered in a separate post. The one thing that I took away from listening to him speak is that he is very serious about his job and is fully committed to getting the best possible deal for the players.
The notion of getting the best deal possible is a sentiment that Justice echoed when he spoke to the media.
"We want to play games but we are the ones out there playing and we just want a fair deal," said the Eagles offensive lineman. "I am totally behind the NFLPA. I do not think they are being greedy and I do not think they are trying to ask for something over the top. I think they want fair compensation for what the players do. We want to be out there more than the fans do but we just want to be treated fairly."
Once the players and executives left an NFLPA staffer raffled off a bunch of Eagles merchandise, the coolest of which being autographed full-size replica helmets. On the way out all attendees were given a grab bag that included a "One Team" hat, a bottle koozie and a spatula/bottle opener with the NFLPA logo on it that was referred to as a 'sportula.'
All in all, it was a good night for Eagles fans. This event afforded them a chance to rub elbows with players and find out that they are human, too, and not just guys they see on television once a week. A lot of fans are quick to write off the players as greedy but listening to Justice and Smith speak about wanting a fair deal helped humanize their plight for most in attendance.