The Seattle Sounders will allow Ozzie Alonso to hit free agency. General manager Garth Lagerway stated that it is about what the club should do, not can do. What a rare manner of respect that is in the increasingly ruthless world of sport.
Le’Veon Bell is currently sitting out the year. The great Pittsburgh Steelers running back was set to play the year under the franchise tag. Again.
Because of the depreciating value of the position, the persistent threat of injury, and a lack of long-term financial security, Bell saw it better for his own career to not sign the franchise tender, hold out for a long-term contract, and, if it came to it, sit out the year.
Without commenting on the morality and wisdom of Bell’s decision, the motivation stems from the lack of loyalty and respect that sporting organisations have shown their players — or their commodities, as it often seems like — throughout the history of the sport.
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I write about Bell and his highly controversial contractual disagreement with the Steelers as it illustrates the extent to which the relationship between an organisation and player can completely splinter. Contrast Bell’s response to that of the Seattle Sounders when it comes to the future of Ozzie Alonso.
"“For me, the decision is not about what we can do, it’s about what we should do. The most important thing is how we treat our players. The most important thing is the broad concept of free agency, which is that we want the Sounders to be a desirable place for players to play in the long term. And part of that is treating people well. For myself, to ask someone to potentially accept less money than they made before and not be able to investigate if that’s a fair market value or not – that [would be] unfair.”"
That is such a different sentiment to what has been said between Bell and Pittsburgh. Cryptic Twitter messages. Unhappy teammates publicly calling out the disenfranchised star. An organisation leaking reports that turn out to be false. The Bell fiasco has not been a pretty or respectful sight.
But with the Sounders and Alonso, one of their most beloved and well-thought-of players, the very tone is completely and utterly different. In the modern sporting world, it is extremely refreshing to see a general manager and organisation act with such dignity and awareness. It would be easy for them to view Alonso as a mere product to sell, to squeeze as much value out of as possible. But they don’t.
Admittedly, this is a public setting and Lagerway could be saying what makes him and Seattle look good. But there does seem to be an element of honesty, integrity and humility with his words. And I believe that Lagerway does want to do the best for his player, and not just for the Sounders.
That stance is refreshing to see. In the increasingly ruthless modern sport, this is a wonderful thing. Perhaps Bell and the Steelers could learn a thing or two.