Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Roquan Smith ended his holdout on Monday, but not before enduring plenty of criticism along the way. 

By Conor Orr
August 14, 2018

At some point, it became an accepted narrative that those in charge got to be there because of their tenacity, and that it’s O.K. for them to squeeze their operation and employees to the guts in order to maximize the bottom line because that’s what tenacious people do. It’s an endearing quality, didn’t you know?

Over time, we stopped questioning the whole thing and even found ourselves siding with the bigwigs because fighting the power gets you kicked off the train, and it’s better to be anxious and squeezed on the train than not on the train at all. So it’s no surprise that we either scoff at, or don't care to notice when—even just a little—someone pokes the bear and earns a little extra for themselves.

Yahoo's Terez Paylor brought this up during the Julio Jones holdout back in June, but it's worth mentioning again now that Bears rookie Roquan Smith ended his holdout Monday. Smith was reportedly battling language in his contract that would, ridiculously, allow the team to recoup guaranteed money if he is suspended via the league’s new, hard-to-understand leading-with-the-helmet rule. Along the way, he was called selfish and greedy and a b---- by fans (someone also pinned this white-hot take on Smith to the top of their Twitter profile). His own coach noted that his starting position was probably in danger.

Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald, arguably the two best defensive players in the NFL, are still fighting for long-term security and fair market value for their production. Mack’s coach, Jon Gruden, once allegedly the highest-paid employee at ESPN thanks to constant flirtation with a return to the sidelines (and who we’re pretty darn sure is guaranteed $100 million over the next decade), doesn’t seem to be thrilled about it.

So by extension, we aren’t thrilled about it either. We tend to put NFL players in a different bucket because Smith, too, is guaranteed a hefty chunk of change that most of us would be lucky to pocket in our lifetime. Instead of seeing their situations as a macrocosm of our own lives here on the train (for reference, this is what the owners are splitting these days), we demand players throw the contractual arm wrestling match for the good of the team. For the good of the bottom line.

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