Is There Really Such a Thing as Loyalty in Sports?

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“Loyal employees contribute extensively to the productivity of your business. They are able to create the value required to put your business on the path to success. Customers are always on the lookout for value and nothing else.”

Loyalty became a hot topic earlier this summer after the Raptors traded DeMar Derozan to the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard. It wasn’t so much the trade that became a contentious issue but rather DeRozan’s claim that Raptor President Masai Ujiri assured him he wouldn’t be traded this off-season.

First off how any GM could ever make that promise is beyond me especially with a team like the Raptors that haven’t advanced in the playoffs with players like DeRozan and his sidekick Kyle Lowry. This became even more apparent after a franchise record 59 win season and they were not only easily eliminated but also embarrassingly schooled by Cleveland. A change was inevitable .

It’s understandable DeRozan was upset because the immediate reaction was he’s the problem. Lowry equally upset still won’t speak. Mind you the guy on the other side of the trade won’t speak either. What’s with these guys?

A couple days ago the Jays for reasons still unexplained traded (gave away) 2015 American League MVP Josh Donaldson to the Cleveland Indians. The fractured relationship between Donaldson and management centered on the recovery of a calf injury sustained last season. Donaldson claims the rehab exercises provided by the Jays inflicted further damage and wanted to use his own training regiment until he was 100%. Management questioned the length of recovery (it did seem excessive) that I’m sure had some baring on contract extension talks and the feud escalated into the player being moved.

This is no ordinary player in Donaldson who’s possibly the best Blue Jays player of all time (or close to it) and why management felt the need to dump him (along with cash for balance of salary owed) is beyond reasoning. Why not offer him a qualifier next season; if he produces like he’s capable, move him at the deadline for some assets, but this is just ludicrous. Spite. Stubbornness. Loyalty?

I was on Bay St for 40 years spending the last 20 at a firm I helped build into a powerhouse for 10 of those years. Management as a goodwill gesture for my loyalty said I had a spot on the desk until I called it a day, my terms. In December of 2015 the same head of the desk asked if I would commit for five more years. I said I would. The following month they bought me out. Loyalty?

If my story isn’t convincing enough then how about the go-to cliché, “If Wayne Gretzky can be traded, anyone can.”

The Blue Jays Troy Tulowitzki injured his leg over a year ago and a few days before spring training decided he not only needed bone spurs removed from one foot but the second as well. This stiff who will go down as one of the softest players I’ve ever seen, even had the audacity to call his teammates out for not playing hard earlier in the summer. Loyalty?

Pitcher Aaron Sanchez has missed most of the last two years with blisters on his fingers. He soaking his hands in Palmolive?

Toronto pitcher Al Leiter had a similar blister injury between the 1991-93 seasons; the Jays stuck by him, he rebounded with a good year and in the off-season signed with another team. Loyalty?

I’m 64 years old and had full hip replacement in March; was on a stationary bike 3 weeks later and playing hockey less than 6 weeks after the operation. Conversely, we know that baseball players are extremely soft athletes, but these guys take the cake. Aren’t they supposed to be elite level athletes who look after themselves in the off-season? Loyalty?

In 1992, the Jays signed Dave Winfield as a free agent; not only did he perform beyond expectations on the field, his leadership in the locker room guided the Jays to their first World Series Championship, climaxed with the Series clinching hit in game 6 against the Atlanta Braves. The day of the parade and Pennant raising ceremony Jays GM Pat Gillick informed Winfield the Jays wouldn’t be protecting him two days later when free agency began. Most teams during that era out of loyalty would have extended Winfield for a few more years and come to regret it.

Instead, Gillick used the opportunity to sign Paul Molitor who not only finished second to team mate John Olerud in the American League batting title but was also MVP of the 1993 World Series.

Making tough decisions is not only loyalty to the team, players and fans but disciplined decisions creates winning organizations. The number one rule in sports; management should never get to close to the players. The best-operated companies/ sports franchises have strong leadership and employees/players know exactly what’s expected of them. People do not like change. Period!

Owners that continue to sign troubled players who’ve been released or suspended by another team are just kicking the can down the road. Is this loyalty to the player by giving them a second chance or greed?

A few years ago Lebron James announced on National TV he was leaving Cleveland to sign with the Miami Heat
that not only crushed the team but it made a mockery of the NBA. Self-Serving. Loyalty?

He returned to Cleveland a few years later, had the coach fired (they were in first place); the young players were traded away and this year he’s decided to play in LA leaving the team in shambles again. Loyalty?

Toronto Raptors GM Glen Grunwald in the mid 1990’s used the same approach as Cleveland to keep Raptor star Vince Carter happy that not only cost Grunwald his job but also put the franchise in disarray.

Speaking of Carter, this clown went to his school graduation ceremony the morning of the 2001 game 7 Eastern Conference semi-finals and missed the game winning shot. Poetic justice. Loyalty?

Carter recently had the gall to criticize Raptor management for the DeRozan trade questioning their loyalty to the player.

This is the same Carter who was traded away from Toronto in disgrace for quitting on his team. Delusional. Loyalty?

Greedy owners for decades took advantage of players and even with the pendulum now swinging the other way; management still has the final say. Who do you think has more staying power in a standoff; the billionaire owners or the players? There has to be a happy medium for both sides, but how will that ever be decided?

Athletes must come to the understanding that similar to anyone working for a living entitlement doesn’t exist. For too long they’ve believed they are immune to the unjust realism of everyday life. Not only are they given the opportunity of financial reward and stability faster than the average working guy, concessions are made because of what they do for a living.

Granted those concessions are heaped upon the athlete by the media, fans, and owners, but at the end of the day, like any long-standing employee, their usefulness runs its course. Business. Loyalty?

The NFL is the most popular and financially lucrative of all sports in North America. The NFL currently finds itself in a real pickle with the players over standing for the National Anthem.

Now first off, I think the playing of the National Anthems is the biggest waste of time in sports.
Played during the Olympics or a major International sporting event makes sense but for a regular season game? Pointless.

Right or wrong the league has to take a firm stance; if the rule is standing for the Anthem and a player doesn’t? Fine, suspend or cut him. Period. How long would an employee last if they staged a sit-in at work that had nothing to do with their day to day job? Business. Reality. Loyalty?

Owners with the insatiable desire to win at all costs continue to over look the indiscretions of a player that can help them win, never mind how loyal they are. That’s the problem in a nutshell. It’s about winning and I have no problem with that as long as they remain unified in the approach.

Only when the four professional leagues regulate with consistency and enforce them as one, will we see unity amongst owners and players.

Sadly until that day arrives (and I don’t see it happening anytime soon) the inmates will continue to rule the asylum.