Loyalty: 1. the quality of being loyal to someone or something. 2. a strong feeling of support or allegiance.
Betrayal: 1. the action of betraying one's country, a group, or a person; treachery.
Traitor: 1. a person who betrays a friend, country, principle, etc.
I think it's important to remember exactly what these words mean before I start this article.
In sports, there are three ways to leave a team: free agency, trade/cut, and retirement.
Those first two are going to be the main focus here.
When players leave a franchise via free agency, they are considered disloyal, people say they betrayed their team, and they get labeled a snake or a traitor. When a franchise trades away or cuts a player, it was done to improve the team, the player wouldn't take a pay cut, or they were a "locker room" problem. Basically, if a player choose to leave, they are a villain, but if a franchise gets rid of a player, it was best for business.
If you don't see at least a small problem with that, then you are part of the reason I decided to write this article.
Let me give you two examples, one that is sports related and one that is a bit more of a real-world example.
Tom Brady, yes the Patriots quarterback, is one of the most underpaid players in the league, and that is being generous. He is one of the greatest NFL players of all-time but was paid BELOW the league average for starting quarterbacks. Brady did this because he is loyal to the Patriots and wanted championships, but now that he is forty, he is getting closer to market value which is also starting to cause problems for the Patriots dynasty, i.e. they don't have a backup QB or much depth on the team.
The end of the Patriots dynasty is on the horizon, not just because of Brady's age, but the fact that he is going to want finally be getting paid a fair wage.
In a more real-world example for why the current mentality toward loyalty is a problem, think about any job you ever had. Now imagine if that job wanted to pay you below market value. Would you be a Tom Brady and take less than what you deserve because you would have the opportunity to be a part of a successful business, or would you actually want to get paid what you deserve?
If the options are $12 per hour at, I don't know, Panera, or $20 per hour plus tips at a steakhouse, which one are you taking? Money isn't everything, but are you really going to take that kind of pay-cut for a job? The problem is that, when it comes to sports, having that mentality makes you a villain.
The modern age has made money the most important thing to being considered successful. Yet we hold athletes to a different standard when it comes to going after money, rather than staying loyal to the franchise that drafted or signed them. Then those very same franchises do not have to have the same level of loyalty towards their players.
The next time one of your favorite players chooses to leave your favorite franchise, remember that they were just doing what they thought was best for them. It's not about loyalty, or betrayal, or being a traitor, but it's about doing what they had to do. Having them no longer with you team sucks, but if you really like the player, then you should be happy for them because they got to make the choice rather than the franchise making it for them.