The League

Peter Schaffer
NFL Agent

Peter Schaffer

Agent and professor of sports law

Keep It Positive

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A well-worn axiom known to every person who has served on behalf of their country is that "it is a soldier's right to complain."

In recent days, there have been a spat of NFL players who have publicly complained about their coaches, ownership or front offices. Most of these players have done so to get traded. A player in a team sport has every right to voice his opinion, but only if those opinions are presented in a positive, constructive manner with the best interest of the team in mind. This is a form of leadership that is critical for success.

Teams cannot not win with only the leadership of great coaches - they need great players. Every recent team that claims the title "dynasty" in sports history has been led by great individual players who were not afraid to speak their minds, but did so for the good of the team, not themselves personally. These leaders saw ways to make their teammates, coaches and fans better players and people.

These teams include the Patriots, who are led by Tom Brady, Junior Seau and Teddy Bruschi; the Ravens, led by Ray Lewis, Trevor Pryce and Ed Reed; the Broncos, led by John Elway, Steve Atwater, and Rod Smith; and the Cowboys, led by Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. All of these players earned the right to be leaders with their work ethic, selfless devotion to their organizations and teammates that made those around them play better. Sometimes, criticism is necessary for improvement and calling out defects is necessary. Other times a mere pat on the back or an "attaboy" is all that is required.

The first amendment provides the freedom of all Americans to free speech and opinion, and this right has made our country the great country it is. However, in the context of a team, the First Amendment will promote success if the statements are made for the betterment of the collective, and not the ego of the individual. Every player has that right to complain, but in order to succeed in the NFL, it had better be to benefit those around you.

By Peter Schaffer  |  October 16, 2009; 7:42 AM ET  | Category:  Jacksonville Jaguars , Washington Redskins Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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