Deshaun Watson is about to show the world once again that this is the age of player empowerment, despite what old school mindsets believe.
Once upon a time, players didn’t have much say in what happened to them. They went about their daily life on and off the field, court, diamond, and that was it. Players could demand a trade, but front offices would rarely grant it. They had no control. Deshaun Watson is about to show that isn’t the case anymore.
Back in 2007, Kobe Bryant was unhappy with the Lakers. He wanted Jerry West to run the team with full authority. West had been the Lakers GM in the 1980s and 1990s. He’s often credited with building the Lakers’ roster that would three-peat in 2000-2002.
When the Laker refused to bring West back, Bryant demanded a trade. He was furious and wanted out. The Laker did little more than laugh it off. Bryant was forced to stay in Los Angeles had lost in the NBA finals and Kobe had a reason to stay again. The two sides mended fences and the legendary player finished his career without playing for anyone else.
It’s this kind of determination from front offices that lead to people like Michael Kay of ESPN Radio stating that front offices shouldn’t listen to their players. They should stay firm and say either you play for me or you never play again.
To be honest, that mindset probably would have worked over a decade ago. It won’t work now because another legendary basketball player changed everything in 2010.
The age of player empowerment
When LeBron James hosted the decision to announce his free agent destination in 2010, joining forces with Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade in Miami, he probably didn’t know the ramifications that would cause. How could he? It would have been impossible to guess back then the kind of power that moment would have. Today it’s called the beginning of the player empowerment era.
Since LeBron’s legendary moment on ESPN, players have had more power than ever. They did it by using the media. No longer was the media a tool only executives could use, nor was it a place for news to be broken at just the right time. It became the place where players could take their power back.
It certainly helped that social media blew up a few years later. Just three after The Decision, Twitter became one of the top-10 most used websites in the world.
Players in every sport have now become masters at marketing themselves. They build their own brands and gather their own fans. They’re no longer just a player on a team, but a commodity themselves.
That allowed them to seize control back. They could use their new stance along with their connections in the media to make life a living hell for any team that didn’t trade them. They could drag it out into the public in a way never before seen.
Teams have since learned that most of the time, it makes more sense to end to demands rather than fight them. See, Jamal Adams and the Jets, the NBA landscape, Chris Sale and the White Sox, and so many others.
So what does this all mean for Deshaun Watson? It’s simple, he holds all the power here, not the Texans.
Sure, the Texans hold Watson’s contract, but Watson’s leverage is even greater. He could make this a public battle that he’d certainly win, he could become a locker room nightmare, steer players away from the franchise, and even flat out refuse to play.
Old school mentalities would say, “So what? Let him throw a hissy fit. That doesn’t mean they have to trade him.”
That mindset just doesn’t fit in the world that we live in now. With social media and the sports media always thirst for the next big story this wouldn’t go away. It would become a major distraction that would loom over the franchise until it was resolved, all the while Watson and his agent would be leaking information and waging a public perception war for the whole world to see.
The battle would hang over the franchise’s head like their own personal rain cloud. Everywhere they looked, every press conference they held, every game they played, there it would be.
The headache this would cause is simply not worth it, even for a great player like Watson. No one player is worth ruining a franchise over.
It might take months. It may not even be done until close to training camp, but make no mistake about it Deshaun Watson is getting traded.