Employer-employee loyalty part 2: LaDainian Tomlinson

What loyalty, if any, does your employee owe you?  How about the other way around?  Last August, I asked this question as it related to Brett Favre and his he’s retired, he’s not, he is, he’s the starter, he’s not, he’s traded to the Jets ordeal.

You can say one thing about team sports: events repeat themselves.

In the wake of their recent playoff exit, grumblings about the future of San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson reminded me a whole lot of the Farve saga.  So much so, it made me want to ask the question again:

Is there such a thing as loyalty between an employer and an employee?

As reported recenly by ESPN.com, Tomlinson’s situation is remarkably similar to Favre’s, but with an interesting twist.  NFL running backs tend to see their performance suffer at around age 30, as there are only so many punshing hits even the most fit of them can absorb over the years.  Two seasons ago, Tomlinson set an NFL record for touchdowns in a season and was named the league MVP.  Fast forward twenty four months (which encompassed his 29th birthday) and his most recent season was his worst ever.

Prior to the Chargers divisional playoff game against the Pittsburg Steelers, Tomlinson was listed on the weekly injury report as having a “strained groin” and not expected to play.  Despite his regular season brilliance, Tomlinson has taken criticism from the media for not playing through injury in the playoffs and this news seemed to support that. 

As ESPN reported:

“Tomlinson – long the franchise’s most brutally honest employee – confirmed that he had a detached tendon and practically scoffed at the team’s public diagnosis.

‘If it was a strain I’d be able to play with it, trust me,’ Tomlinson said. ‘A lot of guys have strains.’

General manager A.J. Smith was livid that the severity of Tomlinson’s injury was revealed and called out the player’s camp. “

So who’s right here?

The team doesn’t want to publically disclose the severity of the injury so that their opponents have to prepare for Tomlinson yet the player gets undeserved criticism from the media when the truth isn’t told, so he goes and tells it himself, ticking off his bosses in the process.  Now with Tomlinson about to turn 30 the team is talking about letting him go, a notion that seemed completely insane two seasons ago when he was the best football player on the planet.

Like the Favre situation, this one is completely ambiguous.  The team has to optimize winning games, especially playoff games.  But should they do it to the extent where they contribute to public ridicule of their most famous player?  Should that player have a thicker skin and put the team before his own publicity?  Or does he have a right to protect his public image given that he knows well that his career will be a short one?

There’s no right answer, but as we see this play out in lots of people’s lives as the economy has weakened, it seems like there is a better way for everybody to handle it.


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2 Responses to “Employer-employee loyalty part 2: LaDainian Tomlinson”

  1. Elton Says:

    Hey, Pete! Thanks for stopping by! I’ve admittedly been slacking in reading your blogs and the others I like to read, but it looks like you’ve been keeping it up well!

    And hey, I’m sure there are people still holding out against DVD, let alone broadband 😉

    Too bad about Ladainian, he was a gret players. I’m more of a college football guy myself, but NFL has some interesting drama around it, too, from time to time.


  2. petecj2 Says:

    As a follow up, more ESPN reporting on this story here:


    “It’s gotten personal”, that can’t be good.

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