Tony Gonzalez Argument For New Orleans Saints' Jimmy Graham is Disingenuous at Best

By Kevin Saito
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Whenever somebody tells you that it’s not about the money but the principle of a thing, you can pretty much assume that it actually is, in fact, about the money. And in the case of the New Orleans Saints and their standout “pass catcher” Jimmy Graham, it’s about a whole lot of money in their dust-up over whether he deserves tight end or wide receiver money under the franchise tag the team placed on him. Ultimately, the arbitrator ruled Graham a tight end and the smaller paycheck that comes with the designation.

The ruling undoubtedly ruffled some feathers – perhaps none more than Graham himself – but very little has been said about it publicly by either side. So into the void stepped former Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons great Tony Gonzalez, somebody else who helped revolutionize the tight end position.

The future Hall of Famer delivered a blistering diatribe about the ruling and the way players are paid in the NFL. In an article that appeared on, Gonzalez argues that salaries should be set based on production and not on position. It’s an argument that most definitely has merit and is one the NFL should be open to discussing. It’s a discussion that could potentially benefit both the teams and the players alike.

But while Gonzalez may have made some salient, important points, he derailed his entire argument and proved to be entirely disingenuous. The entire episode, contrary to what he argues, is not about what he says is, “doing the right thing,” but it is in fact all about the money.

“I can think of a few terms to describe what’s going on in the NFL like ‘backward,’ ‘lack of common sense’ or ‘behind the times,’ but the one that makes the most sense is ‘discrimination.'”

Quite clearly, Gonzalez needs to consult a dictionary to better understand the meaning of the word “discrimination.” Discrimination would be the Saints of the NFL refusing to allow Graham to play because of his ethnicity, religion or political affiliation. Discrimination would be Graham being barred from his team or from the league because of some ignorant and prejudiced reasoning.

This ruling is not that. Not even close.

What this is, is the Saints saying, ‘Hey, we drafted you to play this position, and this is what we’ll pay you to do that.’ Graham balked and took his best shot at a bigger payday, but the case didn’t go his way. New Orleans is still going to pay him millions this season and wants to pay him millions and millions more in the years to come. Or, he will eventually land with a team who will pay him millions and millions more than the Saints were going to. Either way, Graham won’t be struggling to keep the lights on or food in the refrigerator any time soon.

That is not discrimination, and for Gonzalez to suggest that it is is an absolute slap in the face to hard working people who actually are victims of discrimination in their everyday lives. These are people who will never in their lifetimes see the sort of money Graham stands to make in one season in New Orleans — even at the pay rate for tight ends.

And let’s not forget that the franchise tags and pay associated with them were issues settled with the signing of the CBA back in 2011 – a CBA that was voted on by the players and approved by the player’s union. So if you want to argue that this is discrimination, it’s the self-inflicted type, and if Gonzalez was so passionate about the issue, perhaps he should have spoken up about it back then.

It’s human nature to want more — to strive for more. Nobody should fault Graham for trying to get more. But somebody the stature of Gonzalez – instead of crying discrimination where none exists – should be honest enough to admit that this is actually about the money rather than trying to disguise it as a social or moral issue. Making the argument he did is beyond disingenuous and he should be ashamed of himself.

Kevin Saito is a fiction writer, sports junkie, history nerd, and NFL contributor to  He’s just a “clown with an opinion,” and you can follow him on Twitter, Facebook or on Google

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