April 10, 2024
Kurt Benson

Arik Armstead Vilified for Standing up and doing what was Right for His Career (2 minute read)

Blog Profile Image

The world of pro sports is fruitful and cutthroat at the same time. Arik Armstead grew up in Sacramento, just over an hour's drive from San Francisco. After watching his brother excel in football, Arik went on to play for the University of Oregon and was drafted by the 49ers with the 17th overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft. Fast forward nine years, four consecutive Walter Payton Man of the Year nominations, and two Super Bowl appearances, Arik was not just the longest-tenured Niner and Captain but a legend in the 49er fraternity and amongst the community and fan base. So, after playing with a torn meniscus in his knee this past season and having one of the greatest games of his career in the Superbowl, it was a huge shock to find out that the 49ers were not interested in bringing Arik back on a new deal at fair market value.

This left Arik with no choice but to explore free agency, a free agency that was hectic, crazy, and fast, with multiple teams coming to the table. This cemented what we all knew about Arik; when it comes down to his performance and leadership, there were no surprises that he signed a 3-year $51M deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The biggest surprise was the fact that the 49ers offered him a 1-year $6M deal after nine years of service for their captain. We were able to sit down with Arik in Miami a few weeks ago to capture his truth, and he sat down and told the NFL world why he left and the importance of telling his truth not for himself but for those who come after him. Pro sports are cutthroat, and although you always hear the phrase "it's just business," it's simply not just business when there are personal relationships intact with the ownership, front office, team personnel, teammates, and fans. I find it hard to believe when you hear others say, "It's just business" because we are human and after a long tenure, it's normal to have deep-rooted connections throughout the organization. So it hurts, and we saw that first hand when Arik released his first episode post-Superbowl and free agency on his podcast "Third and Long." Publicly speaking out is rare in the NFL; athletes are afraid because of the ownership/player dynamics, but Arik stood up and shared what he felt was right; the unfortunate part is that many of the fans who were misinformed continued to bash Arik because they simply moved the goal post.

We went from the narrative that he left the 49ers for the same amount of money simply to save taxes to him releasing the truth and the NFL world learning that the 49ers made a significantly under-market value offer. Once this aired, every major outlet in America that covers the NFL, from ESPN to the NFL itself, published articles on Arik's truth. What we then saw were fans who were vilifying him for leaving the 49ers, who continued to realign their opinions and continued to send toxic and hateful messages.

Going through this all with Arik was my first time seeing firsthand the realities of pro sports through the athlete's lens. It's hard to win, and yes, it's fruitful to be a professional athlete financially, but sometimes, is that really worth the exchange of emotional trauma that comes with the territory? If you haven't seen the latest with Third and Long, specifically the message that Arik shared, view it here and subscribe for more on Third and Long.

If you haven't already, subscribe to our newsletter and YouTube channel so you don't miss any Tidal League content.

Plus, share your ideas and feedback with us at community@tidalleague.com