Jimmy Graham Loses $5 Million In Part For Listing Himself As A Tight End On Twitter

from the the-poorest-saint dept

We've had a great many discussions about how employers react to the social media content of their employees. There have been questions over whether employers should be able to fire staff for Facebook content, whether staff can be perma-banned from using social media sites at all, or even whether or not employees should be required to cough up social media passwords to their employers. These stories tend to focus on an employer doing something that makes the employee uncomfortable.

You want to know what's really an uncomfortable result of an employer looking into an employee's social media account? How about losing five million dollars? That's exactly what happened to New Orleans Saints receiving tight end Jimmy Graham.

Unable to negotiate a deal, the Saints slapped Jimmy Graham with a franchise tag as a tight end. Graham disagreed, declaring himself a receiver, in order that he be paid like one. The dispute went to arbitration, and today arbitrator Stephen Burbank came down on the Saints' side. The difference is significant. A franchise tag pays a player the average of the five highest-paid players at that position, and WRs—especially the top tier—are paid better than their TE counterparts. A ruling favorable to Graham would have seen him make $12.312 million this season; instead, he'll make $7.035 million.
For you non-sports fans out there, the reason for the average price difference is due to the fact that a team's wide receivers are generally more skilled players compared with tight ends. Typically, receivers primarily, you know, receive, as in the ball, typically on pass plays. Tight ends traditionally occasionally catch passes, but are often used as on-the-line blockers as well and aren't considered to have the catching, jumping, and speed skills of a receiver. For you non-Jimmy Graham fans out there, Graham breaks the stereotype completely, having led his team in receptions, caught yards, and receiving touchdowns. His argument that he wasn't really a tight end had a ton of merit. Unfortunately for Jimmy Graham, the arbiter took to the opinion of Jimmy Graham in part when rendering his decision.
The arbitrator's decision isn't public, but dribs and drabs of Burbank's reasoning have come out. (Ian Rapaport and Albert Breer are your best sources.) Among Burbank's justifications:

-Graham attends TE position meetings.
-Graham was drafted by the Saints as a TE.
-Graham lists himself as a TE in his Twitter bio. (Yes, the Saints argued this.) Burbank, via Rapaport: "Mr. Graham refers to himself as a tight end in social media that he controls and his agents do so as well."
-Graham lined up within four yards of the offensive line on a majority of his snaps last season.
Oops. Kind of hard to argue that you're not a tight end when your own Twitter bio calls you a tight end. Now, the article notes that the Twitter bio probably wasn't the key factor in the decision, stating that the arbiter likely instead focused on how close to the offensive linemen Graham started most plays (which is stupid, by the way), but it did serve as a sort of catchy "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit" moment against his claim.

Either way, before you go telling your bosses what role you play in a company, probably best that you get your story straight with your social media accounts first.


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2014 @ 7:17pm

    Wow, and here I thought he lost the $5 mil because the arbitrator ignored the plain language of the agreement and came up with some arbitrary 4 yard rule that is nowhere to be found in the CBA.

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