Le’Veon Bell. Picture: WIKIMEDIA
Le’Veon Bell. Picture: WIKIMEDIA

Le’Veon Bell is staging a "hold-out" against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the National Football League (NFL). A hold-out means he hasn’t pitched up to work this season in protest at what he believes is a salary offer that isn’t in his best interests.

The system is skewed in favour of team owners and against players such as Bell, who is a running back. He was offered a five-year contract worth $70m, but only $17m of that was guaranteed if he was to pick up an injury that would end his career or leave him on the sidelines. The Steelers placed a "franchise tag" on him, which ties free agents to teams.

The good people at sbnation.com explain it better than I could: "The franchise tag is more or less a last resort for teams trying to retain their best unrestricted free agents. It’s essentially a one-year deal that grants a window to negotiate a long-term contract.

"If no deal is struck before July 15, the player gets locked into his one-year deal. 

"The price is based on the average of the top five salaries from the player’s position or 120% of his previous salary, whichever number is higher.

"Needless to say, teams will try to avoid tagging quarterbacks and pass rushers because those positions tend to be the most expensive."

He is hoping for a similar-sized contract to the one the Steelers offered him, but with a bigger guarantee, around the $40m mark. NFL players are aware of their value. It’s about the money.

Running backs are seen as a little more expendable, or, as Hunter Felt described it in The Guardian: "Teams tend to see running backs as replaceable cogs, mainly because of their tendency to decline at a relatively young age. Because of that, teams avoid handing them long-term contracts whenever possible. The Steelers, knowing this, placed the franchise tag ... on Bell in each of the previous two seasons."

Bell would have been paid $14.5m if he had played, but he took his stand at the team pre-season training camp in July. Tuesday was the last day he could arrive for work to activate his contract. Needless to say, Bell didn’t arrive.

One day later, his teammates raided his locker, where he had, according to ESPN.com, left it "full of stuff, including cleats, shirts and a CD labelled ‘Le’Veon Bell #1.

"Line-backer Bud Dupree [how Afrikaans does that name sound?] scored two pairs of Jordan cleats and thanked Bell.

"The move seemed more playful than malicious. ‘Appreciate the cleats, my guy,’ Dupree said into a camera. ‘I wish you success, my guy’."

In the off-season, Bell will become a free agent and able to negotiate a new and presumably more lucrative contract. He has averaged almost 129 yards per game in the past five years and 150 yards on offence last autumn and caught 75 passes in 12 games last year. He is hoping for a similar-sized contract to the one the Steelers offered him, but with a bigger guarantee, around the $40m mark. NFL players are aware of their value. It’s about the money.

The New York Times described Bell’s first no-show in July by talking about how the players arrived: "The Pittsburgh Steelers trickled into training camp on Thursday in pick-up trucks and Porsches, Rolls-Royces and Rubicons. And in the case of ageless line-backer James Harrison, a fire truck."

Some backed Bell. "I’m not mad at him, I’m happy for the guy," said Ramon Foster, a guard. "It’s an opportunity for Le’Veon to take care of his family for generations."

Although wide receiver Antonio Brown wasn’t so sure about what point he was trying to make with his hold-out.

Mind you, Brown already had his deal sorted: "Brown, who signed a four-year, $72m extension in February and strolled into camp in the back seat of a 1931 Rolls-Royce ..."

Bell has been banned for drunk driving and drug charges. He has had knee and groin injuries. The Steelers aren’t missing him too much. They won their fifth game on the trot at the weekend.

Bell will be back next season. Someone may pay him what he wants. It’s all about the money. Show him the money.