To: CEO Jed York
CC: GM Trent Baalke, CFO Cipora Herman, COO Paarag Marathe, and the San Francisco 49ers Front Office.
I am a 49er fan, whatever you may take that to mean, and I have always been a 49er fan. My first memories are populated by backyard games pretending trees marked endzones and the suburban view was the bay outside Candlestick Park. And by dressing in full pads and a Montana jersey every Halloween from kindergarten to fourth grade. But what does it mean to be a fan? While extended allegiance to an organization when the players, personnel, front office, and even ownership change over a span of decades is something that many can't understand, I know that you must. You understand that I, and those like me - the "Faithful" as some of us have self-titled - are loyal to the name. We are loyal to the colors. The brand. Even the past; the legend of Walsh, the greatness of Rice, and the thrill of Lott. You understand that our faith has at times been fueled only by these memories and our pride in the Red & Gold, regardless of our record. It kept us hopeful and even confident that each preceding year would end with a ring. We kept coming back. We travelled to Candlestick and we watched on TV. We bought your officialy licensed apparel for Christmases and birthdays, and hated the Cowboys and Packers and Rams and Seahawks with vitriol. Bragged loudly after rare wins and muttered excuses for innumerable losses. Sure we longed for the days of Eddie D, blaming John York and Erickson and Mooch and anyone else, really everyone else we saw at the helm. But we were still faithful. And John gave way to Jed, who put faith in Trent and Paarag, who in turn convinced our Lord and Savior Jim Harbaugh to don our colors, and you thus confirmed our years of fruitless fanaticism.
"Ok James, get to the point." you must be thinking. And I will. Chill.
The point of these ramblings is to illustrate that it's not an easy thing to lose a true fan. A string of bad seasons couldn't do it. Questionable hires and draft picks couldn't either. Genuine fans form a part of their identity around the colors of their franchise. I mean, Jesus, we refer to the team as if we're on it, speaking in first person when we say "our linebackers could literally beat the Cardinals by themselves" or "holy shit how did we lose to Christian Ponder", or even "we really shouldn't suspend Ahmad Brooks, we should just have him cut back on the 'roids a bit. Not too much... juuuust a bit".
But what can, and just might cost you the adoration of at least one fan is the outcome of Tarrell Brown's 'situation'.
Maybe you were as ignorant as his agent about the now infamous $2,000,000 clause. Not a big deal. You know he was working out four days a week with an Olympian to improve his speed and came into mandatory practices in fantastic shape. You know that he is valued by his teammates and coaches, as Harbaugh confirmed publicly. You may even know that he was 9th among all cornerbacks and the only member of our secondary to make the Top 75 players according to Pro Football Focus. And you certainly know that he's started every game over the last two years and had 97 combined tackles and six interceptions in that time.
Maybe when he announced he'd be working out elsewhere for the voluntary sessions you saw an opportunity to squeeze out a little more cap room. Sure, you could use that new space to solidify potential weakness in the receiving corps, Laurent Robinson and Austin Collie come to mind, even in the secondary, where your flirtation with Eric Wright continues after his failed physical. It's not hard to justify your actions, they certainly follow the letter of the law.
And this is where you have to make a choice. I'm sure it's not easy for you. There are so many things that two million dollars can buy, and talent is among them. But are you going to represent yourselves that way? To a fan base that has shown steadfast loyalty to this franchise and your wallets through years of misery? You're going to tell us through action that while you appreciate and expect our continued financial faith, you are above a code of honor? Or rather, are you saying he doesn't deserve it? That you're so determined to keep it you'll risk disillusionment in the locker room? That you believe that two million is worth more than trust? Cohesion? Respect?
If you decide to deny him the money he has earned, at least come out and tell players that your money is more important than their due wages. That you'll use any technical minutiae you can to take it back. Tell them frankly that you're a contributing member of a soulless NFL machine for profit, sans honor. Tell them to address you as Dan Snyder or Jerry Jones.
In the end, either you were ignorant of the clause or aware of it. At this point and to this lifelong fan, it doesn't much matter because both can be rectified. All you have to do is the right thing.
A trusting fan,