[to top of second column]
And it could get worse, according to Pete Webb, a Denver-based public relations specialist.
"(Although) it's hard to engender sympathy for management, the longer the players drag this out, the more public relations muck they're into," Webb said. "If fans aren't going to get their fall appetite of football, it's not only the fans that are going to be the losers, but the players' images are going to take a hit."
Social media have blown up with negative comments directed at the players, which prompted some defensive tweets. And Cardinals star receiver Larry Fitzgerald, using good, old fashioned talk, had this to say: "I heard one of the guys from the PA say, 'The NFL is a big machine. They can get the media machine spinning and turn public opinion, and what you hear is not always factual.' We've got to wait for the real facts to come out."
Those facts are simple, according to Rick Burton, former chief marketing officer of the U.S. Olympic Committee and a sports marketing professor at Syracuse University. What the players are doing, he said, is being thorough, regardless of the immediate backlash.
"The players don't need to recover from anything. The players need to get it right," Burton said. "They are sacrificing their long-term health to play this great game and to earn their livelihoods.
"At the end of the day, the average fan probably identifies more with a player, their heroes, than with an owner. If the players want a few more days, the public will go with that. The public could be thinking, 'You players better get this right because you're stuck with this deal for a long time and you guys make a lot more than we do.'"
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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