As one of the first superstars in the history of the LFL, one of the women who helped bring a major league feel to the inaugural season of LFL Canada, Nikki Johnson deserved better. The heartbeat of the Las Vegas Sin franchise, her offensive prowess made these determined beauties of the desert one of the hottest sporting tickets in Vegas.
After enduring and suffering through various nagging pains and wrist surgery, Johnson got tangled in a new fight. Rather than running for daylight against a bruising defense, she wanted a sense of fairness and dignity for a group of courageous and determined athletic women that graced the LFL’s gridirons.
Just like the struggles that Terrible Ted Lindsay endured in the 1950’s when he tried to start a players union in the National Hockey League, Johnson would find herself in the proverbial dog house. While the NHLPA would be a reality in 1967, Lindsay was labeled as an agitator and was shipped to the last place Chicago Black Hawks. Johnson was the recipient of a coarse and offensive message advising her that she was no longer welcome in LFL play.
Considering the way she put her body on the line throughout the seasons in order to gain a few extra yards for a first down or get a touchdown at the expense of her own safety, Johnson deserved better. While it is true that female rugby is a punishing and unforgiving sport, there is a support staff in place which ensures that players are taken care of, incorporating a sense of dignified sportsmanship, rather than being told expletives.
When Peyton Manning suffered his neck injury with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, could one have imagined if Robert Irsay would have showered him with foul language and abruptly dismissed him from the team? Although Manning would eventually move on to another team, every aspect of that situation was handled with complete class. Sadly, this did not happen for a highly deserving individual such as Johnson.
At this point, the LFL’s loss is truly the WFA’s gain. Having once competed with the Las Vegas Showgirlz of the Women’s Football Alliance, Johnson also earned All-America honors. While there is no compensation with the Showgirlz, there is an element of fairness and a humane culture which is worthy of someone like Johnson. A valiant athlete with a strong sense of determination and perseverance, Johnson is a true competitor that makes any team better.
It would appear that ever since the LFL Canada season was derailed, the league has tragically descended into a sort of downward spiral. While the league shelved its 2012 season in the US, the reality is that it mass defections from players may lead to such a situation again. Concerns over quality and preparation were points of tension with the failed Canadian campaign.
Doing things right is essential towards sustainable growth. With a star like Nikki Johnson no longer with Vegas, how can the franchise improve on their .333 winning percentage? Concerns over quality could quickly have a toxic effect on the league, which would be a sort of karmic payback. While Johnson has become a martyr over wanting to do the right thing, she will have her day in the sun and it may be one that outshines any she had with her former team.