NFL owners turn millionaires into martyrs
I hope you missed this, but the National Football League owners had been threatening to lock out the players for months, until they finally agreed to a deal this week.
Normally, I wouldn’t care about this labor dispute. Scratch that – I still don’t. When billionaires bicker with millionaires, you’re better off cleaning your bathroom than giving this skirmish one minute of your attention.
But I am tempted to make an exception. Usually it’s just a battle between spoiled brats – and as often as not, I go away concluding the players’ salaries are insane, and the owners are insane to keep paying them. That was the case during the NHL lock out, which killed the entire season a few years ago, and it will likely be the case if the NBA owners lock out the players this coming season.
But this time, the difference was too glaring. On a very relative scale, the millionaire players were getting exploited by the billionaire owners.
Here’s how their old labor contract worked: The owners kept the first billion – with a “b” – dollars of profit, then the players got 60 percent of everything thereafter. Since the NFL made more than nine billion dollars last year, you don’t have to break out a calculator to realize everybody got filthy rich.
But the owners can keep their franchises for decades – and keep them in their families even longer. When cities and states build new stadiums for their teams, the owners benefit more than anyone, and can really cash in when their teams’ value soars. For the owners, the NFL is a cozy club, and virtually risk free.
But for the players, it’s all risk. The average players’ career lasts just three years. And if he’s injured – and football provides the best odds of that – his team will take away the remaining years on his contract. Only the NFL does that.
But he can almost certainly count on a lifetime of aches and pains, arthritis and fake hips and knees - and worse, we’re now learning, the devastating effects of concussions, including depression and dementia. The average player lives to be 55 – an age when owners buy their first team.
The more you learn about this sport, the harder it is to watch.
All that would be bad enough. But the owners did some research, and they discovered that two billion dollars is more than one billion. So they decided they should be getting two billion dollars before they give the players a cent.
The owners paint themselves as rugged individuals, self-made men and died in the wool capitalists. But they’re not even close. They want all the benefits of socialism with their fellow owners – an iron-clad monopoly, no economic competition, strict revenue sharing, and no real punishment if their teams stink – while behaving like ruthless robber barons with the players. I’m not sure if even John D. Rockefeller was so brazen to insist on doubling his take just because – well, because it’s twice as much. And that’s more. So that would be better.
If nothing else, you can’t fault their math.
The two sides finally settled on a compromise – perhaps Congress should be paying attention here – and guess what? Everybody involved will become even richer. But the players still won’t play any longer, their bones won’t heal any faster and whatever damage is being done to their brains won’t be known until it’s far too late.As a rule, it’s very hard for me to feel sorry for millionaire celebrities playing a kid’s game. But the NFL owners make it a lot easier.
Copyright© 2011, Michigan Radio
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