Dexter Rogers

Dexter Rogers

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Do professional athletes make too much money?

The masses are tired of seeing tax dollars end up in the pockets of big businesses and sports fans are not happy with professional athletes signing mega contracts. Sad to say but their voices aren’t being heard.

Last week the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Manny Ramirez to a 2 year 45 million dollar contract. Also, the Arizona Cardinals signed quarterback Kurt Warner to a 2 year 25 million dollar deal. Seems like the rich keep getting richer while many Americans struggle to make ends meet.

The government continues to use tax payer dollars to bail out big-business while that same government does little to assist the source from which money came. Americans watch the news and see how grim the economy is then moments later we are informed Manny Ramirez gets 45 million dollars for playing baseball.

America has sold citizens on education. We are told education is the key to the future development of this country. If the latter is true why aren’t teachers compensated in a way which reflects the huge responsibility they have to educate youths?

American values are obviously a bit skewed. But professional sport exists in its present form because fans graciously support the institution. The fan will consistently dawn their jersey, attend games, purchase food and root their brains out. The sports fan, just like citizens in society, are the most important element of the equation yet simultaneously the most under appreciated.

The world of professional sports is a utopian society. It’s a subculture that operates interdependently of American culture. Economically the employee and employer relationship in professional sports mirror those in society. But the one glaring disparity is the amount of money athletes earn is astronomical when compared to the average citizen.

For instance, when you combine the NBA, NFL, and Major Leagues from a player representation standpoint there’s only 3,224 citizens. The wages are high and the jobs are rare. The professional athlete earns millions while typical wage-earners struggle to survive.

In this economy fans don’t think it’s fair for athletes to earn millions while the masses suffer. I think the disenchanted fan can demand change if they truly wanted it. Professional sport franchises are largely privately owned publicly subsidized entities. In essence this makes the fan a stock holder. Every ticket, jersey, and hot dog fans purchase help to subsidize the athletes they cheer for. What if every Major League baseball fan decided they would skip opening day? If fans ceased their support of the game the establishment will listen.

But the latter will never happen.

Fans won’t seriously consider abandoning their love affair with sports.
Despite the fans who criticize athletes for being greedy they will continue to flock to stadiums. Sport provides an escape from the rigors of society and it makes us feel good. American sport is too embedded in the fabric of this country. The fans love sports and will continue to support institution irrespective of its flaws.

In society many Americans hate seeing their tax dollars bailing out business giants like AIG. Citizens aren’t happy to see their money allocated without being involved in the decision-making process in how its’ distributed. Despite the double-standard citizens will continue to function and adapt. Same holds true in American sport.

The gripe against greedy athlete is indeed plausible. But isn’t it equally plausible to criticize the owners? The players are employees. They don’t sign the checks. Franchise owners are often exempt from ridicule because they often shun the limelight. The media contributes to the latter by keeping the focus on the athlete. They often report what athletes earn but owners are typically exempt from such exposure. Some sports fans know every player on their favorite NFL team yet have no idea who the owner is. In short, fans criticize what they see most.

Those fans who judge the marquee athletes aren’t in the athlete’s tax bracket but their financial support makes it possible for professional athletes to command big dollars. Shortly after signing his new contract Kurt Warner issued the following, “You know the numbers are staggering, and to add to that the economy and where people are struggling, it’s tough,” Warner said. “But all I know is I’ve worked hard to get to the point that I’m at, to be in this position and have opportunities like this and I don’t regret that fact.”

Translation, don’t hate the player, hate the game.

Here’s my take. I’ve been a business owner, a lifelong fan of sports who is now a columnist. Under the principles of capitalism owners have right to grow their business. The athletes have a right to command salary that corresponds with their worth, and as a journalist I the right to express my opinion.

We’ve made a choice to make throwing touchdowns in the NFL or hitting home runs in the Major Leagues more important than getting the homeless of the streets, curing cancer, or properly educating youths.

For those of you who really want to change the economics of sport, stop supporting the institution with your dollars. Until this happens you will not be heard.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lack of character destroying Major League baseball...

Formerly known as Americas Pastime, Major League Baseball is continually suffering from the steroid controversy. The commissioner of baseball Bud Selig recently issued the following on New York Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez, “What Alex did was wrong and he will have to live with the damage he has done to his name and reputation.”

Feb 9th Rodriguez admitted to using steroids as a Texas Ranger from 2001-2003. If the steroid sagas of former stars Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens weren’t enough now we Rodriguez in his baseball prime in the mix.

There’s more. On Feb. 10 former American League M.V.P. Miguel Tejada pleaded guilty for lying under oath at the congressional hearings when questioned about steroids.

Will this steroid saga ever go away?

For the past fifteen years the game has experienced many peaks and valleys. In 1994 baseball hit an all-time low when a players strike ruined the season which resulted in no World Series. Sadly fans were forced to stay away.

In 1995 baseball returned but fans were still bitter. Wisely Major League baseball rallied around Baltimore Orioles great Cal Ripken. Ripken was set to break Lou Gehrig’s record for most consecutive games played. On September 6, 1995 Ripken bested Gehrig by playing in his 2131st consecutive game to take his place in history. Ripken’s feat provided a pleasant diversion as it averted fans from thinking of the strike.

By 1998 fans were back in full force because they were introduced to the “Chicks Dig the Long Ball” era. What epitomized the era was a home run battle for the ages between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. The event thoroughly captivated the sports world as both sluggers were vying to break Roger Maris’s single season-record of 61. At seasons end McGwire owned the record. He smashed 70 home runs while Sosa ended with 66.

Enter Barry Bonds.

In 2001 the San Francisco Giant slugger eclipsed McGwire’s record by cracking 73 home runs. Prior to breaking the record Bonds never hit 50 home runs in a season. Thus the whispers of his steroid use began.

McGwire and Sosa’s duel, along with Bonds power surge, fueled an unprecedented interest in baseball. Now it turns out the reason which induced fan interest serves as the reason why it’s now damaged goods. No longer known as the “Chicks Dig the Long Ball” era it’s now depicted as the “Steroid Era.”

In the future each time a home run clears the fence it will be showered with doubt. Whenever a pitcher has a great season one will wonder if he’s on the juice. Unfortunately the cheating is forcing fans and the media to look at players accomplishments in a different light.

When turmoil arises sometimes we are forced to revert to past to feel good about the present. I’d give anything to watch Bob Gibson pitch a complete game shutout or watch Willie Mays make a miraculous catch in center field. The latter fantasy appears more inviting than watching rich men cheat baseball in the present.

It would be music to my ears to hear Yankee fans chant “Reg-gie! Reg-gie!” as Reggie Jackson slowly walked to home plate.

Sounds better than chants of “A-Roid” doesn’t it?

Largely individuals are products of their choices. For those choices there are potential consequences one can face.

Roger Clemens was regarded as the greatest right-handed pitcher of all time. He was hailed for his off season workouts. But because of his choices and alleged links to steroids he’s now perceived as a cheater. His consequences are evident. He’s suffered economic loss, family turmoil, and a tarnished image. Now Clemens is vigorously fighting to save his damaged reputation that took two decades to build.

Barry Bonds was considered as one of the best all-around players of all time. In his prime Bonds stole bases, threw people out, and hit for power. Now Bonds finds himself a stranger to the game he because of his alledged choices regarding steroids. Like Clemens, his consequences are clear. After breaking two of the most revered records in baseball Bonds will shamefully have an unofficial asterisk by his name. This assures his many accolades will be forever clouded with doubt.

One event that transpired recently in baseball that was positive occurred days before Rodriguez was forced to go public. On Feb. 5 the great Hank Aaron quietly celebrated his 75th birthday. While Bonds was in court facing steroid charges Aaron was dining with former President Bill Clinton, Bud Selig, family, and friends.

Unlike Bonds and Clemens, Aaron’s legacy is in tact. When Aaron hit his 755 home runs and had a career batting average of .305 he wasn’t questioned about cheating. When he collected his 3771 hits (3rd all-time) and played in 24 all-star games he did clean.

Aaron encountered turmoil during his career as well but it wasn’t because of his bad choices: endured turmoil because of the color of his skin.

When Aaron embarked upon eclipsing Babe Ruth’s home run record he was subject to a ruthless onslaught of racism. In 1973 Aaron received over 3,000 letters per day that was mostly hate mail and death threats. Aaron needed F.B.I. security and a bodyguard to ensure his safety. Regarding Aaron’s hate mail Commissioner Bud Selig stated, “I saw a lot of the mail and it was heartbreaking-just horrifying.”

Despite the racism Aaron endured. Even though Aaron technically lost his home run record to Bonds he remains in a league of his own on and off the field. He’s a class act and his image is in tact. Unfortunately the likes of Bonds, Clemens, and now Rodriguez can’t assert such claims.

I think Major League Baseball is a reflection of our nations’ economy: it's in a worse state than what we're being told. Continued character and integrity issues are killing baseball. The sport formerly known as Americas’ favorite pastime needs to quickly find a way to get past the consistent turmoil it’s now faces.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Williams sisters continue their boycott

When the WTA Sony Ericsson Tour instituted new rules in September 2008 it mandated players must play specific tournaments or face possible fines and suspensions. One of those tournaments is the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, Calif., which began March 9. Venus and Serena have boycotted the Indian Wells tournament the past seven years. This year makes it eight. They now face suspension from the upcoming Sony Ericsson Open beginning March 23.
This is a big deal because the Williams’ sisters put butts in the seats. If they play tennis fans will come.

Here’s the reason for their boycott. In 2001, Venus and Serena were set to square off in a semifinal at Indian Wells. Shortly before their duel, Venus pulled out with a knee injury. Some have theorized their father, Richard Williams, dictates who wins the matches when Venus and Serena play each other. Fans were highly upset. They felt something just wasn’t right.

The following day Serena played Kim Clijsters in the final. She was taunted and booed throughout the match. She was visibly shaken. Despite the crowd’s shenanigans Serena regained her composure and won the championship 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

As Venus and Richard Williams watched the match from the players’ box they were booed and subjected to racial slurs. Since the incident the Williams family hasn’t stepped foot onto the Indian Wells resort.

The WTA is flexing its muscles to force the Williams sisters play Indian Wells against their wishes with their new rules.

“I don’t play that tournament,” Serena said last September at the U.S. Open. “There’s been a lot of people in the past that are my race that have stood up for a lot more than not playing Indian Wells. That’s the least I can do.”

Venus added, “I think the WTA is in a good place, but all of us live in a free county. So we’re able to make a choice as to whether or not we want to play. That choice is for every player, not just Serena and me.”

At that time, WTA Chief Executive Larry Scott said he had spoken with the Williams sisters and they hadn’t wavered. “They’ve both said they’re not planning on playing Indian Wells. I’ve had several hours of conversation with Venus and Serena. I’m hopeful they’ll play. I would like to see them play.”

Richard Williams said last year in India that his daughters have never been fully accepted on tour because of racism. “Well, I’m black and I’m prejudiced, very prejudiced,” he said, according to The Associated Press. “People are prejudiced in tennis. I don’t think Venus or Serena was ever accepted by tennis. They never will be.”

The WTA is using legislation to control the Williams’ sisters to hopefully increase revenue at Indian Wells. This isn’t a new phenomenon.

Historically, legislation has been instrumental in controlling the revenue of African-Americans in society and sport. In 1908, the government created the Mann Act, which was originally designed to combat forced prostitution. Jack Johnson, who was the first African-American heavyweight boxing champion of the world, was convicted under the Mann Act ostensibly for transporting a prostitute across state lines. It is believed, however, that Johnson was targeted because the woman, who was white, was his girlfriend. He spent a year and a day in prison. Johnson married white women, taunted his white opponents, and did it all with a smile. Ultimately he was forced into exile. When the dust settled Johnson lost his title and money.

A century ago African-Americans were not allowed to play major league baseball with whites. Based on a “gentlemen’s agreement” the baseball hierarchy kept baseball a “whites only” club. Only when the establishment saw an economic benefit was Jackie Robinson allowed to make history in 1947. Allowing Robinson to play wasn’t about morality, it was about money.
In 1967, Muhammad Ali was stripped of his championship and his ability to box for 42 months because he refused induction in the Vietnam War. The establishment amended the laws to facilitate bringing Ali to his knees. Ali was broke. But we all know he didn’t stay kneeled.

The Williams’ sister’s boycott is bigger than tennis. Because America has an African- American president, Oprah is a billionaire and African-Americans dominate professional sports from participation standpoint, doesn’t mean racism is fading.

The elite live in a utopian world that exempts them certain forms of mainstream exclusion. It makes many African-Americans feel good that Barack Obama resides in the White House and Tiger Woods is back playing golf. But their success doesn’t necessarily equate to social and economical benefits for the masses.

The media glorifies the elite African-Americans who’ve made it. It induces the mainstream to subconsciously relax and revel in their success that most won’t attain. This also induces people to embrace that America has advanced further than what it actually has. But the only way another’s social and economic success can be valuable if it married to activism.

Billie Jean King was known throughout her illustrious tennis career as champion for women’s rights. And yet she has stated that she wants the Williams sisters play the Indian Wells tournament. Supporting the sisters’ decision not to play at Indian Wells would align with her much decorated activism.

But here’s the catch. In February 2006, King became part owner of the Indian Wells tournament. Maybe that partly explains why she wants the Williams sisters to play. Even the best activism can diminish in the presence of the almighty dollar.

Bottom line: The Williams’s sisters shouldn’t play Indian Wells. Venus and Serena are the Tiger Woods of tennis. When they play the fans will come and vice versa. Besides, the WTA and Indian Wells don’t want the Williams’ sisters back because they are remorseful. They want them for their ability to put butts in the seats.