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.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your diligent to inform, expose, and providing clarity on many issues that will not surface in mainline media.

The Word of God says, "blessed are those that publish the truth.". You are blessed and you are blessing a blessing to others.

Dr. J. B. Pressey, Fort Wayne, IN

J. Sykes said...

Some random thoughts in response....

Don't blame the athletes. They are just getting what the market bears. If the owners couldn't pay it they wouldn't. Nobody is holding a gun to their head.

But you can't (always) blame owners either, because they are often left with no choice but to spend what it takes to bring in talent that gives the team a chance to win. Winning is critical when payroll is high. Because when there are 81 home baseball games, the last thing they can absorb is a stadium only 30% full over the last half of a season. To cover their costs they need to put butts in seats.

The situation with escalating salaries began when free agency started. That, along with the rise of the players' union in each sport, transitioned the bargaining power into the athletes' hands. Add some feisty sports agents to the mix, and suddenly the salaries skyrocketed.

Wisely, the NFL has not enacted the Guaranteed Contract that exists in other sports. If a guy is making too much money for the team to afford, they can simply cut him and wash the salary off the books (ie. Torry Holt today). The player then has the freedom to go elsewhere and get whatever he can get. Whatever the market bears for his services.

A market correction will eventually take place. I think the NBA is the first place this will happen. Teams can't continue to pay $20 million/year to washed-up veterans. Especially when the talent pool is so much larger with Europeans and Asians taking up the sport. If something doesn't change, the middle class will soon disappear in the NBA. The elite players will make huge salaries, and whatever is left will be split between the other players on the roster. With a big talent pool, you can find scrappy guys who will play for bottom-scale pay. Look at recent World Series winners in baseball. They are comprised of All-Stars and Nobodys. The right mix of Nobodys are often the guys who push a team to a championship.

Anonymous said...

He was not blaming athletes. He said they do not sign the checks.