The media’s coverage of the lockout has taken a while to catch up with reality. I can name any number of reasons for this, but the biggest one is that the threat of no football has given media outlets a lot of time to think about CBA minutia and to realize how reliant they are on football for clicks, views, and ratings. In particular, the biggest guy in town–ESPN.
My point about CBA minutia is important. This debate has transitioned from a dismissive and uninformed narrative about millionaires vs. billionaires, to a wholesale understanding that the more we know about player health and finances, playing in the NFL involves a lot of short and long term sacrifice.
Finally, the gloves are off. ESPN’s Rick Reilly had this to say:
Their estimated combined net worth is well over $40 billion, which is more than the GNP of 150 nations. Paul Allen, owner of the Seattle Seahawks, has a 414-foot yacht called “The Octopus” with two helicopters, two submarines, a swimming pool, a music studio and a basketball court. He also has two backup emergency yachts.
You’re really worried about his wallet?
Yes, many of the players are diamond-coated knuckleheads. But have you ever met Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder? He’s worth $1.1 billion and yet, two years ago, the Redskins sued a 73-year-old grandmother for not keeping up on her season-ticket package payments.
This man also got caught buying stale peanuts from a defunct airline and reselling them at games.
For the owners to lock out the players at this time in American history is unconscionable. You don’t like the players? Fine. There are still nearly 9 percent of Americans out of work. Think of the people who’ve lost their homes, lost their cars and can barely pay the rent. Watching an NFL game on a Sunday — and getting ready for it all week — is sometimes literally the only thing keeping them going.
Do you realize what having no NFL season would do to the economy? According to the NFLPA, it’s estimated it would cost each NFL city $160 million and 3,000 jobs. That’s 93,000 jobs nationwide. For what? Another Aspen chalet?
Question: In 10 years, do you think you’re going to find New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft wandering the streets because of the 200-plus concussions he didn’t know he had from his time in the NFL? You figure Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford will end up with ringing in the ears and depression the way former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson did? Within the past year alone, two former players killed themselves.
And over at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
We have billionaires sounding like struggling shrimp boat captains on the Mississippi Gulf coast after the oil spill. We have commissioner Roger Goodell claiming the financial structure of the league is broken. We have Jeff Pash, the NFL’s general counsel, proclaiming that teams are being “squeezed.”
Television contracts alone pay out $3.085 billion per year, which basically means each team takes in over $96 million annually before it has sold a ticket, a T-shirt or a peanut. Half of the league’s 32 teams are valued at over $1 billion and the relative pauper of the group, the Jacksonville Jaguars, are valued at $725 million.
Don’t be surprised if you can’t access this article, AJC had to close comments and the page won’t even load.
At the Washington Post, Sally Jenkins came around to the right side of this earlier than a lot of others, and I think her column on this subject is worth reading.
The average NFL player lasts just 3.3 seasons, and most of his salary, no matter how high on paper, isn’t guaranteed. The league minimum for a rookie is $310,000, and the median league salary is just less than $800,000. That’s wildly extravagant – isn’t it? Let’s see.
Sixty-three percent of all NFL players suffered at least one injury last year. The suicide rate among ex-NFL players is six times the national average, according to GamesOver.org, a Web site dedicated to helping former players adjust to retirement. A recent clinical survey found they are three times more likely than other men their age to abuse prescription medication.
Say a guy gets drafted and meets the average, plays for three and a half years. Let’s be generous and award him the median salary. He should walk away with at least a cool $2.4 million.
Hold on. Three percent off the top goes to his agent. Slice off another 40 percent because he’s in the highest tax bracket. So there goes 43 cents on the dollar.
He also has to pay a financial adviser, and he’s got legal fees.
He needs a specialized personal trainer, too, because his body is his living, plus training equipment, nutritional supplements, and a good computer to study game tape on, all at peril of being judged overpaid.
Some of this he can write off, if he remembers to keep the receipts, but the IRS tends to be strict and audits about 20 percent of all NFL players – perhaps because they’re reportedly so overpaid.
A job in the NFL is not a Hallmark card, and it’s not nearly as secure as most union jobs. It’s a grinding, dangerous, painful, short-lived pursuit, so abbreviated that it hardly qualifies as a profession in the way the rest of us define the word, and it comes at a heavy, heavy cost.
Whenever you’re tempted to yell at a player to try working for living, or to go dig a ditch, remember that by age 50 he may not be able to.
While at Deadspin, Drew Magary took the gloves completely off.
Regardless of how this shit plays out, starting tonight, this is all 100 percent the owners’ fault. Maybe you’ll grow tempted to start blaming the players equally as this thing drags out, but you shouldn’t. This isn’t like 1994, when baseball shut down because it had both asshole owners and a players union that didn’t even want drug testing and initiated the labor conflict by putting down their bats and striking in the middle of the season. This is different. This was premeditated and instigated by the NFL owners. And while Goodell may continually try and spin it otherwise as we go on (no doubt with help from his accordion monkey Peter King), and while some people might start buying into joint blame, I won’t. And neither should you. The players are cool. The owners are worthless titblisters. There’s no need for even-handedness here.
Now, I don’t believe in grassroots movements, like staging a mass walkout or any of that supposed fan empowerment shit. “Let’s all gather outside the stadium wearing red!” That never works. There’s nothing we can do to stop these 31 fuckheads from being complete and utter fuckheads. But, by chance, if you do spot one walking down the street, by all means shout at him to go fuck himself. Say it very loud, so that he’ll hear you. Make it quite clear to him that you blame HIM for this impasse, and that he deserves to die inside a dead horse’s asshole. Because he does. NFL owners, YOU are the villains in this little saga. You are miserable, shitsucking little fuckwits, and I hope David Doty presides over every goddamn lawsuit you ever sit through in your lifetime.
However late, it’s nice to see the media treat the NFL owners with the scorn and scrutiny they deserve. There’s no reason any company that isn’t even losing money should seek to drastically cut what it offers its employees–especially when we continue to be inundated with more information about what happens after these guys are no longer employed. But that seems to be the American way, it’s no wonder labor issues in this country are at the forefront of political debate.