The debate is a long ongoing one: are NFL players paid enough? This has been getting progressively more attention in recent months with the likes of Duane Brown, Aaron Donald, Sammy Watkins, Donald Penn, and Odell Beckham Jr. all chiming in in different ways, some more vocally as others as seen below.
First of all, let's get the obvious out of the way. Yes, they get paid too much as it is in the grand scheme of things looking at what other professions pay. And yes, getting upset about not earning enough 000's is like crying over scratching your diamond shoes, but the fact is that as much as I hate to admit it, there is evidence that these players have a point.
Let's be honest, job security is important to just about everyone. While you'd imagine being an elite athlete automatically implies some sort of security given the demand, there is no denying that it's a cutthroat business. According to the NCAA website for example, in 2017 of 73,660 participants in football at a collegiate level, only 1.5% of those will actually make it into the NFL, and even once you're in, there are only 1,696 active NFL players (53 man rosters only) in the league at any one moment, those are a mixture of players from the last 10-15 years of so, which dilutes that 1.5% down drastically more.
Once you're in, the average career span of an NFL player is approximately 3.3 years. So, if you happen to be lucky and talented enough to make it in, you'll want to milk it for every cent it's worth while you still can. This is where job security comes in. If you know your career could well be done any second, given that teams rarely have any patience for players whose form drops, get injured, or simply if someone better comes along, then you'll know that job security of any kind will be at a premium. So, while they have a contract of some kind, they will want security that what they sign for is what they'll get paid.
However, in the NFL that simply isn't the case. Contracts are almost never 100% guaranteed, with contracts league wide varying from a handful of fully guaranteed to exactly 0.0% guaranteed - meaning if those people were cut they wouldn't be owed a penny. For example, Houston Texans starting left tackle Duane Brown is a perfect example. He has two years left on his current deal and is set to earn $9.4 million this year and $9.75 million next year. However, none is guaranteed, so if he goes down injured he could be cut at any moment and none of that money would be paid.
This is where the NFL lags behind. In the NBA, almost all contracts are fully guaranteed, and the same can be said of MLB where contracts are all guaranteed.
There seems to be a common theme among players that they simply feel undervalued. These are world class athletes who have beaten thousands upon thousands of others for their job, and they earn their teams millions a year in advertising, merchandise sales, TV revenue etc. and yet they don't receive deals that come close to those of their sporting peers? Look for example at the highest paid players in each of the USA's three major sports for 2017.
|Joe Flacco - $24,550,000||Steph Curry - $34,382,550||Clayton Kershaw - $35,571,428|
|Carson Palmer - $24,125,000||LeBron James - $33,285,709||Zack Greinke - $34,000,000|
|Kirk Cousins - $23,943,600||Paul Millsap - $31,269,231||David Price - $30,000,000|
Of those three leagues, the NFL is by far both the most valuable, and the most profitable, with annual revenue set to hit $14 billion this year in comparison to the NBA which is set to hit $8 billion, and MLB which is set to hit $10 billion. But, where does this money go? Well, this is where they differ. In the NFL there is a salary cap of $167 million for 2017, the NBA is set at $99.093 million for 2017, whereas MLB has no hard salary cap. And while the NBA has a smaller cap, there are just 25 players on their rosters among which to divide this cap, whereas NFL teams must divide their cap among 53 players.
And then there's the revenue. As mentioned earlier, players rake in money for their teams and leagues, given that they are the main attractions and the very element that everybody tunes in for and gets excited for. While the NFL does split half its revenue among its players, so that's approximately $6 billion to split up. Sounds good right? Not so much. In the NBA, for example, their revenue is split up in the same way, so that should be $4 billion to split up. However, the NFL has four times as many players as the NBA does, so each player brings back a significantly smaller portion.
Blame Goodell and co.
At this point you're probably getting the vibe I'm going for here. It's not about what they're earning necessarily, it's about how. Unlike other sports where players get a fairer cut for what they bring to their respective league, the NFL keep more of the money for themselves. Take league commissioner Roger Goodell for example, in his time as commissioner, Goodell has earned more than five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady by over $50 million.
What the NFL seems to have forgotten here, is the fundamental reason why the sport is as popular as it is; the people. It's the players people ultimately come for and watch for, and yet they're not being anywhere near as well paid as their peers across other sports.
While I don't believe there is a single sports person out there who deserves the millions and millions they earn on a yearly basis, when there are people working in the emergency services and armed forces struggling to get by, but just like anybody else, if you weren't getting paid as much as others doing the exact same job as yourself, you can't honestly admit that you wouldn't feel underappreciated.
Then there's the security. It's a basic human instinct to desire job security, to believe that there is a safety net for you should something happen, and that somebody has faith in you. But the NFL does not show any of this. It's a cut throat business that's gotten too blade happy, and they should give the players both a better cut of what they bring in and guarantee that at the end of the day, they actually get to keep the cut they signed on for.
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