As with many of the football faithful, I’ve been biding my time throughout the pandemic relatively sure in my belief that the NFL would find a way to pull off the 2020 season for us, even if they had to play in front of empty stadiums or employ an abbreviated schedule with less travel. After all, we’re not talking about the pampered weenies in major league baseball or the NBA here. This is football! It’s the sport where the Monsters of the Midway make the ground quake when they stride across the field. If anyone can get this done, it’s the NFL, right?
Well, it might not be as simple as all that. And the problem isn’t the novel coronavirus, protests or social unrest. The real issue may arise from the NFL Players’ Association. The league is already anticipating massive losses in revenue if stadiums aren’t allowed to sell tickets and fill the stands. Advertisers are short on cash also, so they’re not buying as many ads. And people who are out of work and struggling to make their rent aren’t as likely to be shopping for merchandise from their favorite teams. With all that in mind, the league pitched an idea where the players could put 35 percent of their salaries for this season in escrow, just to help keep the lights on. And how did the Players’ Association respond? They literally told them to “kick rocks.” (CBS Boston)
The latest issue — like so many issues at this juncture in time — has to do with money. Specifically, as Tom Pelissero first reported for NFL Network, the NFL has proposed that players put 35 percent of their 2020 salaries in escrow, to help account for the significant revenue losses expected from the lack of fans paying for tickets to games.
According to Pelissero, the NFLPA responded to the NFL’s request by saying this: “Kick rocks.”
Beyond the “formal” response of telling the league to kick rocks, a lot of players spoke up about this budding issue. Unsurprisingly, not many players are willing to put off more than a third of their 2020 salaries. Many crying-laughing emojis were used. Multiple GIFs were employed.
How did the NFLPA react to the NFL's proposal to escrow 35% of player salaries this season?
NFLPA executive Don Davis told players on a conference call: "Basically, we told them to kick rocks."
Union's stance is any escrow deal must be collectively bargained. https://t.co/b3c7ihAOiD
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) July 7, 2020
The CBS article includes quite a few responses from players around the league, but I’ll highlight a couple of them here. Let’s just say they seemed “less than generous.”
— Allen Robinson II (@AllenRobinson) July 8, 2020
To a certain extent, I can understand what some of these players are saying in terms of being rewarded for the risks involved. If there are still major outbreaks of COVID-19 taking place, who wants to risk extra travel and physical interaction with people? But with that said, there are a few other points to consider. These guys don’t travel in coach class. The teams have their own jets and their own terminals at airports. If you can test everyone on the team and make sure they aren’t infected, nobody will be getting sick.
Also, in terms of risk factors, this disease primarily hits the oldest and those with underlying health issues the hardest. These players are nearly all young men in their 20s and 30s who are arguably among the healthiest people in the country. And they have some of the best doctors in the country at their beck and call if they come down with so much as a sniffle. If there’s a group with a lower risk of serious consequences from the novel coronavirus I’m hard-pressed to think who that might be.
There’s also the matter of relative wealth. The minimum salary for any NFL rookie, even if they spend the entire season riding the bench, is $480,000. If you’ve been in the league for seven years, regardless of your performance, the minimum salary is $1.05 million. According to Sportscasting dot com, the average salary for NFL players last year was $2.07 million, though that number is bumped up a bit by the real superstars pulling down paydays in the tens of millions.
In other words, these guys aren’t exactly finishing practice and running out to stand in line at the soup kitchen. The median income in America for individual workers remains in the mid-40K range and the average household income is still below $60K. If everyone else is doing without and the league is anticipating actually losing money, is it so crazy to think that those who have been so blessed with rare opportunities and rich rewards could set a portion of their income aside for a single year? And they’re not even being asked to simply give up the money. The league just wants to put it in escrow while they sort out all the red ink.
Is such a proposal not even worth sitting down and discussing? It sounds to me as if some of these young men have really become the epitome of spoiled, entitled brats, as our friends in the Progressive Rioting Coalition like to say. Most of these players are saying that the owners and the league itself need to be dipping into their own pockets. While the league generates considerable revenue, they should keep in mind that the owners generally do not. Buying an NFL team is more of an exercise in swelling egos than anything else. Buying a team will set you back up to nearly a billion dollars or so. (Though I hear the Jets were available in trade for a few cans of Spam at one point.) And profit margins tend to be low, even for some of the more successful teams. The only time you make any real money by owning an NFL franchise is when you sell it.
The fans want their football games back this fall. Perhaps the players should check their own egos at the door for a little while be willing to compromise here. Considering how blessed nearly all of them are to be able to play football for a living at the highest level, a bit of appreciation and a willingness to give something back in the short term would do a lot for all of their images.