Associated Press columnist Jim Litke became the latest person in the national media to paint both sides in a sports labor dispute as spoiled, ungrateful and greedy in his column headlined: NFL labor talks: Who’s greedier, the millionaires or billionaires?
This is an almost insane question to ask. Just read his column, which we ran in the Register Star. Yet he answers his own question by writing,”You can’t go wrong picking either side.”
Litke lays out the dispute well. The NFL currently takes in $9 billion in revenue. It gets to keep the first $1 billion, then gives the players 60 percent of the remaining $8 billion as part of their salary cap agreement. The owners now want to take $2 billion off the top, and then split 60-40. The players say how about taking nothing off the top and splitting things 50-50. Or they’ll take even a little less than 50-50.
Anyway, Litke notes “the owners are smart enough not to plead poverty” after the NFL had record TV ratings this year.
And he writes:
The players are essentially arguing for the status quo, and with flawless logic. The league has never been more popular, and everyone is already making money hand over fist.
So why is it greedy for the players to argue for the status quo under a salary cap model that the owners insisted upon?
I can’t remember ever hearing professional athletes threaten to strike because they were demanding more money. In fact, unions are often almost as eager as owners to put caps on rookie salaries. No, the only thing players want is to keep their rights to become free agents or to be paid as much as their employer WANTS to pay them.
It’s always the pro sports owners who want guarantees that their businesses will remain not just profitable, but wildly profitable.
The average NFL team is now valued at over $1 billion. Anyone who has owned his team for over a decade has at least doubled his investment just in the net worth of his team, not even counting his annual profit.
But owners always want players to give up even more. They want a rookie salary cap. They want to lock the players into even longer rookie contracts. They want them to give up $600 million in salaries.
What do the owners ever give up? Will they give $1 billion back to the TV networks on their next contracts, as they want the players to give back? Will they return any personal seat licenses to their fans? Will the teams that got public funding for their new stadiums give several hundred million back to their cities now that every city and state is in a tax crunch?
Didn’t think so.
So the answer is easy. There is only one greedy side in this dispute. And it’s the side that’s threatening to close it’s doors.
When businesses are losing money and facing foreclosure, employees holding out for the status quo might be seen as greedy. But when that business is making record profits, demanding the status quo is eminently reasonable, even modest.
Both sides in this looming NFL labor mess are wealthy, but it’s only the side that’s 100 or 1,000 times MORE wealthy that wants even more.