Wednesday, July 30, 2008

It's a business!

It’s that time of year again. Someday soon, a football player traded or dropped from his team’s roster, will explain -- “It’s a business.” I don’t mean to pick on football players, or even athletes in general. I hear this from people in all walks of life. What strikes me is the hostility, the bitterness that they apparently associate with the word “business.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an apologist. “Business”, is far from perfect. Unfortunately, in the football business teams sometimes trade players. I imagine that’s tough on those players and their families. Unfortunately, teams release players – players lose their jobs. I can’t even imagine how crushing that is to those players and their families. I’m just arguing for a little more balance.

In 2007, the minimum salary for an NFL rookie was $285,000 a year. That minimum escalated to $510,000 by year four. Players who remained in the league for more than ten years made a minimum of $820,000. That minimum rookie salary is more than many people make in a decade. The minimum for the most senior players is more than many people make in a lifetime. Those were the minimums. Many players earned well over a million dollars a year. For my favorite team, the Houston Texans, the USA Today salary database lists 25 players with a 2007 “total salary” above that level. (Note: “total salary” includes bonuses.)

Football players can earn those salaries because the NFL is a business. More accurately, the salaries are as high as they are because the NFL is a very profitable business. If the NFL were not a good business, there would be no league. And there would be no jobs.

So, just once, I’d like to see a player, after signing a multi-million dollar contract, come to his press conference, smile and say … “It’s a business.”

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