The salaries of professional athletes is a bone of contention for many individuals. The NFL is no exception to this hot topic of debate.
Although many NFL players are making millions of dollars a year, they are actually criminally underpaid, and actively being taken advantage of by team owners and NFL executives. This is due to the fact that NFL contracts are not guaranteed (something unheard of in every other professional league), NFL players have a shorter career span than all other professional athletes, and the team owners continuously take steps to make sure that the players’ contracts are voided (ie: trading the player or waiving him).
NFL players have a lower average salary than players in the NHL, NBA, and MLB, despite the fact that the NFL brings in more money than all three of these organizations on a yearly basis. With the exception of MMA and Boxing, two sports where the entire object is to beat your opponent to a pulp, football is the most dangerous professional sport.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, is the progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma. According to Boston University’s CTE Center’s website, approximately 99% of the donated bodies from the NFL showed CTE.
With statistics as alarming as this, it would seem that the salaries of these men who are literally killing themselves for our entertainment would at least be higher than the less dangerous and less profitable sports. Like many other sports, the NFL employs a salary cap, designed to limit the amount each team can spend on players. This is so that the richer teams don’t spend a bunch of money to have an overpowered squad of guys.
Unfortunately, the owners of these teams use the salary caps to finesse players out of money on a regular basis. The definition of a wage cap according to Bleacher Report is, “an agreement or rule that places a limit on the amount of money that a team can spend on players’ salaries. It exists as a per-player limit or a total limit for the team’s roster, or both.”
Like many other businesses that spend a considerable amount of time trying to screw employees out of money, the NFL has many different ways to make sure that they don’t have to pay their players the amount for which they sign up.
According to Deadspin, NFL contracts are the only professional sport contracts that are not guaranteed. This is likely because NFL players are so likely to sustain injuries that prevent them from playing. The average career of an NFL player is only 3.3 years, and because NFL contracts are voidable, as soon as an NFL player stops playing, the player no longer receives wages.
According to an article written by Mike Florio for NBC Sports, the NFL earned almost $14 billion in 2017, the highest of any other American professional sports organization. In the same year, the MLB made $9.5 billion, and the average salary of an MLB player sat right at $4.5 million dollars, compared to the average salary of $2 million for NFL players.
One would imagine that the salaries for the NFL would be higher, as the NFL brings in such an inordinate amount of money each year; however, that isn’t the case. According to an article in the Washington Post by Des Bieler and Cindy Boren, the highest paid NFL player is the Detroit Lions quarterback, Matthew Stafford, with a contract of $135 million, earning around $27 million a year, unless of course he gets injured or leaves the Lions. Although this is a very high salary, it still does not even put a dent in the amount of revenue the NFL brought in last year.
Because the NFL is a non-profit organization and the teams are privately owned, it’s difficult to determine the exact numbers that the Lions owner, Martha Ford, brought in last year. However, the $14 billion that the NFL brought in last year divided by the 32 teams means each team brought in approximately $437.5 million last year.
In the grand scheme of things, the highest paid player in the NFL making only 6% of the revenue brought in by the team is absurd. Although there are a lot of numbers to take in, the data all leads an individual to believe that NFL players are being treated unfairly. Despite the fact that the NFL is one of the most dangerous professional leagues as well as the highest earning professional sports league, the players are still making the least amount of money.
These young men are playing ball in an arena in front of millions of viewers, constantly being ridiculed for not playing well enough, celebrating too hard, even protesting social issues that desperately need protesting, only to be paid less than the athletes in the other professional leagues in the United States.
In a way, this is similar to the gladiators of ancient Rome. Gladiators fought in an arena for the entertainment of the masses while their owners would win money based off of their performance. And although many people claim that these individuals choose to play football, that isn’t really a fair point. This is because football is a way out for so many of the players. Yes, you can point out that some NFL players make millions of dollars a year and sign contracts for ludicrous amounts of money. However, that money is not guaranteed, and a lot of these players never see the money for which they destroy their bodies.