Money Lessons Learned from the NFL Lockout

by Shawanda Greene

NFL Football

What’s all this foolish talk about “modern day slavery”?

A few months ago, Adrian Peterson, a running back for the Minnesota Vikings – and a free man I might add – likened himself to a modern day slave. He drew the comparison during a Yahoo Sports interview regarding the NFL lockout.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not totally sure what all this NFL lockout hubbub is about. From what I gather, the players contend they’re not paid enough – that they’re being asked to play too many games. If you’ve been following the labor negotiations between the players and the team owners more closely, then please, fill me in on any pertinent facts I’ve failed to mention. But in a nutshell, this particular group of laborers, i.e., the NFL players are being asked to do too much work for too little money. Join the club.

So that you get the full effect of what Mr. Peterson said, here it is for your reading pleasure.

It’s modern-day slavery, you know? People kind of laugh at that, but there are people working at regular jobs who get treated the same way, too. With all the money … the owners are trying to get a different percentage, and bring in more money.

First, let’s applaud Mr. Peterson for identifying at least one similarity between star NFL players and the common man. He is right. In 2010, CEOs of the S&P 500 were paid 344 times as much as the average American worker. The difference was a mere 40 times back in the 1980s. And get this, last year CEO compensation increased 24%. What’d the rest of us get? A paltry 3.3%. Yep. That’s all we got.

However, let’s shine some light on how you and I are different from NFL players.

In 2009, the median annual salary of an NFL player was $790K while the average annual salary was $1.9 million. Compare that with the U.S. median household income of $50K. Even though an NFL career lasts only about 3.5 years, if you can get one of these gigs, you can do more than all right for yourself.

Adrian Peterson, 2011 Kunta Kinte incarnate, makes over $10 million a year at the tender age of 26. *SCREEEEAM!!!*

Don’t misunderstand me. Everyone should be free to negotiate the salary, benefits and working conditions they desire. I don’t care how little you contribute to charity, humanity, or society at large. Your right to earn and accept as much money as someone is willing to pay you for honest work should forever remain intact.

Shortly after the now infamous Adrian Peterson interview was released, more lunacy followed.

Rashard Mendelson, a Pittsburgh Steelers running back, who is also a free man, chimed in with this on Twitter:

@AdrianPeterson is correct in his anology of this game. It is a lot deeper than most people understand. Anyone with knowledge of the slave trade and the NFL could say that these two parallel each other.

Yeah, the NFL and the slave trade are similar, except for one key difference. NFL players are PAID!

The issue I have with free men metaphorically rubbing shoulders with someone who’s not paid, eh, say, anything is clear. That guy making over $10 million a year is not a slave – at all. He might not receive what he thinks is fair, but he’s paid none the less.

It’s possible Mr. Peterson and Mr. Mendelson could make such ridiculously absurd statements is because they’re completely unaware that human trafficking is a problem in the United States and abroad. Who knows why people say such stupid things.

But let’s be honest with Adrian Peterson and the majority of his NFL colleagues. Although we support them in earning as much as they can for doing as little work as possible, they’re financial situation won’t change a lick after their NFL career is over. Pay them all you want, the outcome will be the same. Within two years of retirement from the NFL, 78% of players are either bankrupt or under severe financial strain.

If the team owners cut the number of games in half and double the players’ salaries, then great. But the players don’t have an income problem. They’re not going to suddenly become shrewd stewards over an extra $1 million when they blew the first $1 million on cars, strip clubs, and bad business ventures.

Since Adrian Peterson so kindly provided the first similarity between an NFL player and “people working at regular jobs,” allow me to provide the second similarity.

We don’t have an income problem either. You may think you’re a better money manager than the average NFL player because your purchases aren’t as extravagant. But if you’re spending money on stuff you don’t need and can’t afford, then you’re no different from the NFL player who ends up broke two years after retirement.

Ask yourself. Financially, where will I be shortly after retirement if I keep on spending like I’ve been spending? You won’t be able to blame it on your lack of money. Unlike the NFL player, you had over 40 years to fix your income problem.

I’m not sure how things will ultimately turn out for the players. The team owners are in a much better negotiating position. Unlike the players and many Americans, the team owners don’t have to hock their stuff on eBay when they miss a couple paychecks.

With all that said, one thing I’ve grown to love and appreciate about this great nation is that if my employer fails to acknowledge the value of my labor, I’m free to do one of two things: 1) Negotiate a compensation package that’s reflective of my worth in the marketplace or 2) Quit.

I don’t have to stick around.

I’m free to leave.

Free to pack up my toys and go.

Oh, what a privilege.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Hope to Prosper June 30, 2011 at 11:51 AM

I am tired of the owners, the players and the scumbag agents. I gave up my Angels season tickets this year after 8 years. I got tired of paying ten bucks for a bud lite to watch guys who make ten mil a year and they won't even case the ball. I grew up watching players who hustled a lot more, even though they were paid a lot less.

Pro sports has been getting bigger and more expensive every year, but there is a tipping point. The players, like CEOs, make obscene amounts of money compared to the fans who pay their bills. And, the owners routinely move teams away from cities with loyal fans, just to get a new stadium. Fans will only put up with so much abuse.

If the NFL goes on strike, I expect them to take a big hit in revenue for many years to come.


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