Professional Athletes are Spoiled: The Beckham Law & H1N1 Queues

Ryan PopilchakCorrespondent INovember 5, 2009

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 26:  David Beckham of Real Madrid points during the Primera Liga match between Real Madrid and Deportivo La Coruna at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium on May 26, 2007 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

I love professional sports as much as anyone on the planet, but even I will admit that athletes and sports teams operate under a different set of rules from the rest of us. Unfortunately, the adulation and respect they gain from their exploits during a game can sometimes make them lose touch with reality.

Two stories jumped out at me in the last few days that especially underscored this point.

The Beckham Law

The Spanish government is currently debating whether to continue with the so-called “Beckham Law”, which allows high-income foreigners to pay only 24% tax, rather than the 43% paid by Spanish citizens. The law was put in place in 2004 and David Beckham was the first soccer player to arrive after it was created.

To be perfectly honest, I have no idea how this law was ever established in the first place, but I applaud the Spanish government for at least having the courage to debate it now. How any government can condone a situation that not only favors the rich, but rich foreigners, is beyond me. Why should somebody from outside the country, who is set to make 10 times what the average Spaniard does, pay almost half the taxes?

The best part, however, is that the president of La Liga, Jose Luis Astiazaran, makes it sound like revoking the tax break will be a hardship for the clubs. “We have calculated that this reform would add 100m euros to the bill for Spanish football.”, he says. Maybe the players should pay their own taxes, instead of relying on the club to do it. If the players don’t understand that, then they don’t deserve to be making such obscene amounts of money.

“This could bring very negative consequences. It would prevent La Liga from being the best of the world and would have negative impact on other aspects, such as the amount of people in stadiums and it would make our product less attractive to television.” Hey genius, here’s an idea. How about having your players pay the same taxes as everyone else in the country and keeping your ticket prices the same, so your stadiums are full. It’s not up to the government to make you competitive; it’s up to your clubs to manage their business.

Milan’s president, Adriano Galliani, has been addressing the Beckham Law for years, but for all the wrong reasons. He commented that “I had been hoping for a lowering of our taxes rather than a raise on theirs. Nonetheless, Spain remains favoured in terms of income because the big clubs do not pay anything to the smaller sides.” Uncle Fester apparently was hoping for a boost from the Italian government, allowing his players special tax breaks as well, instead of paying taxes like the fans that pay their wages.

Clearly the clubs are out of touch with the fans that fill their stadiums, buy pay-per-view and purchase jerseys. Those are the people the clubs should be catering to.

H1N1 Queues

Here in Calgary, with many people worried about the H1N1 flu, immunization clinics have been set up throughout the city, but with huge waiting times, some in excess of 6 hours.

The Calgary Flames staff, players and player’s families were all granted permission by the Alberta Health Services to skip the lineups and receive the immunization one day before all the clinics were shut down due to a shortage.

In Toronto, it’s believed that members of the Maple Leafs and Raptors were also able to get in ahead of priority patients.

To be honest, I believe the shot should be available to anyone who wants it, and I also believe the H1N1 situation is slightly overblown. That said, it’s not the point. Why are pro athletes given priority over other, higher priority patients? The same thing happens with procedures like MRIs, knee surgeries and other medical procedures.

I want my favorite players back on the ice, the field, the pitch or the court as quickly as possible too, but sometimes we need to realize that the majority of the population doesn’t get to live in the fantasy world that pro athletes do.

I also caught a comment from one reader explaining how the Flames needed to skip the line, because otherwise they would be bombarded by fans at the clinic asking for autographs and pictures. Give me a break, those fans pay their incredible wages, the least they could do is sign a few autographs while they wait in line like everyone else.

In the end, I’m not very hopeful that the teams and players have learned their lesson, but I wish they’d spend more time thinking about their actions before abusing their celebrity status. Being rich and famous doesn’t equate to being a more valuable human being.