The Answer to Saving America's Financial Woes: Professional Athletes

Danny LoPrestiContributor IMay 18, 2010

The United States is going through one of the worst financial crisis’ in American history. People are getting laid off everyday and the economy isn’t showing any signs of picking up. In this time of struggles, I turned to the television to watch ESPN to take my mind off the financial crisis. The first thing I saw was in huge headlines “Ryan Howard Signs Contract Extension for $125 Million”. I shake my head and turn off the TV.

At first I say to myself, “ Well Howard deserves it, he hit 45 homeruns and drove in 141 runs. He helped his team reach the World Series and although they came up short to the Yanks, he has been one of their most consistent players.”  As I try to justify Ryan Howard’s multi-million dollar contract-extension, I turn the TV back on, but this time I turn to the news channel. The first thing I saw was, “MTA Laying Off More 1000 Workers”. I shake my head once again, and turn off the TV.

I can’t help but think about how everyday, the country sinks deeper and deeper into debt. Good, hard-working people are being laid off because the government can’t afford to pay them. But what’s confusing to me is that the government can’t afford to pay MTA workers, but the Phillies could afford to give Ryan Howard, one man, $125 million for the next five years?

To put things into perspective, I did some research. The average salary for a player in Major League Baseball is $2,699,292. The average salary for a player in the National Basketball Association is between one and two million. The average salary for the average MTA track-worker is $51,000. That kind of makes u scratch your head.

For a human being to be paid what professional athletes are being paid, he should be able to do a lot more than hit a baseball 400 feet or throw a ball 90 mile per hour. I mean I want these guys to be able to create new technology or have super powers.   

On a more realistic note, I think instead of the government making budget cuts to city, state and federal workers, they should be talking about making cuts to the salaries that professional athletes make. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that athletes do deserve some sort of compensation for the grueling length of their seasons and all the pressure they endure over the course of their careers.

My problem is that there are people out there who can’t afford to miss days because of bone bruises or sore hamstrings. Those are the bus drivers, police officers, fire fighters, and every other worker out there fighting to make enough money to get by. These workers don’t get to negotiate their contracts the same way that professional athletes do. In baseball, hitters generally get incentives for over achieving like hitting .300 or winning an MVP award. The average blue-collar worker doesn’t get paid more for doing his job or working harder than others.

What I don’t understand is how this has been going on for so long and is still not being talked about. With out country in debt, and major company’s facing financial problems, how could the Philadelphia Phillies afford to pay Ryan Howard $125 million? Imagine what the that money could do if it went towards cancer research? Imagine how many more jobs would be available if that money went towards the economy. Although a pay cut in athletes salaries are unrealistic now, its something that people should think about when they their taxes. The next time you hear an athlete complain about his contract, I hope your shaking your head the same way I am when I head those poor guys complain.

By the way, my favorite moment has to be when Latrell Sprewell spoke up about his contract. At the time, Sprewell said he wanted a contract extension by the Wolves' opener, against the New York Knicks, or he would ask for a sign-and-trade deal or wait to become a free agent. Asked if he would play out the season and test the free-agent market, Sprewell said: ''Why would I want to help them win a title? They're not doing anything for me. I'm at risk. I have a lot of risk here. I got my family to feed.'' Sprewell is due to make $14.6 million this year. Sprewell described the team's latest offer, reported to be worth between $27 million and $30 million over three years, as ''insulting.'' I feel for you man, how could they expect you to feed your family making almost $15 million a year?