With the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl on the horizon, professional football fans might have forgotten that the 2011 NFL season may be canceled due to a financial dispute between owners and the National Football League Players Association.
If the details of the issue seem complicated, please allow me to simplify it for you. Issue number one is MONEY. Issue number two is MONEY. All of the issues are about money. The players want more shares of revenue, the owners want the players to have less shares of revenue.
What we have are two groups of people with riches out of proportion to their actual worth to society. These groups are blinded by money and greed, and are getting greedier. That may sound shocking coming from an author who is an admitted football fan, but it is the cold, hard truth.
The minimum salary for an NFL player with no experience is just a little over $300,000 per year. The minimum salary for 2009-2010 for a teacher in the New Orleans school system is $39,813. If teachers stay for 25 years and earn a doctorate degree in education, they can get their salaries all the way up to a whopping $58,000. You can look at the entire pay scale for any Louisiana school district here. The lowest average salary for NFL players are those at the tight end position. They make $863,000.
Is our society hurt more by an NFL lockout or by poor pay for our teachers? The answer should be self-evident. As a whole, teachers add far more value to society than professional football players, yet the subject of the NFL lockout has and will receive more attention than the decay of our schools. The same holds true when comparing the societal value of professional football players to police officers, minsters, firefighters, nurses and numerous other professions.
Before we get too far, let us not be led to believe that this is primarily a problem of players making too much money. Owners are as much to blame as the players and their union. According to Forbes magazine, the least valuable NFL franchise is the Jacksonville Jaguars, owned by Wayne Weaver. The current estimated value of the Jaguars is $725 million. Weaver bought the franchise in 1993 for $208 million. Has your 401-K done this well?
My defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, owned by Thomas Benson who bought them in 1985 for $70 million, are now worth just shy of $1 billion. This, however, is mere chicken feed compared to the most valuable franchise in the league. Jerry Jones' Dallas Cowboys are estimated to be worth $1.8 billion. Jones bought the Cowboys in 1989 for $150 million.
Where did this skyrocketing net worth come from? It came from you and me and every other NFL fan that purchases a game ticket, hot dog, pennant or any of the thousands of officially licensed NFL products. What does the fan get in return? For certain, there is some pride when your team does well. My family was "in that number" braving the cold weather to greet the triumphant Saints at their Super Bowl parade last year.
There is obviously some real monetary value to the city when fans from opposing teams come to visit. There is even more value for those few cities who are lucky enough to host a Super Bowl. But in general, franchises take more money out of an area than they put in. Any Saints fan older than a teenager can remember the franchise threatening to leave the city, unless a new stadium was built and if more subsidies were not paid. At the time, the state was paying the Saints $23 million in direct subsidies. For an eye-opening look at government subsidies to billionaire sports franchise owners, read this interesting article from Matthew Stevenson entitled The Football Franchise Hustle: Financing the NFL.
Let me make it clear that I absolutely like having an NFL franchise in my city. I am not claiming that there are not some wonderful football players who contribute much to society, there absolutely are. Drew Brees has done much for the city of New Orleans. Saints offensive lineman Zach Strief and his wife Mandy are ardent supporters of Cafe Reconcile in central New Orleans. Many NFL owners do much to support various charities.
It seems to me that our fervor for the NFL, as well as other professional sports, is out of proportion to the value we receive. This post is just food for thought. It has been said by many wiser than I that if you want to find out what is most important to a group of people, look at how they spend their time and their money. Where do we spend ours?
This article first appeared on my blog deepsouthdeacon.blogspot.com