David Stern and the Worst Contracts in Sports
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Sports economist David Berri recently asked readers, “What are the worst contracts in sports?” Readers’ responses focused on the the usual suspects in the NBA like Gilbert Arenas, Rashard Lewis and Joe Johnson while Marketwatch.com chose Vincent Lecavalier from the NHL, Javon Walker from the NFL, Barry Zito from MLB and Eddy Curry from the NBA.
As usual, sports fans and bloggers focused their attention on the players at the bottom of the sports pyramid, but like most corporations in America, it all starts with the tone at the top:
TONE AT THE TOP refers to how an organization's leadership creates the tone at the top—an ethical (or unethical) atmosphere in the workplace. Management's tone has a trickle-down effect on employees. If top managers uphold ethics and integrity, so will employees. But if upper management appears unconcerned with ethics and focuses solely on the bottom line, employees will be more prone to commit fraud and feel that ethical conduct isn't a priority. In short, employees will follow the examples of their bosses.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at where the worst contracts in sports trickled down from the commissioners.
Worst NHL Contract: Gary Bettman
Salary: Doubled to $7.5 million since the NHL lockout
Accomplishments: Locked out the players and canceled the entire season in 2005 which resulted in poker being more popular on television than hockey. What’s the punchline? Another lockout is on the horizon:
Multiple failing franchises, more than a third of the league’s teams up for sale, the Bettman administration in its second year of full ownership of one club, $300 million franchises valued at half that and spectacular losses being declared despite the fact that since the lockout, the league has gone from a $2 billion industry to a $3 billion industry.
The 2005 collective bargaining agreement was supposed to stabilize all the league’s franchises. It didn’t. It was supposed to bring player costs under control, and it didn’t. Some teams are paying double in salaries what they paid in 2005, and will pay more starting next season.
Bang up job, Bettman.
Worst NFL Contract: Roger Goodell
Salary: $10.9 million
Accomplishments: Earns more salary than 95 percent of players, according to Hub Arkush from Pro Football Weekly, but most of them feel like Ray Edwards or James Harrison and hate his guts. Instead of spending his time stealing money from players with fines and lockouts, perhaps Goodell should spend more time mitigating the risks broadcast television pose to the NFL. Goodell inherited a healthy league from Paul Tagliabue. It will be interesting to see whether he pisses it all away on brain injuries and the deterioration of broadcast television.
Worst MLB Contract: Bud Selig
Salary: $18.5 million
Accomplishments: There are many lowlights to choose from for Selig. He cancelled the season after 1994 players strike, facilitated use of steroids and made numerous stupid decisions regarding rules of the game, including (but not limited to) giving home-field advantage to the winner of an exhibition game, robbing Armando Galarraga of a perfect game and extending the season well into November.
Worst NBA Contract: David Stern
Accomplishments: Gary Bettman’s mentor; first major pro sports league in America to implement salary cap to steal money from players; locked players out for 32 games of 1999 season; enabled corrupt referees; implemented racist policies like dress codes and age limits for African-American players; facilitated hijacking of the Supersonics from Seattle to Oklahoma City and the Nets from New Jersey to Brooklyn; sold franchises to heavily leveraged buyers (that probably couldn’t afford them in the first place) and locked out the players in 2011 after the heavily leveraged owners needed more money for a decent return on their investment without selling their franchises.
Less Change Means More Lockouts
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The bad player contracts that fans love to complain about in professional sports are just symptoms of mismanagement. Curing the disease requires eliminating the mismanagement infecting pro sports from the top-down.
How many lockouts and strikes will fans have to deal with from these commissioners?