Roger Goodell's NFL: An Elitist's League, Few Seats for the Working Class

Robert LeonardoContributor IOctober 8, 2011

Money Ball...?
Money Ball...?Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Roger Goodell, a bright senator’s son who has worked his way through the ranks of the national football league and reached top-cop status in 2007 when he became NFL commissioner.

Roger has done a number of good things to make the league a better, safer and more accountable organization, making the NFL an even more successful corporate brand-name.

I like the commissioner. However, as good as he has been at keeping the NFL product well financed, he is disenfranchising the most reliable part of the leagues fan base—working class families who live paycheck to paycheck.

My wife and I understand this quite well. Probably like a lot of you, we work hard for every penny we make. We own a Lamp-work Jewelry business, so no million dollar incomes for us. Also like most of you, we enjoy football, but raising a family of three is our first priority. Now, taking three kids and my wife to the game is just simply out of the question.

If you’re not convinced about this disenfranchisement stuff, just look around the stadiums. The stands are now being filled with all kinds of NFL neophytes. If you can get tickets, walk around the bleachers and you will meet more corporate-spun ticket holders, banker-reps, political figures, unionized university professors and some dimly-lit Hollywood socialites, whose ego-centric thinking confuses press coverage with face-time.

These well-to-do individuals are the new faces and financial engine of Roger Goodell’s model fans—or so it seems. It’s become an elitist league, a real hang-out for the Paparazzi. I’m not sure how faithful this group will be for the commissioner though.

Don’t misread me, you make money and want to watch football, have at it—just don’t take my seat by inflating its value like a balloon.

I would ask the commissioner—a economics graduate of Washington & Jefferson College—to survey the current status of the American economy. Slowly fading into the murky, rough economic waters are working-class families who love and financially support the NFL through taxes for new stadiums, ticket prices and NFL gear. Even more impressive is their perseverance for the game. Irrespective of a win-loss record, a true fan will always show up.

These people are your local mechanic, waitress or oil-field worker, just to name a few. Their value to us all can’t be denied, from fixing your car, to serving your meal and helping heat your home. Compare the worth of their daily impact on your life to your NFL entertainment hero’s—no comparison.

The financial disparity is outrageous. On any given Sunday, a starting NFL player will make enough money to buy a house, while the fine people I am defending are struggling to make one single house payment. It’s an upside down world that’s for sure.

Most working class families don’t have health care or union wages. The changes in commodity prices such as gas and food along with over inflated NFL ticket prices that average about $75 a piece, prevent family’s from going to the game. 

Who can justify taking a family of five (my house) to a game and spending over $500? Sure, there were a few great deals in the recent past, like last year the Minnesota Vikings offered  "standing room only" $9.95 per game or $99 for the season.

I realize that owners take a financial risk when they purchase a NFL team or invest in a new stadium and players physically put their health at risk every game. However, let’s put things in perspective. Great entertainers should not be in the same financial category as for instance as those who serve our country and put their lives on the line. Yet we all have accepted the hard fact that it just the way things are—well, we are not without some ideas.

Here are a few suggestions for Commissioner Rodger Goodell. Put some incentives for owners to offer about 25 percent of their seats for under $30. Much like the Vikings ticket pricing points, except with actual seats. The commissioner can offer some sort of team revenue perks for doing so. I also think fan ownership of a team, as is the case with the Green Bay Packers, is an interesting idea that could be tweaked to work toward lower ticket costs. 

The mission of the NFL to expand its league and viewership is fair minded. I just hope that the new collective bargaining agreement will help keep league costs stable.

If the commissioner really wants to influence social change, responding with some compassion to those who are experiencing the brunt of this recession would be the place to start. Personally,  I think Roger Goodell is a stand-up guy, that will hopefully respond in some creative fashion to this economic disenfranchisement.