Kai Ryssdal: OK, so are you ready for some football? Wait. I meant, are you ready for some mediation? The NFL and its players restarted talks in Minneapolis today. It’s the first meeting since the lockout began about a month ago. The main issue hasn’t changed — how to split the $9 billion the league brings in every year.
Commentator Jon Wertheim says any eventual deal is going to be driven by far more personal calculations.
Jon Wertheim: If you’ve ever peered into a players’ parking lot at a stadium, or seen athletes gambling in Vegas or ordering dinner at a steakhouse, you know this: These are not men of modest tastes. Nor would you expect them to be. These are alpha males, in the meaty years of their lives, in a line of work where median salaries run well into seven figures.
But what happens when the paychecks stop coming?
We’ve heard a lot already about rookie wages scale proposals and ancillary revenues and an equitable way to apportion a $9 billion pie. But the labor dispute may well turn on this fulcrum: How long can the NFL players make do without the weekly checks they’d otherwise receive during the 17 weeks of the season? It’s easy for players to profess unity and take a hard-line stance in April. But what happens to the solidarity and demands when the money spigot runs dry, when bills come due for everything from boat and car payments to property taxes?
The Players Association (inasmuch as it still exits) is well are of this issue. For months, the union has been issuing texts and emails and pamphlets encouraging players to SYM — Save Your Money. NFLPA President Kevin Mawae has said that for two years now, he’s encouraged players to start saving money, cut down on their lifestyle and be ready for the worst-case scenario.
The more cash reserves the players build up, the more leverage they’ll have. And that’s in part because — football or no football — owners will have to account for the debt service on their stadiums, payroll on their office staff, charges on their other businesses. They may not have to worry about missing home mortgage payments, car payments, or even jet payments. But the owners have bills to pay, too.
Ryssdal: Jon Wertheim is the co-author of the new book called “Scorecasting: The Hidden Influence behind how sports are played and games are won.” Got a comment? Send ’em in — click on contact.
There’s a lot happening in the world. Through it all, Marketplace is here for you.
You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible.
Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.