In light of mega NBA deals, please don’t say football players make too much money

Whenever someone complains about the money paid to NFL players, I resort to the basic truth that we’re all worth precisely whatever someone will pay us.

Do players like Tom Brady earn enough money considering the phyiscal toll their body's take?
Do players like Tom Brady earn enough money considering the phyiscal toll their body’s take?

The concept applies to all athletes, musicians and actors. When folks do something that other people gladly will surrender money to watch them do, the dollars necessarily skyrocket — and the producers of such events typically pocket a tidy profit even after paying out those supposedly exorbitant salaries.

Recently, it’s become clear that football players fall on the very low end of the entertainment-dollar spectrum. The news cycle contains repeated references to multiple basketball players who are considering whether to "settle" for $20 million per year, the maximum a new team can pay them, or to stay put for the tidy sum of $26 million per year.

Meanwhile, no NFL player earns $20 million per year, even though the NFL has become, far and away, the most popular and profitable sport in America.

Sure, pro football rosters have roughly five times the number of players as NBA teams. And the NFL season contains far fewer opportunities to charge folks top dollar for a ticket, a program, a beer and processed pig parts painted pink. Still, how can so many NBA players earn $20 million per year with not a single NFL player cracking that threshold?

It gets even better. The Orlando Magic signed a backup point guard, Chris Duhon (if you’ve never heard of him, you’re not alone), to a deal worth $3.75 million per year. In 2010, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will earn a base salary of $3.5 million.

Though Brady has made plenty more via bonuses and restructures and other payments in prior years of his contract, it doesn’t change the fact that one of the best players in pro football history will have a base salary worth less than the average annual payout to a guy who begins each game wearing warm-ups, and who need not worry about getting his knee blown out by a low hit or his head taken off by a high one.

So while the NFL has articulated good reasons for its hard-line stance regarding the next labor deal, insisting that the players take a smaller piece of the pie in the hopes of growing a much bigger one, the players earn every dollar they get — and it’s hard to fault them for trying to get more, especially when compared to the dollars players get in other sports.

The recent findings regarding the inner workings of the late Chris Henry’s brain increase the importance of football players getting full and fair compensation. Not only do they risk, on every snap, acute injury that could cause serious and immediate harm, but they also risk, on every snap, cumulative, chronic harm.

Though NFL players receive more than sufficient pay in comparison to the rest of society, the disparity between the money they make and the dollars paid to men who play less profitable sports like basketball and baseball, combined with the growing sensitivity to the risks inherent to playing football, could prompt more and more elite athletes to look first to one of the other sports, with football only as a fallback.

Then again, maybe they already do. Maybe the best athletes are playing baseball and basketball.

Unless and until playing pro soccer is worth $20 million per year, the NFL should be fine. Still, no one should ever say that football players make too much money, unless they’re prepared to complain even more loudly about the salaries generated by other sports.

Mike Florio writes and edits ProFootballTalk.com and is a regular contributor to Sporting News. Check out PFT for up-to-the minute NFL news.

Whenever someone complains about the money paid to NFL players, I resort to the basic truth that we’re all worth precisely whatever someone will pay us.

Do players like Tom Brady earn enough money considering the phyiscal toll their body's take?
Do players like Tom Brady earn enough money considering the phyiscal toll their body’s take?

The concept applies to all athletes, musicians and actors. When folks do something that other people gladly will surrender money to watch them do, the dollars necessarily skyrocket — and the producers of such events typically pocket a tidy profit even after paying out those supposedly exorbitant salaries.

Recently, it’s become clear that football players fall on the very low end of the entertainment-dollar spectrum. The news cycle contains repeated references to multiple basketball players who are considering whether to "settle" for $20 million per year, the maximum a new team can pay them, or to stay put for the tidy sum of $26 million per year.

Meanwhile, no NFL player earns $20 million per year, even though the NFL has become, far and away, the most popular and profitable sport in America.

Sure, pro football rosters have roughly five times the number of players as NBA teams. And the NFL season contains far fewer opportunities to charge folks top dollar for a ticket, a program, a beer and processed pig parts painted pink. Still, how can so many NBA players earn $20 million per year with not a single NFL player cracking that threshold?

It gets even better. The Orlando Magic signed a backup point guard, Chris Duhon (if you’ve never heard of him, you’re not alone), to a deal worth $3.75 million per year. In 2010, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will earn a base salary of $3.5 million.

Though Brady has made plenty more via bonuses and restructures and other payments in prior years of his contract, it doesn’t change the fact that one of the best players in pro football history will have a base salary worth less than the average annual payout to a guy who begins each game wearing warm-ups, and who need not worry about getting his knee blown out by a low hit or his head taken off by a high one.

So while the NFL has articulated good reasons for its hard-line stance regarding the next labor deal, insisting that the players take a smaller piece of the pie in the hopes of growing a much bigger one, the players earn every dollar they get — and it’s hard to fault them for trying to get more, especially when compared to the dollars players get in other sports.

The recent findings regarding the inner workings of the late Chris Henry’s brain increase the importance of football players getting full and fair compensation. Not only do they risk, on every snap, acute injury that could cause serious and immediate harm, but they also risk, on every snap, cumulative, chronic harm.

Though NFL players receive more than sufficient pay in comparison to the rest of society, the disparity between the money they make and the dollars paid to men who play less profitable sports like basketball and baseball, combined with the growing sensitivity to the risks inherent to playing football, could prompt more and more elite athletes to look first to one of the other sports, with football only as a fallback.

Then again, maybe they already do. Maybe the best athletes are playing baseball and basketball.

Unless and until playing pro soccer is worth $20 million per year, the NFL should be fine. Still, no one should ever say that football players make too much money, unless they’re prepared to complain even more loudly about the salaries generated by other sports.

Mike Florio writes and edits ProFootballTalk.com and is a regular contributor to Sporting News. Check out PFT for up-to-the minute NFL news.

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