Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Time to Rein In Athletes

Am I the only one who is sick of Terrell Owens? Or of baseball players calling strikes to demand higher pay? Or of the $7 hotdogs that pro-football stadiums leave you no choice but to buy when you’re hungry?

The sports industry is a multi-billion dollar business. According to a New York University study, the sports industry currently generates over $200 billion. In 2001, the average NBA team was worth $235 million, and this figure is increasing every year. In 2001, prize money for tennis tournaments totaled $114 million. In 2003, the net worth of a National Football League Team was projected to be 628 million dollars. Based on evaluations at the end of 2005, each team in the NFL is worth $819 million which makes the NFL worth an estimated $26 million. Robert McNair paid $700 million for the Houston Texans, a huge discrepancy from when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Seattle Seahawks were purchased in 1976 for $16 million each.

The skyrocketing numbers give the sports industry a lot of power since many Americans are willing to invest time and money into following sports. Chief generators of funds include ticket sales and promotions, and also television deals and selling the names and rights to stadiums. The National Football League generated $3.7 billion for television deals in the 2005 season alone.

Players’ salaries have also followed the trend. The highest-paid athletes of 2004 included golfer Tiger Woods, who had an income of $80.3 million, followed by others such as basketball star Kevin Garnett at $29.7 million and baseball player Alex Rodriguez at $26.2 million. The average salary of Major League Baseball athletes was approximately $2.7 million per player. These players are certainly among the elite of sports players, but are they really worth that much money?

These costs are clearly passed on to the fans. The average person who wishes to attend a game must cope with increasing costs of player’s salaries by paying extravagant amounts for less than mediocre seats, among other expenses.

Some say it’s just the nature of the business that allows these players to have their grandiose salaries. If this “business” would cut the prices of tickets for professional games and allow competition for the food available in the grounds, these salaries might be more justified. At the same time, these salaries would not be affordable if the stadiums did not collect the extra revenue from increasing the cost of merchandise. While the owners cannot lower prices because of the huge salaries, they can’t lower players’ salaries because of player’s unions, which help raise player’s salaries in many sports.

Unions were originally created as a protection for the workers against the tyranny of the employer. Today, the situation has reversed itself, and these sports unions have gained immense power.

In fact, sports unions have caused nothing but trouble and far exceeded their boundaries. Both during the notorious MLB strike in 1994, when owners were faced with exponentially increasing salaries and during the three NHL strikes between 1992 and 2005, the unions have refused to budge and consequently augmented players’ income extravagantly.

Currently, the sports industry is one sided: The players’ unions control it all. If the players are unsatisfied with their salaries, they strike and eventually the owners must give in. This is not how it should work; in other jobs, if you refuse to come to work, you get fired – that’s the nature of business. If sports unions were eliminated, we would revert back to the normal way business is supposed to be conducted. The prices for players would drop considerably, because many individual players would be willing to work for less, and for the love of the sport, rather than only for money. If certain players were not willing to work for less than their current salary, then they would just be replaced.

The abolition of sports unions and the advent of lower salaries for players would benefit everyone: It would allow the fan to pay less to see his or her team play, the industry would be able to keep prices under control, teams would be able to reasonably negotiate with players and the players would be playing because they enjoy the game, rather than because they enjoy the money.

Moreover, I would be much more willing to see a professional player earn a reasonably high salary if they kept to themselves and did their job instead of striking for a season or showboating on national television. The question I pose today is a simple one: In America at present, the highest-paid people are professional athletes. Is this really the way that it should be?

Michael Birrer is a junior in the College and assistant opinion editor for THE HOYA.

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