I Changed My Mind: The Case for Guaranteed NFL Contracts!

by Gus Griffin






Image via The Point After Show

Image via The Point After Show

That’s right. For years, I have been of the opinion that NFL owners should not be at risk for fully guaranteed contracts in a sport where the risk of injury was so great.

Then a fiscally-conservative buddy of mine expressed surprise at my position.   

Whenever those types are to the left of me, I get concerned. LOL

So I began to rethink my position, which was based on “reasonable owner risk”.  

The good part is that the term reasonable is so broad and subjective that it was not hard to undermine my own position with factually based reasoning.  

First of all, player health risk should be, at the very least, as much of a concern as the financial risk of billionaires. Sure, players signed up for this and thus certainly assume a degree of health risks. That does not mean that they absolved themselves of any right to advocate mitigating those risks. Speaking of signing up for risks, that is what any business owner does when he/she starts a business. For NFL owners, guaranteed contracts should be among those risks.

But even with that, are the owners really at risk? The TV money is divided up evenly among all 32 teams.  Owning an NFL team is like having a cash printer in your basement. Your team doesn’t even have to be good. Even the sorry winless 2008 Detroit Lions made big profits. If owners can’t simply write bad contracts off on their taxes, I’m sure they will TELL their Congressional lackeys….I mean representatives, to simply rewrite the code for their benefit. The 1 percent has been doing that since the beginning of the tax system. The only obstacle on this front would be an adjustment to the salary cap, allowing the injured players debt to be removed which would allow a team to replace him without taking a cap hit.

So capacity is not the issue. NFL revenues are projected to surpass $13 billion when all the receipts come in for the 2016 season, and that number will only increase. Yet, of the 4 major sports, NFL players have the lowest career earnings, even when the comparison is adjusted for the same number of years.   

Simply put, they got the loot and between tax loopholes and insurance policies, owners wouldn’t lose a dime.    

There are two primary issues that will make this an uphill battle: 1) a lack of player unity; and 2) the owners’ control of the narrative that the public largely believes.  

On the first issue, NFL players must have unity if they are to have any chance of getting guaranteed contracts. That will be especially challenging given that they have a very small window to make as much money as they can. Getting nearly 1700 guys to come together would be no small task, even for the best of labor organizers, and the owners know this. The 32 owners, on the other hand, are far better equipped to miss a few checks than are the 1700 players. A good place to start would be to abandon these ridiculous long-term deals. They are highly misleading and the sports media is complicit in the deception.  For example, say a player signs a 6-year deal worth $100 million. Unless he is an upper echelon QB, chances are that the majority of the money is back loaded and everyone, including the player, knows that he will never see that money. This leads us to the second issue, which is the capacity of owners to craft a narrative that appeals to a critical mass of the 99%, and thus undermines the player position in the court of public opinion. That narrative basically says that “you are being paid good money to play a game. You play at your own risk. Shut up and entertain us!”   

Such a narrative exploits the envy that many fans have of NFL players and their obsession to themselves join the 1% so much so, that they are willing to do the ideological bidding of the owners. The line of thinking is not that much different from the fact that most whites supported slavery, even though very few were themselves slave owners, which was a sign of aristocracy. Or many of today’s poor supporters of the “crony capitalist” in the White House. The reality is that players will get guaranteed contracts BEFORE the cartel of NFL owners or any other element of the 1% permit the fan class to join them. Ask Marc Cuban, the very wealthy owner of the Dallas Mavericks. He is both rich and white.  But it was not enough to gain his admittance when he attempted to buy the LA Dodgers. Major League Baseball literally allowed the team to go into bankruptcy rather than allow an “outsider” into the fold. The NFL cartel is even more discriminating than that of baseball.

So what it comes down to is organized people vs organized money. Contrary to the misleading narrative promoted by owners and their mainstream media PR firms, the players are not among the organized money class. If as fans, you can say that you watch football more so because of who owns the team as opposed to who is playing, then disregard everything that I have said.  But if you are honest and get on the right side, then the players have a chance to reap a more secure piece of the pie that they largely bake.

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports  

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