Wednesday, February 18, 2009

When Your Favorite Player Cost You Your Job

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 2/18/2009 1 comment
The Carolina Panthers announced yesterday that they have laid off 20 employees. Here's some of what team spokesman Charlie Dayton said in a statement:

"The NFL is not immune from the current economic conditions and these are very difficult decisions designed to help the organization move forward in the most efficient manner possible."

When I read that I immediately thought about when the Charlotte Bobcats laid off about 30 employees last fall just before the start of the season--a couple of whom were people I consider friends. This isn't just Charlotte sports feeling the crunch, but it's happening at franchises all around the country. At the time of the Bobcats' layoffs, the franchise said that all areas were affected except on the team side, meaning no players, coaches, or trainers we affected. It's the same case with the Panthers.

So it makes me think. For every million dollars an athlete makes per year, that could easily employ 20 people within the organization--at a $50,000 salary. But no ownership, not even the highly regarded Richardsons, is willing to say "You know what. We value our athletes, but we also value our non-player personnel--the people working in sales, communications, and support." Instead, the team will likely re-sign offensive tackle Jordan Gross this week to a contract that will pay him around $8 million or $9 million a year. I say make it $7 million and use the rest to re-hire the 20 people you just laid off.

If anything can be learned from this economic crisis we're in it should be the realization that we Americans have our priorities all screwed up. I've never been the person who's complained about athletes making too much money. I've always contended that they are only being paid a certain percentage of what the team is generating, so why should the owners be the only ones who get rich? But it's at a point now where we have to look at things differently. To say that the money used to pay the athletes is different from the money used to pay other team employees is just as wack as the argument that a couple of bank CEOs have tried to use when saying that the money being paid for executive bonuses is not the same money that's coming from the government bailouts.

There have been numerous examples of professional athletes, most often in the NFL, who have willingly restructured their contracts to make less money so that the team could sign another top player to the roster. And that athlete is usually commended for his unselfishness and for putting the team first. I challenge Jordan Gross to do that for those 20 people who have been laid off. He and his agent have a lot of bargaining power because the Panthers need to re-sign him soon before free agency begins. So all he has to do is say "I want to be paid X amount of dollars, but I'm going to take a million less per year over the next two years so you can re-hire those workers and by then the economy should have turned around." Do it, Gross. Set this new precedent for athletes everywhere.

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