Monday, July 6, 2009

Birk Speaks Out

Matt Birk, subbing for Peter King offers a refreshing perspective on the plight of NFL retirees instead of placing blame squarely on 'greedy owners' or 'selfish players' as we see so often. Instead Birk attempts to provide a balanced viewpoint, discussing the interests of both the players and the owners. Perhaps he has just reached an age where he is seeing the true costs of NFL injuries manifest themselves in friends and ex-teammates.

This bothers me because everyone associated with the NFL is making money. Under the current system, about two percent of the revenues being paid to players go toward retired players. So why can't we give a bigger piece of the pie to the players of yesteryear? Well, the owners pay a negotiated percentage of revenues to the players. They feel like they already give up enough.


In the NFL, where contracts are not guaranteed and everyone is one play away from a career-ending injury, I don't fault players for being focused on the present. But it's our responsibility to leave this game better than we found it. Players today should hope future generations will do the same for us. Every former player who suffers the effects of football-related injuries should have the basics -- food, shelter, clothing and medical care. This is the least we can do
As I see it, the problem is in the inequality in pay of players. It is easy for someone like Birk, a player who has been paid somewhere north of $10 million to call for current NFLers to contribute more to retirees. The fact though is that Birk represents a relative minority of NFLers. Most players never make a million dollars, with many bouncing from training camp to practice squads to a few weeks on the active roster at minimum salaries before outliving their usefulness. Probably a fun lifestyle, but ultimately not so much money that they would be excited about being taxed to support other players whose careers followed the same pattern.

There might be better solutions, but the only one that comes to mind for me is a taxation of signing bonuses/roster bonuses/etc., exempted for anything under $500k or so. Only a small fraction of players ever see bonuses greater than this amount so this would mean that the players who benefited the most from sacrifices of their predecessors would also contribute the most to their long term care.

Of course the cynic in me knows that all this would do is cause creative contract writing alongside invocations of socialist bogeymen.

1 comment:

  1. I also enjoyed his "10 things I think" big. One of them was:
    "I think kids should play flag football until they reach high school. Youth tackle football is dangerous"
    ...which ties in well with our brief discussion of concussions.


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