Type to search

It’s Time to Rethink the Salary Game in Sports

You could make the case that the biggest story in sports over the last 40 years is the incredible rise in salaries for athletes.  There was a time in baseball when only the best of the best like Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays made $100 thousand a year.  There was even a year when Williams turned down the hundred grand because he thought he’d had a bad season and wasn’t worthy of the six figures.  He played for less.

 

Then free agency happened and world changed.

 

In 1975, Jim “Catfish” Hunter left the Oakland A’s for the New York Yankees and a five-year contract worth $3.2 million.  Two years later, his former teammate, Reggie Jackson joined him in New York for $3 million over five years.  And just three years later, Nolan Ryan broke the million-dollar barrier when left the Angels to sign a four-year $4.4 million deal with the Houston Astros.  A year after that, Dave Winfield signed a 10-year $23 million deal with the Yankees.  It eventually got nutty enough for the Texas Rangers to pay Alex Rodriguez $252 million.

 

An athlete, no matter how good he is, has a limited time to make that crazy money.  Only a relative few play 10 years and the rare exceptions play 15 years or more.  You can’t blame these guys for wanting to make as much as they can while they can.

 

The NBA players also gained free agency in their collective bargaining agreement, but by the early 80’s their salaries were beginning to cripple some of the teams.  So, for the 1984-85 season, the NBA became the first professional sports league to institute a salary cap.  Hard to believe it now, but the first cap was $3.6 million – PER TEAM!  That’s what a run-of-the-mill player makes these days.

 

There was one problem with that cap, which was pointed out by savvy Celtics president Red Auerbach.  He had one of the best players in the game in Larry Bird and was able to successfully argue that the cap might prevent the Celtics from keeping him.  Bird was worth the entire cap alone.  How could you give him what he was worth and still stay under the cap?

 

That’s when they came up with what’s now called, “The Larry Bird exception.”  It essentially allows teams to go over the cap in order to retain a star player.  To qualify, the player has to have spent three years in the league without having been waived or have changed teams via free agency.  It the player is traded, the “Bird” rights go with him and the team he goes to can use that exception.

 

For many years, the cap combined with the Bird exception worked pretty well.  Star players would talk about possibly changing teams through free agency, but in the end usually stayed put because there was more money on the table to stay.

 

In recent years, though, that’s started to change.  The chase for a ring has caused several to leave huge sums of money behind to try and get a title.  LeBron James made that move in 2010 jumping from Cleveland to Miami to win one.  LeBron makes so much money from endorsements that he didn’t mind taking less money to win a championship – which he did twice.  LeBron seemed to be the exception.  He’s not.

 

Coaches tell their players that a championship ring can only be earned – never bought.  And while that’s true, it seemingly hasn’t stopped David West from literally paying the price to try to earn one.  West, who turns 35 next month and has been in the league for 12 years, declined a $12.2 million player option to return to the Indiana Pacers and become a free agent.

 

The Wizards reportedly offered the mid-level exception of $5.464 million.  Okay, maybe even with West they’re not championship contenders,  But Cleveland is .  The Cavaliers were able to pay $3.37 million.  Incredibly he’s signed with the Spurs for the veteran minimum of $1.4 million.  West has a strong shot to win a title, but he’s left three bigger paychecks behind, including one that would have paid him $10.8 million more to stay put.  Among those being driven crazy by this is rapper Luther Campbell, who tweeted the following:

 

Follow

 

LUTHER R CAMPBELL

✔

@unclelukereal1

David West is out of his mine he must be on medication

11:59 PM – 6 Jul 2015

         
1616 Retweets
99 favorites

Follow

 

LUTHER R CAMPBELL

✔

@unclelukereal1

Popovich should feel really bad for taking advantage of David West like this. The man is mentally disturbed

12:21 AM – 7 Jul 2015

         
2121 Retweets
1616 favorites

Follow

 

LUTHER R CAMPBELL

✔

@unclelukereal1

The NBA Player’s Association need to check David West for drugs right now and void this deal

12:24 AM – 7 Jul 2015

         
4040 Retweets
1818 favorites

Follow

 

LUTHER R CAMPBELL

✔

@unclelukereal1

Popovich is taking advantage of a very desperate David West he oughta be ashamed of himself.

12:26 AM – 7 Jul 2015

         
2323 Retweets
1010 favorites

Follow

 

LUTHER R CAMPBELL

✔

@unclelukereal1

NBA players association is a union that is designed to protect its Player from executives like Popovich who take advantage player’s

12:30 AM – 7 Jul 2015

         
1919 Retweets
1414 favorites

Follow

 

LUTHER R CAMPBELL

✔

@unclelukereal1

NBA players association is a union that is designed to protect its Player from executives like Popovich who take advantage player’s

12:30 AM – 7 Jul 2015

         
1919 Retweets
1414 favorites

Follow

 

LUTHER R CAMPBELL

✔

@unclelukereal1

All professional teams want to check its Player when they’re playing over their head don’t want to check them when they’re robbing them

12:34 AM – 7 Jul 2015

         
1010 Retweets
33 favorites

 

Despite Campbell’s ranting, nobody put a gun to West’s head.  And describing West as “desperate” is a reach.  He’s already made $87 million during his career.

 

What this shows is, the money has gotten so big that some of these guys don’t mind leaving behind money that would make most families secure for a couple of lifetimes.  A chance to win a ring is worth that much to them.

 

It’s crazy to think about this way, but maybe for the good of the game, it’s time to think about making it more attractive for players to take more, not less.

Tags:
Processing...
Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.
BE UP TO DATE
Weekly Team 980 Main Inbox
ErrorHere