Professional sports has made a lot of individuals extraordinarily rich. If you compare it with professions such as healthcare workers who save lives and teachers who educate our children, the numbers are striking.
The median healthcare worker salary in the United States is $54,971 as of June 28, but the salary range typically falls between $40,603 and $60,993 (salary.com). The median salary for elementary school teachers who work in the public schools in 2019 was $59,670 with the most common range between $47,300 and $ 77,400 (bls.gov).
The Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League (NFL) had the highest average annual player salary in the 2019-20 season of $4.71 million. The team with the lowest wages, the Miami Dolphins, had an average salary of $2.05 million per player. The New England Patriots were 16th with an average salary of $3.21 million per player. The minimum salary is $500,000 a year, with a cap of $188.2 million per team (statista.com).
In the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the 2019-2020 season, the Portland Trailblazers had the highest average player’s salary of $10.4 million a year; the New York Knicks had the lowest at $7.8 million per year. The median salary is $8.15 million a year for players with the Toronto Raptors.
It is not only the players who are making a fortune; the owners are also making out well. The NFL’s Dallas Cowboys are worth $5.5 billion. The least valuable team is the Buffalo Bills, valued at $1.9 billion. The median team is the Miami Dolphins, valued at $2.76 billion.
The reason why there are such high salaries is due to the fans. We watch the games either in person or on TV or through other media outlets. Fans also purchase team memorabilia, including shirts and equipment. The popularity of sports is because it is unique, especially in our times. Sports is the great uniter. It does not matter what race, religion, economic background, or political party you belong to; you all root for the local team. People who would not say two words to each other at the ballpark act as friends. The NFL and other professional sports leagues have been successful in creating this dynamic because they have been able to keep politics and the divisions that it causes out of sports.
That is why the recent approach of the NFL is so foolhardy. The NFL, in response to pressure from some of its players and others, has decided among other things to play “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” aka the “Black national anthem,” before The Star-Spangled Banner, aka the national anthem, for the first week of games.
This is putting the NFL in the middle of a political debate. The only thing that could have been worse is if there were fans in the stands for the games. I could imagine fans who object to this and show their displeasure by booing the Black national anthem or remain seated or talking when it is playing. This could lead to fights in the stands.
It is also a bad idea on the merits. The Star-Spangled Banner is called the national anthem for a reason: It is supposed to be the anthem for the entire country. By allowing a second anthem for a specific group, you are stating that the group is not part of the entire nation or is so special that they warrant special treatment. Other groups can also make the argument that their treatment at various times in American history would also warrant their groups’ anthems to be played. These groups include Catholics, Chinese, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Jews, and Native Americans.
Another idea that is being floated this year in the NFL and the NBA is to put on the uniforms the names of individuals whom they have concluded were Black victims of police misconduct. This is also ripe for controversy. Firstly, there could be a dispute over whether the individuals were victims of police misconduct. Moreover, many will ask why them and not others. There are plenty of worthy individuals who should be acknowledged. A few who come to mind are health workers and first responders who died from COVID-19. There are plenty of people who died on 9/11 or from the effects of it trying to save others. How about those in the military who were killed in action or firefighters who died fighting a fire or police officers killed in the line of duty? Neither the NFL nor the NBA thought that these groups were important enough to remember. But both the NFL and the NBA have discussed the alternative of putting “social justice messages” on their uniforms.
The bottom line is that both the NFL and the NBA have decided that they want take sides on a political issue, which is a line that sports should not cross. This cannot be allowed to stand. If it is not nipped in the bud, sports, like everything else in this country, will become nothing more than a political football. It is time for the fans to tell these pampered, overpaid athletes that we are not going to stand for this nonsense. Without us, they are no better than the guys playing recreational ball throughout this country just for fun.
Hit them where it hurts: in the pocketbook. Then you will see how quickly they change their tune. I propose that if both the NFL and the NBA go ahead with these proposed ideas, we boycott watching the games and not buy any sports memorabilia from both sports. It may not be easy, but sticking up for what is right is not always easy.
The message is clear: Keep politics out of sports. If you do not, the fans will abandon you.