After another incredibly lucrative NBA offseason which saw zero-time All-Star Otto Porter signing a contract with the Wizards guaranteeing millions more in average annual salary than NFL great Tom Brady, Buffalo Bills WR Sammy Watkins tweeted:
We gotta get paid more I'm pretty sure 2014 class will change the market— King Me (@sammywatkins) July 2, 2017
Many were quick to chime in. Richard Sherman even suggested NFL players “have to be willing to strike” if they want to improve their contracts.
Recently, the inferiority of NFL contracts, as compared to those in the NBA, has become a hot-button issue. However, many fans and sports analysts, like USA Today’s Steven Ruiz, wrote that the contract disparity between the NBA and NFL makes “perfect sense.”
“The NFL makes about $6 billion a year. There are 1,696 players on NFL rosters at any given time. That is about $3.5 million per player. There are 450 players on NBA rosters at any given time. The league brings in about $2.6 billion a year. That works out to about $5.7 million per player.”
NFL contracts make sense economically, but do they make sense ethically?
It’s hard to argue NFL players are getting screwed in terms of overall salaries. When Sammy Watkins tweeted his concern, many were quick to laugh it off, and some accused him of having an unwarranted and selfish gripe over the issue. People, however, are too quick to write off these concerns.
In the NFL, guaranteed salary is much harder to come by for players. Owners are reluctant to guarantee money for players because injuries in football are very common. When Otto Porter signed for more than $106 million, he is guaranteed every last penny. But, for example, when 5-time Pro Bowler Ndamukong Suh signs a historic $114 million contract --becoming the highest paid defensive player in NFL history -- he’s only guaranteed $60 million. Even that $60 million in guaranteed earnings -- just over 50% of the original contract -- is an incredible rarity in the NFL.
Think about what the average NFL player goes through on a game-to-game basis as opposed to players in the NBA. Football is such a traumatic sport and players put their health on the line each time they step on the field. Imagine the financial stress NFL players face knowing they are an injury away from losing millions. How can they focus on playing their meanest, toughest, and most impactful game when an injury could mean 10’s of millions of dollars in lost earnings?
Players aren’t unaware of the math. Those who discredit and laugh off Sammy Watkins and Richard Sherman’s remarks about a strike, fail to realize that both these men are educated, involved, and direct when it comes to these issues. They don’t just tweet for the heck of it. If Richard Sherman’s proposed strike ever comes to fruition, it is unlikely players will demand more money as a whole; that’s not where the issue lies. NFL players are smarter than the media gives makes them out to be, so if they are talking about a strike, they have a reason for it.
In short, are the contracts economical? Sure. But, is it ethical? Not in the least. It’s just greedy owners choosing their greenbacks over their running backs.