Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Owner With a Backbone?

Recently, the owner of Arena Football League's Pittsburgh Power, Matt Shaner, cut his entire team at a pregame meal at Olive Garden.

Before I hop on my soap box, note that the team was at an Orlando Olive Garden, and the players that did not cross the picket line had to find their own way back home. That part of the story made me smile.

While it appears wrong on a lot of levels, I personally side with the owner. How many times have we heard people say, "Man, I'd play (enter your favorite sport here) for free." That is essentially what AFL players do. According to, rank-and-file players get paid $400 a game to hold on to their dreams. That's $7,200 for a 20 week, 18 game commitment. Compared to the millions of dollars thrown around in the NFL, that seems like chump change. The AFL players were threatening a strike to get an extra $300 per game. Again, that does not seem like a lot of money.

Let's put this into a different perspective. Let's say that you own a company with 24 employees that make $40,000 per year, and have a very desirable job that many other people could do. At the end of your fiscal year, your ledger shows that you have just barely made a profit (or possibly even had a net loss). At the same time, your employees tell you that if you don't increase their salaries by 75% (to $70,000), they are going to walk out. I would tell those employees, "Um, no, feel free to leave, I will find others who are happy with $40,000." That is essentially what Mr. Shaner did.

I understand that the players probably have a very difficult time living on the salaries that they are paid. However, that is the life they have chosen. They could work elsewhere and make more. Thousands of very talented football players go unrecruited out of high school and undrafted out of college. It would likely be easy for AFL owners to go to the local parks and find guys who would be willing to play for them. Why would, or should, the owner of any business hamstring his business financially when there are other options. It simply does not make sense.

I am a sports fan, I love seeing my favorite teams win. I understand, however, that owners of teams are in it to make money. Sure, there are the Robert Krafts, Mark Cubans and George Steinbrenners of the sports world who would seemingly do anything to win. Why though? It is because winning brings in more revenue. The best owners know that spending to win may raise costs, but raises income even more. When it comes to the AFL, though, even the best teams struggle to sell out arenas, sell jerseys and gain sponsors. So what is the point of increasing player salaries by 75% if there is no way to prove that it will in turn increase profits?

I am happy to see an owner willing to stand up to his players and the players association. I don't care how miniscule it may seem to sports in general. If the big 4 sports had owners that would, or could, do something like that, we would likely not have the strikes and lockouts that leave fans wanting more.

TJ Kool, see my thoughts on more than sports at


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