Trevor Brookins

*Unless negotiations change dramatically in the near future, the NFL owners will lock out their players soon. And when they do most people will take the wrong side in the dispute.

Approximately 500 years ago when absolute monarchs presided over their kingdoms, they decided that the best way to prove God truly favored them was by expanding their dominion and because they held the absolute power in society all aspects of society were geared toward this goal. From this narcissistic desire came the economic philosophy of mercantilism which aimed to build wealth through gaining precious metals and minerals via colonization.

Absolutism begat mercantilism. Mercantilism begat capitalism.

Just as mercantilism is built on scarce resources and the acquisition of said resources by exploiting indigenous labor forces, capitalism is built on scarce resources and skills and the exploitation of those in possession of these scarce commodities.  But while mercantilism is geared toward enriching the elites, capitalism allows for the common person to indulge their greedy impulses.

In the United States we have cultivated and catered to the greed of an individual throughout the nation’s history. Colonies that were supposed to stop at the Appalachian Mountains became states that extended westward indefinitely. The federal government entered into agreements with Native American tribes only to renege on the terms and encourage westward expansion. American greed motivated the settlement of the entire country and American exploitation was the backbone of the country’s agribusiness for the first 70 years. NFL owners are an example in this long line of greedy people who are exploiting the labor of others for their own benefit.

This is not to argue that those in ownership positions do not deserve a return on their investment. They do of course. At issue is the degree to which NFL owners are earning money when they are not an essential part of the supply-demand relationship. Players are the product in the NFL. These players would and do supply their services for a fee. Fans demand these services. Owners and the NFL structure simply organize the exchange of the fan’s money to the player’s pocket. For this the owners do not deserve inordinately large chunk of the fan’s money.

In fact is there another entertainment industry outside of professional sports in which the talent is paid expected to earn less than the organizers?

Even if we were to take as a given that the NFL owners deserve a majority of the revenue, their reasoning behind asking for more of the revenue is faulty. NFL owners are claiming that they are losing money but refuse to show where/how this is the case. Essentially NFL owners are asking NFL players to take a smaller percentage of the revenue without proving why such an adjustment of revenue sharing is necessary. This is capitalism 101 – minimize labor costs to maximize profit.

The fact that we are talking about professional football players is critical. Because NFL players generally have a very specialized and uncommon skill set. The owner of a coffee shop can make demands on their work force very easily because many people can assume the role of waiter/waitress and the shop owner would not see a loss in revenue. Much to the contrary, there are a very limited number of people who can assume the role of NFL player; so limited in fact that substitute NFL players almost certainly means a decrease in revenue. Translation: NFL players are valuable commodities that are not easily replaced.

Many coffee shop owners are intimately involved in the business; they are baking pastries, they are getting up at 4a.m. to open the shop for the morning rush. Most NFL owners are removed from the day to day operations of their franchises delegating responsibility. But the NFL owner would like you to believe that they are the key components and therefore deserve the lion’s share of revenue. Not true.

During the upcoming negotiations inevitably someone will claim that the NFL players are being greedy, and that the players should take whatever is offered them because most of the fans would play the game for nothing. This is the most asinine statement anyone could make. Because you play football for free on the weekend now, does not mean that if offered hundreds of thousands of dollars to play next weekend that you would turn that money down, right?

Much to the contrary almost everyone would jump at the chance to earn money playing a game they enjoy. And as much as you might enjoy your job and hang out with some of the people you work with, you do not tear up your pay check, right?

NFL players might be greedy, but if they are they have much more of a right to be greedy than NFL owners. And in their alleged greediness they are taking advantage of no one and no thing except for their own body and skills. NFL owners can make no such claim.

NFL owners are not coffee shop owners. They are billionaire capitalists whose skills are generally worth nothing in the world of football. They are modern day absolute monarchs whose greed we should not support.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  You can reach him at [email protected]