The unemployment rate among African-American men will increase dramatically next month thanks to the NBA lockout, because the league and the players union have failed to renegotiate their agreement about the split of basketball revenues. The owners want a 50-50 split of profits on ticket sales, TV rights, souvenir and concession sales. But the players want 53% of the deal. The difference adds up to hundreds of million of dollars. So some predict the season will be canceled through the end of 2011 because nobody wants to back down.
At a time where some blue collar workers are living off of $8.00 an hour minimum wage pay and even some white collar professionals have seen their salaries drop, the question (at least in my mind) becomes how much money is enough money? I could talk about the amount of time and money some of those white collar employees have spent acquiring their education and skills or the fact that some of those blue collar workers – down to the people who protect our freedom abroad, patrol our local streets and even haul away your trash – are part of the working class poor who barely can afford to pay health insurance. I could but I won’t, because some might argue that professional athletes too have invested time and developed their talents that make them deserving of the spotlight they’re in.
Okay. So that spotlight comes with a million dollar paycheck attached. The lowest paid NBA draft pick in 2011 was signed for just over $1 million a year. For now it’s safe to say he’s getting paid to do nothing. The top paid NBA baller, Kobe Bryant, is getting paid more than $25 million this season. And like Deion Sanders always points out (I know he played football and baseball, not basketball. I’m not an idiot.): Since they’re paying people to play ball why not get paid as much as you can. But again, I ask, how much money is enough money? What would another million dollars do forKobe that the first $25 million couldn’t? Would another million dollars paid to LeBron James insure a championship in Miami next time? Would another million teach Gilbert Arenas that bringing a gun to work is a bad idea? Or maybe another million dollars in his paycheck might make Dwight Howard play harder in the playoffs so he can live up to his Superman persona. My 8-ball says the answer to all of these questions is “no.”
Even without consulting my 8-ball I know that past results are an indication of future performance. And while a handful of athletes have created non-profit organizations to give back in their communities, I’m convinced that more money in a professional athlete’s pocket just means a bigger mansion, more cars, more jewelry, more clothes and more time away from their families making it rain at the strip clubs. Last time I checked none of them is trying to help cure cancer or AIDS or starting programs to help families who are less fortunate. How much stuff can one person buy? How much money is enough money?
Instead of trying to convince NBA owners that players need more money, the Players Association might want to read its own research that shows more than half of all NBA players will be bankrupt within five years of leaving the NBA. Instead of trying to get millions of dollars more for NBA players how about teaching them that it’s not how much you make, but how much you keep that’s more important. Instead of fighting owners over the profits of their businesses, how about teaching players to own assets that create generational wealth for their families so they don’t end up like former NBA players such as Latrell Sprewell, Antoine Walker and Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen who spent a combined thirty years and earned more than $330 million total and have at least four championships to their credit only to be among the top five broke, busted and disgusted NBA players of all time.
But enough about the players: The best way to teach somebody a lesson about the value of money is to stop making it easy for them to get. You don’t have to become a protestor inTimes Square to participate in this one. Stop spending money on game tickets, jerseys and definitely don’t buy another $5 hotdog at a game. You and I know that hotdog is all profit. If we don’t buy it they won’t have anything to fight over. Then maybe everybody will focus on playing for the love of the game instead of playing just for another million dollars.
Steffanie Rivers is a freelance journalist. Send your comments, questions and appearance inquiries to Steffanie at [email protected].