With the news of Albert Haynesworth’s 7 year, $100 Million deal coming in the wee hours after the start of free agency, one can’t help but appreciate the irony in the situation. The Washington Redskins agreed to this monumental deal for this larger-than-life defensive force in the hopes of, well, creating money for their franchise. After all, every sports deal is done in order to win and make money. On the other hand, as the ‘Skins were making this landmark deal, they were also in the midst of laying off over 35 people inside the organization as a result of the treacherous economic crisis facing the country.
Naturally, this raises the question, is it fair to give one man $41 million dollars in guaranteed bonuses before he even puts on a uniform for your team, while ruining the lives of 40 or so other people and their families that depend on them to put a roof over their heads and clothing on their backs? In my opinion, the Redskins, as well as many other franchises, are making the wrong decisions at the wrong times.
The Redskins are currently ranked as the 2nd highest valued NFL franchise, second to only the Dallas Cowboys. With its current worth exceeding $1.5 billion, the passer-by can’t help but beg the question, how is it possible to fire staff? With revenue exceed $327 million last year alone, according to Forbes.com, it would seem that the Skins have more than enough extra change to keep these 35 employees. However, that is not the case.
The NFL, considered by many to be the most successful, and most highly praised professional sports league, has had to make considerable layoffs. Just last month, over 13.6% (150 people) lost their jobs. These cutbacks only emulate the desperate economic situation facing this country. For a league that reported $6.5 Billion this year alone in revenue, it is shameful to see these kinds of cutbacks being made.
Look around at other sports. The New York Yankees, for example, spent over $400 Million on 3 players this offseason. Meanwhile, the Steinbrenners have just completed building an estimated $1.3 Billion stadium. While teams like this are spending as much as possible, the MLB itself has had to fire over 4% of its workforce, leaving over 25 families without their primary source of income.
The lavish lifestyle being led by these respected American institutions in the midst of an economic downturn is essentially a slap in the face to the people who got these leagues where they are today, the fans. Those loyal fans, some of whom may be losing their jobs or having to make tough decisions about which bills to pay, are now being embarrassed by their favorite teams. Imagine if you were a fan of the Yankees or the Redskins, and you just got laid-off. You pull up to the new Yankee Stadium or FedEx Field and BAM, that $100 Million dollar man is in front of you, and you are paying over $150 for “cheap” nosebleed section seats, not to mention $20-$25 in parking costs. You go home and monday you find out that you have just been laid-off from your job because your company can not afford to keep its mid-level managers since they are too busy spending half a million on parties every weekend for the corporate executives. Sucks, doesn’t it?
Maybe this may not be the case with you, or even with me, but for thousands of employees of some of the top sports franchises and organizations, this is the harsh reality. It is time this country moves past drooling over our athletes and stops paying them 9 figure salaries. I’m not saying we stop paying them, I understand how advertising, merchandising, television revenue works. I’m just saying its not too difficult to put aside a couple million here or there and make sure your organization has enough money to pay its employees, the people that keep the game going, first. Then go spend $25 Million a year on that great hitter, or the next best defensive lineman in the league.