At midnight tonight, the NFL owners and the NFL players will no longer have a collective bargaining agreement… unless there is some drastic, last minute progress. This means players will not be paid, this NFL season may be in jeopardy of being canceled or shortened which means owners won’t collect money from ticket sales. There are a lot of reasons why both sides haven’t been able to reach an agreement, but that’s outside of the scope of this blog. Let’s just call it your average strike situation.
Let’s amend that, it’s not the average strike situation. The players make on average a million a year and owners who make dozens millions (my non-scientific estimate). The average American probably has no sympathy for these guys. I can’t imagine what the guy in Detroit who lost his job at the plant is thinking now. He’s had enough labor issues to deal with in his life, he just wants to sit back and finally, for the first time in a dozen years, watch his Lions be competitive on a football field (as they look to be fielding their best team in years). If there’s anyone with no sympathy for these guys its that guy.
On the other hand, I feel for the players a bit. The average football career is short. I think I read it was 4 years, but don’t quote me on that. Not only that, but being a football player is competitive. There are 53 roster spots (not counting the practice squad) and 32 teams. That means that roughly 1700 players are employed at any given time. We read about the Tom Bradys of the world quite often – hey he’s got the supermodel wife, those Super Bowl rings, and model good looks. We don’t hear about players like Rob Ninkovich, the journeyman outside linebacker for the Patriots. For them a work stoppage is a pretty big lifestyle change. Remember that most of these people are in their mid-20’s and this is their first experience earning a full-time salary (albeit a high full-time salary).
With that in mind, I noticed an article from Mike Reiss, one of the best beat writers for ESPN Boston with some sound bites from players about the stoppage:
“Health care, I finally found out how expensive it is, especially when you have a family.” – Linebacker Jerod Mayo
“I’m kind of a cheap guy. I have a lot of money saved up. I don’t really spend anything. Me personally, I’ve been in situations where I might not have even played football, because of the situation I was in [as a player trying to prove himself]. So I’ve always made sure that I take care of my things and make sure everything was set up to where [it needed to be] if there wasn’t football.” – The aforementioned Rob Ninkovich
“[Since] my rookie year, I’ve been preparing for it financially. When I was young, I saved every penny I had to get what I wanted. It’s no different now that I’m 29. I’m fine with whatever happens.” – Leigh Bodden
The interesting thing to me from this extremely sample size is that the players who had all the odds against them seemed to specifically mention their saving habits. Rob Ninkovich has been cut by New Orleans Saints twice and the Miami Dolphins once since being drafted in 2006. He’s on his fourth team in 5 seasons. Leigh Bodden wasn’t one of the drafted players in 2003. The number of undrafted players with lasting careers is extremely small. In contrast there’s a player like Jerod Mayo. He was signed to five-year, $18.9 million deal, which should set him up for life unless he’s spends it all away. He didn’t mention his saving habits at all. At least he made mention of the cost of the health care. It sounds like he’s being woken up to what the average American deals with… and I think that’s a good thing for him down the road.
While on the topic of health care costs, previously Mike Reiss wrote that a Patriots player (who is to remain anonymous) was actually delaying adding some family planning because he wasn’t sure he’d have health insurance. I hope he got the advice to look into Cobra Health Insurance, because I’m pretty sure he’d qualify.
It’s times like this that I’m glad that NFL players like Wes Welker knows his personal finance. Let’s hope that NFL players take this a learning opportunity and switch over from their NFL Playbooks to a good personal finance book.