When Earl Thomas broke his leg in a non-contact play during the Seahawks game last Sunday, he cost himself about $50 million. That’s why he flipped off the Seahawks’ sideline when Arizona stadium workers drove him off the field a few minutes later.
The NFL has a very long list of moral and ethical problems at its foundation, but Earl’s problem demonstrates one of the more notable ones: the players don’t get paid fairly.
Of course, neither does just about any other American worker. It’s easy to write off the wage problems of people compensated in the millions of dollars, given the fact that most Americans haven’t gotten a raise in decades.
That might be why so many people scoff when athletes complain about their compensation, and do what little they can to change it. That’s what Earl did by holding out, and protesting in practice.
Anyway, that all misses the point: the NFL makes billions on billions of dollars (the conservative estimate is $8 billion in FY 2017) off the work of athletes like Earl Thomas. The maiming of athletes of Earl Thomas. The destruction of their minds. The owners make all that money, meanwhile, by doing exactly jack shit. Nobody follows the NFL to hear what the owners are doing (with the obvious exception of Jerry Jones.)
NFL players are paid way less than their peers in baseball and basketball—even though neither of those sports is likely to cripple you or drive you insane, and neither the major leagues or NBA make as much money as the NFL. In fact, football players are not guaranteed to actually get paid all the money in their contracts, unlike in the other leagues. Nor does the league pay for their health insurance after they retire. Baseball and basketball do that for their alums, but football players definitely need it more.
So Earl Thomas was already getting screwed by his employer. It just became a little more obvious last Sunday. Stars—they’re just like us.