Why do players play games while owners run business?

How many times have you read about a player taking or giving a hometown discount? Or the player who takes less pay and in doing so the team avoids the luxury tax and is enabled to sign additional player to benefit the organization.

My last year on the eve of training camp, I was called into Ron Wolfs’ office and asked to take a pay cut for the team and the funds would be given back in incentives. If mirrored the year I had previously I would be made whole. My response was “why the F%$K are you coming to me, why not go to Koonce, he had a bad year last season and was marginal at best (I had a Kobe moment). Koonce and I laugh about my reaction to this day, partially because I never kept it from him, and he was partially amused with my candor as well as wanting to slap the water out of my mouth for bringing him into my dilemma with the team. To this day Koonce greets me with “Hey Jonsie, you know why they asked you to take the pay cut?” Me: WHY KOONCE? Koonce: because you sucked!!!!

Koonce was partially correct; I didn’t suck as a player or at the game, but even in my 13th year in the league at that moment I realized I was allowing myself to SUCK at the football business. I was a allowing myself to be content playing the game while the team played business.

How was it my fault that the team mismanaged the cap, better yet, how did I allow them to convince me it was my fault. Why did I go along with it? That was twenty-one years ago. So let me ask you, how did they convince Kevin Durant to do the same thing, and we all know he doesn’t suck.

The answer is both simple and complicated. I think in many ways players still seek the approval of their owners. Players are asked to put their money where their winning “mouth” is; basically if we want to win “you” should take one for the team by giving up your money. But, are the players the only ones who should do what it take to win? Is a player responsible and thus required to bail out the team from the owner’s luxury tax or a team’s mismanagement of the salary cap? I say hell no!

I am telling players to resist the temptation to follow history, if you are asked, just say hell no! People who do not play sports are asked to take cuts in their jobs and at that point they make an economic decision as to whether they can do without that job. But in sports the connotation in not the same. Millionaires should not be responsible to give money back to billionaires. Winning and the desire to win should be shared by player and team, but player compensation as a chess piece should never be allowed by a player. A pay cut can affect the players future as well as the future of other players because this action creates what should be an unrealistic expectation of other players. Also, when players reduce their compensation to help the owner, the collateral affects a teammate’s salary negotiations and expectations. Stop playing games, work at your sport, run your own business, and work on winning, it’s not your responsibility to manage your team’s cash flow, the game is hard enough.

photo credit: ajroder AT&T Stadium Panorama via photopin (license)