“Mo Money…Mo Money?” – Should NFL Players Be Paid More?

Have you ever wondered how dangerous your job was?

Just because you sit behind a desk doesn’t mean you’re safe from injury.  Ever have a paper cut, trip and fall as you rush to a meeting, staple your finger as you put together packets, suffer from back strain or carpal tunnel syndrome?

man-stressed-at-work-desk-456x350 - NFL Pay

Paper cuts are no laughing matter.

Okay, so you won’t die from any of the above injuries.  But below is a list of the TOP TEN most dangerous jobs in the United States in 2014, their annual salary and number of deaths per 100,000 workers on the job:

  1. Loggers (falling trees, cutting equipment, rugged land) – $34,600 – 127.8
  2. Fishers / Fishing Workers (sea disturbances, drowning, heavy equipment) – $36,900 – 117
  3. Pilot and Flight Engineers (air disturbances, high altitude, take offs and landing) – $128,800 – 53.4
  4. Roofers (height, heat stroke in the summer) – $38,800 – 40.5
  5. Structural Iron and Steel Workers (height, heavy material, welding) – $50,700 – 37
  6. Refuse, Recyclable Material Collectors (hazardous material, heavy equipment and road incidents)- $35,200 – 27.1
  7. Electrical Power Line Installers and Repairs (electricity and height) – $622,300 – 23
  8. Drivers, Sales Workers, Truck Drivers (road incidents and exhaustion) – $27,700 – 22.1
  9. Framers, Ranchers and Agricultural Managers (heavy equipment and heavy animals) – $73,700 – 21.3
  10. Construction Laborers (dangerous equipment and power tools) – $34,500 annual salary – 17.4
Wait, NFL Player isn’t on the list?  Does the above list of the most dangerous jobs and the NFL have anything in common?

Perhaps you should decide.

Odell Beckham Jr. - Newsday Photo

Odell Beckham Jr. – Newsday Photo

Recently, when asked what Odell Beckham Jr. would change about the NFL, the 22-year-old went on to say:

“I think that we should make more money, personally.”

And, OBJ reasoned:

“I understand that basketball plays 80-something games, baseball plays this many games, soccer plays that many games, but this is a sport that’s most watched in America.  A sport where’s there’s more injuries.  There’s more collisions.

It’s not even a full contact sport.  I would call it a full-collision sport.  You have people running who can run 20 miles per hour and they’re running downhill to hit you, and you’re running 18 miles per hour.  That’s a car wreak.

It’s just the careers are shorter.  There’s injuries you have after you leave the game, brain injuries, whatever it is, nerve injuries.  And its just something I feel as if there’s no way someone who – even if they did their three or four years in the league – should have to worry about money for the rest of their life.”

According to OBJ’s reasoning, should the above professions also get more money?  Of course, the professions above are not athletes.  So, would their lives and injuries be considered less valuable?  Of course, football players don’t normally die on the job, like the above list.

Who Makes the Money in the NFL?

Currently, OBJ, the New York Giants’ wide-receiver and the cover of Madden NFL 16, will enter into the second year of his four-year $10,406,198 contract, which included a $5,888,144 signing bonus.

Odell Beckham Jr. - NJ Advance Media

Odell Beckham Jr. – NJ Advance Media

In 2013, the average NFL player made $2 million dollars, which is less than the average NHL, NBA, and MLB player.  But, the lower average salary can be explained by the roster size of each professional sports league.  The NFL has 52 players on a team roster where as there are only 23 players on the NHL roster, 9 players on an NBA roster and 25 players on an MLB roster.

However, the NFL also has the lowest minimum salary in 2014, $420,000, out of all the major sports leagues.  On the opposite side of the coin, players making less than $500,000 see very little to no playing time and therefore have less opportunity to suffer any type of onfield injury.

So which athletes made the most money in 2014?

  1. Floyd Mayweather (Boxer) $105 million
  2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Soccer) $52 million (not including endorsements of $28 million)
  3. LeBron James (Basketball) $19.3 million (not including endorsement of $53 million)
  4. Lionel Messi (Soccer) $41.7 million (not including endorsements of $23 million)
  5. Kobe Byrant (Basketball) $30.5million (not including endorsements of $31 million)
  6. Tiger Woods (Golf) $6.2 million (not including endorsements of $55 million)
  7. Rodger Federer (Tennis) $4.2 million (not including endorsements of $52 million)
  8. Phil Mickelson (Golf) $5.2 million (not including endorsements of $48 million)
  9. Rafael Nadal – (Tennis) 14.5 million (not including endorsements of $30 million)
  10. Matt Ryan – (NFL) $42 million (not including endorsements of $1.8 million).

Matt Ryan?  Yup, Matt Ryan.  Ryan signed a 5-year contract of $103.75 million last year with the Atlanta Falcons that included a $28 million signing bonus and $12 million option bonus that was paid out in March. On any other given year, $20.75 million guaranteed salary is just behind Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger.

Who’s making the most money in the NFL in 2015?

# 1 – Aaron Rodgers, quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, is at $22 million.

Aaron Rodgers - ESPN Photo

Aaron Rodgers – ESPN Photo

The top 20 include expected players such as #5 Drew Brees ($20 million) – Quarterback New Orleans Saints, #9 Tony Romo ($19 million) – Quarterback Dallas Cowboys, #13 J.J. Watt ($16,667,571) – Defensive End Houston Texans and some surprising players including #17 Mario Williams ($16 million) – Defensive End Buffalo Bills and #19 Gerald McCoy ($15,866,667) – Defensive Tackle Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

So Is More Money the Solution?

OBJ’s major concern is injuries sustained by the players.  Recently, a federal judge approved a settlement agreement that is expected to cost the NFL $1 billion.  The class action lawsuit will award each player in the suit $190,000 for future medical problems that may arise throughout the retired players’ lifetime.

But if a retired player does sustain some kind of mental disability, such as Alzheimer or dementia, is $190,000 enough to cover the medical cost of treatment?

Probably not.

If the NFL increased minimum salaries for players would that solve the problem?

Also probably not.  Why not?  Well, there’s no guarantee that a player would be frugal with their increased NFL annual salary (which is currently still among the top US income brackets).

pile-of-money - NFL pay

Well, What is the Solution Then?

There’s no debating that there is a discrepancy between the highest paid player and the lowest paid player.  But, we also understand that price tag is based on value.  Instead of increasing a player’s salary, the NFL should consider extending heath care packages across the board to all retired players for future treatment of potential medical problems sustained during their time in the league.  This would give the security that retired players seek without burdening teams with increased salaries, which wouldn’t even be guaranteed to address the long term health care concerns.


The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour (and has been since 2009).

Recently, an increase in minimum wage was approved to $8 in 1/1/2016 and $8.50 in 1/1/2017, which will give wage earners an additional $3,000 annually in income.  However, minimum wage varies from $7.25 to $12.25 from state to state across the United States with California being the most progressive in ultimately pushing for $15 an hour.

McDonalds-Protest-II-1024x682 - NFL Pay

Workers marched on McDonald’s Corporate Headquarters about raising minimum wage in May 2015.

The average medium income for a US household was $53,891 in the 2014.

Being employed by the NFL is a job, like any other job.  And like a job, it’s the responsibility of the individual to save for retirement, plan for long term health care or spend for a specific quality of life that they seek.  There should be no special exception just because an individual is an athlete.  These individuals have chosen their profession with the knowledge of the potential risks involved.  Furthermore, compared to other more hazardous professions (including the above list), NFL players are very well compensated.  And this increased compensation includes the risk of potential long term injury.

Regardless, there’s no argument that better long term heath care is needed for NFL players, but that is something that needs to come from the top, from the NFL itself, and not from the individual teams.  Whether it will actually happen or not, though, is anyone’s guess.

By Joanne Kong

Twitter: @kongfu4u

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