Several weeks ago, we began to catch wind of a plan to delay the payment of so-called performance-based pay to NFL players. As it was initially explained, the move arises from efforts to pump up the salary cap.
Now, it’s being sold as a way to protect players from themselves, financially.
NFLPA spokesman George Atallah previously has acknowledged that the two-year delay will happen with the 2013 performance-based bay, for cap purposes.
For clarity, the term “performance-based pay” relates to one specific benefit, paid to players based on their playing time in relation to their compensation. A low-paid player who plays a lot, for example, gets a big check, like Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who went from undrafted to starting lineup. The term does not include incentives or contractual bonuses.
Mike Freeman of CBS Sports calls it a “controversial and still hotly debated move” within the NFLPA, which resulted from an “extremely close” vote of the union’s player representatives at their annual meeting earlier this month. The most surprising aspect of the move, from our perspective, is that it’s now apparently being characterized not as a shell game aimed at ensuring the salary cap will remain at desired levels while keeping earned money out of the players’ hands for two years, but as a way to protect players from themselves.
It’s fitting, we suppose, given that the NFL has spent so much time over the past several years protecting players from themselves on the field. Now, the union can protect players from themselves off the field.
But that’s not fair to the guys who don’t take out $300,000 loans to throw birthday parties for themselves. That’s money that can be invested by the players who earned it. And if the players choose to make it rain or take it to the tables or light it all on fire and watch it burn, that’s their business.
The inalienable right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness necessarily includes a right to squander life, liberty, and/or happiness. Freedom includes the freedom to screw up, and when a group of men are being treated like children, that’s not good for anybody.
Then again, it’s possible that it’s all just clumsy cover for an effort to prop up the salary cap by keeping player money from the players. Regardless of the real reason, no union should be taking its members’ money and putting it in a jar for two years, two months, two weeks, two days, or even two minutes.
Especially if the members don’t want that to happen.