It’s been less than two weeks since the Super Bowl was telecast to its largest audience ever. It’s hard to imagine that over 110 million people watched that sporting event, but such viewership lends credence to the claim that the NFL is a $9 billion per year business.
Now, right on the heels of their triumphant victory lap, the NFL owners have scuttled the collective bargaining agreement they shook hands on with the Players Association. Turns out the owners didn’t actually plan on ratifying the CBA. They just didn’t want to risk losing all that playoff tournament money if the players called a wildcat walkout before the big game.
Normally, I wouldn’t waste your eyeball energy talking about professional sports players. They represent the group I call The Entertainment Caste—a minority of the population paid vast sums of money based upon how much we consume the entertainment they generate. Whether or not they are worth it is beside the point. There is money to be made, TECs help make it, and they are compensated for running their cog in the machine. We can all rally around the idea that teachers are easily worth the sums of money that professional entertainers receive, but sadly Budweiser and Coke don’t (and won't) spend millions of ad dollars to make sure Chad can read. Pictures are so much easier, and prettier. There is, however, a connection between underfunded teachers and millionaire football players. Both are represented by steadfast labor unions.
Right now it seems that most Americans think labor unions represent unpatriotic values and reward people for work they have not produced. This couldn't be further from the truth, especially considering the surprisingly common cause of teachers and football players. Many players retire from the cheers of a mega-arena with debilitating injuries, having spent most of their adult life on a pretend battlefield, generating nearly $10 billion annually in revenue for television stations, commercial products, and sports franchise owners. The myth of the career teacher has been largely debunked as more and more educators—in the face of budget cuts, parent apathy, mental strain and even physical violence—opt out for a less stressful line of work. Of course, teachers can’t point to millions of dollars in merchandise and television broadcasting fees to justify the stability of their salaries. Nor should they have to. But football players can, and they should. Even still, NFL team owners—part of the top five percent of wealth holders rapidly leaving the rest of us in the lower atmosphere—feel justified in disregarding a tentatively negotiated settlement. Since teachers don't score touchdowns, they don't stand a chance.
One of the ways sports franchise owners retain their vast sums of money is by using our tax dollars to erect their monuments to commerce, er, ahem, sports. Did you know that over the last twenty years more than eighty stadiums have been built across North America, and only eight of them were built without using our tax dollars? It's like a double tax: first the taxes come out of our paycheck, then we pay again for the right to sit in overpriced seats to eat $8 hot dogs. The players should get more money; at least they entertain me while I get ripped off.
Don’t let the NFL owners fool you into thinking the players’ collective bargaining agreement is an obstacle to running the game. Labor unions aren’t the problem with America. The fact is that capitalism has little compassion for those who don’t control the means of production. And therein lies the heart of the problem. I’m certainly not advocating socialism, but without our labor unions, the quality of life for many Americans would still be rooted in the 19th century. There has to be room in a capitalist democracy for more than one economic caste to get a nice slice of the American pie.
Dallas Penn is the creator and editor-in-chief of the daily weblog dallaspenn.com. He is also a founding member of the film-making collective, iNternets Celebrities. Currently a featured columnist on AOL’s theBVX.com, Dallas is known for his contributions to various hip-hop websites, including XXL Magazine, and YouTube videos tackling subjects like social justice, affordable food and all around chicanery. He can always be found online at his website and on Twitter. Or sometimes on VH1’s The Best Week Ever. But only if you do a Google search.