There have been a couple letters recently coming out on the side of either the players or the owners in the controversial NHL lockout. I would like to offer another perspective which does not necessarily support either side and in fact is from someone who is not really that much of a hockey fan.
The key point to remember is that people get paid according to their economic benefit to society, not their social benefit to society, which is why professional athletes get paid more than doctors. The discussion seems to centre around “millionaires fighting with billionaires,” but the economic impact of a professional sports franchise goes much further than that.
There are the direct employees at the venues, maintenance and custodial staff, concessions, security, gates etc. that probably number in the hundreds. But it goes further: there are the bars and restaurants that rely on game-day crowds, the waiters, chefs and bartenders, the people who make the beer and the people who truck it to the destination. These are all local jobs.
There is the sports paraphernalia that can be found in thousands of stores all over the country. Granted, some of the merchandise comes from overseas but it still represents sales for the store owners and those stores have employees. There are TV crews. It takes a lot of people to televise a game. One could go on and on — the economic tentacles of a sports franchise reach into places you wouldn’t normally think of. And all of those people who have employment because of a sports franchise spend money, and so the spin off continues.
One does not have to be a sports fan to realize the huge economic impact of a professional sports franchise. It is the owners who take the risk and the players who play the game who make a franchise successful. And as long as there are millions of people going to the stadiums and watching on TV (advertisers spend their advertising budget where the most people are watching) then professional athletes will continue to make huge salaries, owners will continue to make profits and one could argue that they are worth it because without them the franchise would not exist.
So the next time someone says that no athlete is worth a multi-million dollar contract just to play a game, think about how many people are supporting their families and enjoying a lifestyle as a result.