Photo Illustration by Michael Weber

Athletes Are People Too

Pro sports is a two-sided business in need of a power redistribution.

Pro sports is a two-sided business in need of a power redistribution 

Owners of professional sports teams have made headlines the last few years for all the wrong reasons. The primary issue regards team owners treating players as property instead of as people, and a good amount of this coverage surrounds the National Basketball Association and the National Football League.

Since 2014 there have been numerous situations where owners of sports teams made racially-toned remarks concerning their athletes, who are predominately black. Simply referring to whomever controls the majority of the team as ‘owner’ can have its own racial implications in leagues where most players are people of color.

According to the NBA’s 2015 Racial and Gender Report Card and a 2014 NFL Census, 75% of NBA players and 68% of NFL athletes are black. The NBA also has the largest percentage of people of color in its fan base, whereas NFL fans are primarily white.

In 2014, The NBA forced former LA Clippers’ shareholder Donald Sterling to sell his team after a tape of him spouting racist remarks was released to TMZ. But in the NFL it seems like their majority shareholders are able to get away with more. NFL team owners were more vocal than ever this past season due to the outrage from many fans about players kneeling during the National Anthem.

While NFL contracts may seem ridiculous compared to other high-grossing sports, professional football players receive the lowest percentage of guaranteed money in their contracts. In contrast, NBA athletes make every cent of their contracts and are often considered to be involved in the daily running of the league as opposed to just their respective teams’ shareholders making all the decisions.

When it comes to the relationship between owners and their athletes, a large factor in the athlete’s treatment is how fans act. Rhetoric during the kneeling protests relayed many of the players who took a knee as unpatriotic, spoiled and privileged, with fans telling players to “shut up and play.”

Fans treat players as if they are toys for amusement instead of human beings. And team owners treat players like property that can be replaced at any moment. But when there is a media storm of fans and others calling for change like with the Clippers in 2014, progress can be made. Fans hold more power than they know and can directly affect how teams are handled and how athletes are treated.

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