16 June 2006

How to Pay Athletes Less

Personally, I think it's groovy that a malcontent can make a fortune, that George Steinbrenner can cause his own infarction, and that someday, Spree can feed his family again. But I know that a lot of people resent the money spent on athlete salaries. There's a pretty simple solution, applied to wonderful effect in the rest of society, that's time-tested and mother-approved.

Stop talking about money. I mean really stop talking about it. Make salary negotiations secret, make the contracts secret, and make sure that talking about salaries is a contract breach, resulting in instant termination. Granted, agents would still be aware how much their various clients were paid and could share that information; however, if it became clear to management that such a thing had transpired, the league could de-certify the agent.

Most of us labor in salary-obscurity, with both taboos and employment agreements restricting us from discussing our pay. It's considered quite declasse to share this information. For a very brief time in the 20th century, unions opened the windows and aired their dirty laundry out, but those windows have been successfully reshut...except in athletics.

When players don't know how much their peers make, they won't need to make more to satisfy their outsized egos. Instead, they'll depend on rings and trophies and all-star voting to establish their place in the pack. And management can stop paying such high salaries.

Look how well it works out here. Look at your own salary. Seems fine, right? That's because you don't know how much your cube neighbor makes. It's a foolproof approach to keeping employee costs way down.