Are athletes just a contract or a dollar value?
By Davie Wong, Sports Editor
In the world of professional sport, it is incredibly rare to see a player play out their career with a single team. Some people believe that it boils down to loyalty, or players’ morals, but I believe the picture is a little simpler than it’s made out to be. Behind the scenes, what runs every professional team’s decision is money.
It’s all about money. Players win games and championships bring fans, who buy merchandise and tickets. That brings sponsors and corporate deals. What if players were the currency, or represented by a dollar value? The reality is, that is exactly how the system works.
The concept of another human having a dollar value attached to them is so foreign to us in North America because we have a different way of breaking the money cycle. Many North American leagues, such as the NHL, NFL, and MLS, deal with this issue by putting emphasis on the future through drafting young talent. Often, in order for a team in a North American league to find immediate success, they give up the idea of finding long-term success, trading away the future in the form of rookie draft picks, for short-term success. An example of this can be found in hockey, where teams may trade away a chance to draft a future star for their franchise to have a better team to win the Stanley Cup that year.
This style of valuing athletes puts much more emphasis on morals and loyalty. While it may be difficult to find a player who spends his entire career in one place, it is not impossible. For countries like Canada and the United States, where player unions play a huge role in shaping the future of a sport, it is not at all surprising to see this style where players have a lot of power and say in where they end up and how they are perceived. For teams and team owners, it means the business environment is a lot more risky. Players are not worth an exact value, and making a move to obtain a stronger team now by trading draft picks could risk a weaker team in the future, which results in less money. In short, it’s more often a gamble than not.
In different leagues around the world, especially the world of soccer, players are literally an extension of money. Player for player trading is very uncommon and there is no such thing as a draft. Players are purchased and sold, as if they were items. Now, although it sounds inhuman, I’d have to argue that it’s a lot more open. There is so much transparency that way. And by transparency I mean clarity. When a player is sold to another team, it was because the team received an amount of currency that they believe to be the value of the player. Sure, there may be other motives to the selling of the player, but in the end, the team that sells the player receives what is believed to be fair. There is no luck involved, just strategy.
However, there is something to be said about the buying and selling of people. It can make the sport seem very inhumane on a business level, but I believe that it lifts the veil on the entirety of the topic. North American leagues also buy and sell players, albeit in a different way. It all boils down to the fact that people often forget that sport is a business, and the goal of any business is to make as big a profit as possible. It’s often said that the business side of sport is ugly, and I won’t even try to contest that. When players are stripped to numbers and dollar values, it’s a whole new field. But unfortunately, in the world of sports, that’s what they really are. A number value. Some sports just show it better than others.