Sports salaries just aren’t what they used to be

Published 7:00 am Friday, July 11, 2014

Former Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons All-Pro tight end Tony Gonzales brought something to light Tuesday about a fact that many sports fans, like myself, may not be generally aware of.

While defending the frustration expressed by New Orleans Saints All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham, Gonzales pointed out that the National Football League is the only professional sports league that slots players salaries according to what position they play.

Graham, during his recent salary negotiations with the Saints, pointed out that while his slotted position is tight end, he actually more frequently splits out like a wide receiver.  He contended that since that is the case, he should be paid like wide receivers, which make more money than tight ends.

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Obviously the glamour positions, like quarterback, running back and wide receiver, make the most money. But professional football, basketball and baseball players all make at least a six-figure salary.

When I was growing up in the 1950s and early1960s, even the best players in all professional sports leagues made much less than their counterparts today. There were precious few six-figure salaries and no salaries in the millions.

I remember during the 1960s when University of Alabama Crimson Tide All-American quarterback Joe Namath came out of the University of Alabama and the New York Jets signed him for $100,000. Many people said that that was terrible and no athlete was worth that kind of money.

Namath went on to become an All-Pro and led the Jets to a memorable Super Bowl victory over the Baltimore Colts.  Namath guaranteed the victory over the Colts, who were heavily favored in the game.

Today, $100,000 would be like pocket change compared to some of the salaries professional athletes make. I enjoy the great thrills they bring to me and so do many other sports fans.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it is great that they are making such big money and I don’t begrudge them anything. In some cases, particularly in professional football, players go down with serious leg, knee and head injuries that severely hamper them in their later life.