February 9, 2005

Lawyer Milloy Reconsidered

Money can't buy championship rings, but it can buy dinner for four.

David Goldenberg

A couple of weeks before the Super Bowl, former Pats safety Lawyer Milloy talked with Boston-based radio station WEEI about his former team—and had some harsh words for the management and some of his teammates. He claimed that while the executives reaped the profits from the victories, the players continued to be compensated poorly and remain quiet (some of his comments are in this AP article.)

The Buffalo Bills player's unfortunate choice of words—"You can’t feed your family off of Super Bowl rings"—sounds as absurd as when Latrell Sprewell used his family's hypothetical hunger to explain his contract holdout earlier this year. Moreover, each player on the Patriots gets $68,000 as a winner’s share and a gaudy ring, appraised at $20,000 (see details on the ring at FoxSports). So dinner for four—and their posses, and their posses' families—probably won't be a problem.

But when Milloy says the Patriots organization pays the least of any club to its players, he’s sort of right. Even though the champs max out to the salary cap—meaning they spend as much as they're allowed to, as per the union contract—some of their star players make far less than they would on the open market, leaving room for what Coach Bill Belichick has termed a strong “middle class” (a good breakdown ran in the Boston Herald).

Columnists have jumped on Milloy, who was cut from the Pats because of his huge cap numbers, as an example of yet-another-selfish-athlete-syndrome (one takedown came in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle). But it's not wrong for stars to try to maximize profitability, especially in a field where careers last an average of three and a half years. Business executives often switch jobs to make extra money, and they're not forced to retire by 30. Most Pats who are underpaid probably have made the calculated decision to forsake some wealth for championships and happiness. Those who have decided otherwise shouldn't be condemned.

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Article by David Goldenberg

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