Wednesday, February 25, 2009

More signs that sports world can't escape harsh economic reality

If you didn’t already know the economy was in freefall, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell hammered home that reality Wednesday.

The NFL confirmed that Goodell is voluntarily taking a 20-25 percent pay cut from the $11 million in salary and bonuses he was to receive in the 2008 fiscal year, which ends March 31. A few months ago, the NFL slashed 169 jobs, a reduction of over 15 percent.

No, Goodell won’t have to apply for food stamps. And NFL teams are still throwing around money for players (see Al Davis, Nnamdi Asomugha and Shane Lechler) as if times were flush. But when the biggest sports cash cow in the world starts cutting salaries and jobs, you know the entire industry could be approaching very tough times.

It could be that Goodell’s salary slash is a PR move as the league approaches negotiations with the NFL Players Association over the collective bargaining agreement. The league can go to the negotiating table trumpeting its staff and salary cuts as it argues for a bigger piece of the pie.

But enough cynicism.

Tough times are hitting more than just the NFL. While scanning a few headlines today, I saw that Greg Norman suggested that the PGA Tour should reduce its prize money purses, in light of the huge economic downturn. The Tour is losing some high-profile title sponsors, including FBR, the sponsor of that cocktail party/tournament near Phoenix, which will bow out after 2010.

Even some baseball teams, other than the Yankees, have shown some fiscal restraint in free agency. Manny Ramirez is still looking for a team to pay him as if it’s 2007.

Times can’t be that tough for baseball. Commissioner Bud Selig is still making $18 million a year. When Selig slashes his salary, I’ll know that the sports Apocalypse has arrived.

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