The past week in sports highlighted two very different but nevertheless telling narratives that prove, in the end, even leftist ideals are subject to the market forces of supply and demand.
First up was cop-hating, Castro-loving knucklehead Colin Kaepernick. The much-maligned pregame protester and quarterback announced that he no longer will be taking a knee during the national anthem. How nice of him. Why the change of heart? According to Kaepernick, the message he sent last season about societal injustice has been heard, so he no longer needs to continue. By funny coincidence, his announcement came precisely as he was about to hit the free agent market, and he does need a job. No doubt his agent sat him down and taught him something about supply and demand and how demand for his service would be minimal, if he didn’t tone down his radical antics.
Next, ripped out of the pages of the gender gap playbook, we come to the plight of the National Women’s Hockey League. The NWHL is a professional hockey league whose financial woes were outlined in Deadspin. Last year, in the League’s first season, the four-team league played an 18-game schedule and averaged about 1,000 people per game. Each team had a salary cap of $270,000.
This year, economic reality kicked in, and the League, without notice, announced that it would be cutting payroll approximately 38 percent. Not only did the players have a massive pay cut to deal with, but the way they are paid was also restructured. Instead of being salaried employees as before, they are now contract employees paid by game, and players must now compete for bonuses based on which players help sell the most tickets.
The pay cuts were devastating news to the players, as it’s nearly impossible to make a full-time living as a professional female hockey player. I feel for the players. They are presumably the best female hockey players in North America, chasing a dream to make a living playing hockey. But dreams have a price tag, and a $270,000 team payroll isn’t sustainable, when you only have 1,000 customers coming to your games.
Deadspin along with newly appointed director of the NWHL Players Association Anya Battaglino seemed to lament the unfairness of it all:
The money means legitimacy and respect. It’s the tangible proof that the players have value beyond the satisfaction of sustaining a women’s league. It’s also what separates them from the men of the NHL, alongside whom they played as kids, and whom they watched surpass them in fame and fortune.
“There’s players in the [NHL] whose signing bonus covers the entire salary cap for the Connecticut Whale,” Battaglino lamented. “I mean, their signing bonus! Not even their salary. Just what they signed for would cover our salary. And it’s like, ugh, how did genetics miss me on this one? I’ll tell people I played at B.U. and they’ll be like ‘Oh, do you know Charlie Coyle?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, but I played there too!’ Nobody says, ‘Hey Charlie, do you know Anya Battaglino?’”
But alas for Anya Battaglino and the rest of the players in the NWHL, the marketplace doesn’t much care for perceptions of politically correct fairness, only reality. The NHL has more than 21 million paying customers coming to its games each year and a national TV deal, etc. If for some reason the NHL attendance slipped to only 1,000 fans per game they, too, would have to take similar measures to survive.
All of us from time to time can get sucked into thinking that the marketplace is being unfair, but as Milton Friedman pointed out, fairness as a societal objective comes with the loss of freedom. “I’m not in favor of fairness. I’m in favor of freedom, and freedom is not fairness. Fairness means somebody has to decide what’s fair.” And who is to decide what is fair? Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, federal judges? I think you get the point.
The reality is the market place doesn’t care about the politics of Colin Kaepernick or the sex of hockey players, only the economic results they deliver. In the end, what system could be fairer than this?