Thursday, April 05, 2007

See America on $35 a Day!

Major League Soccer kicks off in just two days, and most of the preseason coverage has been glowing. The buzz revolves around how the league has grown and solidified, Toronto FC's phenomenal box-office coup, 'Rado's new stadium and Beckham's impending and possibly catalytic arrival.

And I was feeling pretty good about all this, until I saw this item on the excellent S. Goff's WaPo soccer blog:

The Marc Burch trade is now official....Burch, 22, will join the club on a developmental contract, which means he will earn either $12,900 or $17,700 this season.

If this league has really grown up, what is it doing paying adult men less than $13,000 a year for risky physical labor? I'm all for giving young kids a bottom-rung, low-budget chance, and that rate might be appropriate for a 16-year-old apprentice living with his parents. But for anyone past the age of 20, that kind of payment is definitely immoral and should be illegal. How is someone supposed to live in a major metropolitan area, let alone maintain the physical and mental condition necessary to play professional sport and "develop," on less than $50 a day?

What can be done? MLS supporters groups in every city should start with a Day of Solidarity with their club's developmental players, using banners and other signage to let the league know that fans will not tolerate this grossly inequitable situation forever. Or will they? I don't think fans have ever made a concerted effort to get players more money in the history of American sports. Certainly, NFL fans seem perfectly happy to let their beloved cartel treat players like disposable parts. Then again, I don't think there's been a "major" league in the modern era quite this cheap.

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