All In This Together? MLS Players Should Take A Paycut
COVID19 rages on, and FC Cincinnati continues to whether storm after storm, whether it be a disgraced, casually racist coach, a player with an apparent drinking problem, or stepping on a seemingly biweekly social landmine while spending north of $500,000,000 in the West End. Amid all of the bad news, as an FC Cincinnati fan, I don't want to have to add "defend the players' unwillingness to take paycuts while others suffer" to that already extensive list.
MLS is in the those of figuring how how they would finish the 2020 season, if such a thing is even possible. Across the nation, including MLS itself, the majority of workers have experienced pay cuts, furloughs, or outright layoffs, or at least know someone close to them who have experienced the same. "Stay At Home" orders are slowly timing out, for many business owners, the damage has been done. While they aren't shutting their doors, FC Cincinnati is no exception to rule where sacrifices are necessary in the wake of this unprecedented challenge.
In a recent Enquirer article, Jeff Berding described the measures FCC took to ensure their entry-level staff were able to avoid furloughs or layoffs, volunteering pay cuts starting at the top, to the top 2/3rds of wage-earners within the club (C-suite down to coaches and staff). For all of the PR missteps and unforced errors from FCC; this is a bright spot, and what you would hope to see from your club. While other clubs across the nation have taken SBA loans, furloughed workers, and undergone layoffs, FC Cincinnati has taken the phrase "We're all in this together." to heart; which is why the statements from its Players' Union representative Spencer Richey were somewhat unexpected.
In contrast to FC Cincinnati, Richey's statements in The Enquire indicate that preliminary talks for players to share in the sacrifices (in the form of potential, temporary pay reductions) made by the majority of the country would not necessarily be well received by the players. Richey said:
"We are aware that the owners are getting crushed by this pandemic and that’s something that we’re not being naive to but also with that, it’s hard because our CBA doesn’t have a force majeure clause in it like some of these top leagues in the country," Richey said. "We’re also not contractually obligated to just accept any pay reduction without a conversation, without a discussion as to what the rest of the season might look like. If one of these quarantine tournaments were to happen in a selective market then certainly players would be much less receptive to a pay reduction."
With matches halted since March, and a restart date uncertain with the best prospect for competitive matches being played at Disney World (yes, seriously. The proposed player pay-cuts would go a long way to securing the imperiled jobs of various club employees (Including FC Cincinnati), and it would frankly a bad look to balk at a temporary reduction in pay while others around you make significant career sacrifices, some relatively permanent.
Richey's statements were not definitive and no official proposal to the players has been made, much less has there been a concrete plan to restart MLS play. But with the Bundesliga and various leagues around the world resuming play, a vote may come sooner than later; and while no one wants to take pay-cuts (though NBA and MLB are rumored to be in pay-cut negotiations), it's appropriate to consider their temporary pay reduction could keep 100s of jobs intact across dozens of clubs and cities. MLS players and our own Spencer Richey would do well to look around the nation and share in the temporary sacrifice if asked.
After all, we're all in this together, right?