MLS Players Should Not Take A Pay Cut - And Then Some

All sympathies to Raj for his first foray into the soccer discourse. While it certainly isn't a popular opinion outside of MLS boardrooms, I don't think I've seen criticism of a sports opinion piece that included condemning the entire editorial apparatus for allowing it to exist in the first place. But the fact of the matter here is that MLS Players should not only refuse any pay cut, but that they deserve even more pay if the league decides to go through with their MLS Fight Island concept. Side note: can we all agree to call every attempt at a "bubble league" to be a "fight island"? I chuckle every time I see it.

I will be very upfront with my politics on this, I am very pro-union. I have been a part of a unions one of my grandfathers was a local chapter president, and I've participated in a, failed, vote to unionize my workplace. So unsurprisingly, I am very much on the side of the player's union.

Fans of MLS are fans of soccer, and without soccer players, MLS teams are just merchandise lines. And while you might be able to sell shirts for a team that doesn't play soccer, you probably don't get dozens of billionaires to buy into your business. The players make the fans care. The entire idea of starting up the league is an attempt to get people to watch the players play. Without the players, this entire idea falls apart.

MLS already struggles with paying high wages in the world of soccer and finds it difficult to attract a TV audience to watch what many consider to be a lesser version of the game compared to other leagues. I mention this, because without the existing MLS players, MLS owners would need to break the bank buying a ton of oversea talent or buying USL talent that is not good enough to get in MLS now. There isn't a plan B without the MLSPA's agreement.

Now, there's probably something to be said for the fact that MLS players not taking a pay-cut might mean other people in front offices will be taking a cut. But my offer to them is to unionize. The United States has abandoned its unions and as a result wages have been stagnant for years. In a capitalist system, you have to play in that system. And in order to get the most value for your labor as a laborer, you need to organize.

Nobody likes having their wages cut, or being furloughed, or any other version of taking a reduction in pay. And just because millions of Americans are out of a job does not mean we should hope or even expect it to happen to others. Pay reduction is a tragedy, and any time it can be resisted is a success. These players sacrifice their bodies for our entertainment, and us fellow workers need to support their efforts to maintain or even increase their wages.

Now, this is where I will likely lose people, but this does not stop at this foolhardy plan by the league to play on MLS Fight Island in Orlando while the players take a 20% blanket pay cut. Maximizing players wages should always be a position fans get behind. This includes supporting other league changes that would increase player wages. Including but not limited to removal of the salary cap, removal of domestic player minimums, full free agency, removal of the draft system, removal of discovery rights, promotion and relegation, free to pay academies, bonuses paid to players for transfer fees, and increased minimum wages. The opposite of any of these leads directly to decreases in player wages.

The United States never developed a proper working class identity, and that tragedy shows itself more and more these days. I fear that we're heading for a lockout or a strike and fans will turn on players. People will say things like "I have to go to work, why don't they?" and "It's dangerous for everyone to work, and their job is easy!" And it breaks my heart to see fellow workers attacking each other for fighting for higher wages and better working conditions.  Would you accept your current job if it meant you couldn't see your family for two months and you took a 20% pay cut? Of course you wouldn't. Why, or how, can anyone be upset for players not doing the same?

If anything, the players should be paid more. MLS is in desperate need of placating media companies with new media rights deals being negotiated soon. MLS needs to get their product on TV and they need to do it as soon as possible. And they'll only be able to do this with MLS players. The players need to recognize their position, and demand their value. Bonuses need to paid to players for putting up with MLS Fight Island. Just like every worker needs to.

The billionaire owners of the league are very comfortable either running their teams at a loss, or lying to the public about running these teams at a loss. And the idea that we the fans should be rooting for wage limiting structures to prevent billionaires from overspending their money is laughable. Either our MLS teams are worth putting money into and losing revenue in order to make bank on selling the team later, or it's not worth it and owners won't put more money than they need to into the team. They're all successful owners and managers of businesses, we don't need to parent them on how to manage their finances.

We the fans want to see the best possible soccer with our local teams. Asking the players to take a  pay cut to play away from their families during a pandemic is the antithesis of that. If our local teams want to be clubs, that means being faithful to its members. Shortchanging the players, or any workers, during this pandemic would be anti-club, anti-community, and anti-fan.

Don't reduce the player's wages, pay them hazard pay bonuses.