The Plan To Reopen: The MLB and NBA Try to Compromise With Its Players

Avinash Uppuluri, Author












Now more than ever, enthusiasts across the United States are waiting to get back to following their favorite sports. However, due to the current COVID – 19 pandemic, stadiums remain closed (for the public) which drastically reduces the amount of money team owners gain from the games they host. This denotes that they have to pay the players while not earning adequate revenue from the game(s) itself. This creates a problem that puts team owners as well as the players in a very tough spot.

For instance, teams in the NBA earn most of their revenue from 2 out of 4 classes of income. These categories are called market income and arena income. Arena income is the revenue that comes from the arena such as seating, and home game attendance. Market income refers to the city or region where the team plays. By losing the ability to have fans, there will not be sufficient income generated to pay the players. NBA commissioner Adam Silver asserted that gate revenue or revenue that comes from the stadium generates approximately 40% of the league’s revenue per season. 







Because of this NBA teams were forced to reduce players’ salaries by 25%, and this could potentially go up over these next few months. If the season is canceled, Yahoo Sports states that pay cuts could go up to 40 %. This would mean that professionals would lose approximately 1 billion dollars in salary. Notwithstanding this figure, some of the most prominent players such as Lebron James and Stephen Curry, (amongst others) who make considerably more than the average NBA player, have previously been paid their contracts in full, at the commencement of the season. Alternatively, they will receive a reduction per paycheck for the 2020 – 2021 season.


In baseball, however, the contention over pay cuts is not that simple. The MLB proposed a pay cut of salaries from roughly 4 billion a year to 1.5 billion. This is a significant pay cut that the MLB players union did not support. They would prefer the pay cuts to be substantially less. Additionally, the MLB proposed an abbreviated season which would mean less pay for the players as well. In addition to this, the amount of money each professional receives is contingent on his original salary. In other words, the greater your salary is, the larger the pay cut you receive. This is being referred to as a sliding scale salary reduction. When asked by SNY, one player described the pay cut like this, “‘They’ve just taken the biggest problem in the union, the pay class divide, and flipped it on its head…And now they’ll watch as the union tears itself apart as the highest-paid fight back on this while the lowest-paid say ‘whoa whoa whoa, we like this!’ ‘The union will try to convince those young, naive players that it’s in their interest to stand together, but it isn’t.’”


This predicament has sparked a discussion among fans but more importantly between the MLB and the MLBPA (the players union) and is causing problems for many baseball fans. The MLBPA was against the pay cuts, and the two associations still are yet to reach a compromise.

 Presently more than ever fans want to be able to watch basketball and baseball, and this puts pressure on the organizations to make a deal with its players. However, this predicament is jeopardizing that opportunity. Whether you believe that professional athletes get paid too much in general or not is irrelevant right now, what matters is who should compromise on the pay cuts.

On one hand, the athletes should be stepping up to allow the pay cuts because it’s better to have less pay then no pay. Also, it is the duty of celebrities and people we watch on television (the players) to set a good example, and take the moral high ground in that manner.


For example, the golf match between Tom Brady and Phil Mickelson vs Peyton Manning and Tiger Woods raised over 20 million dollars to charity. This shows that people are watching sports and are eager to get back. On the other hand, the golf match was just one game, and this is a whole season. By asking the players to accept such a huge pay cut you are asking (most of them) to lose a portion of their principal source of income. This is an immense sacrifice that not all players want to make, and it should not be demanded of them to make. While these are the two primary positions, it is not merely black and white. There is also the controversy of the sliding scale salary and how that concept produces controversy as well.


The Coronavirus has made us change how we interact, and we have seen adaptation from how we work to how we learn. Naturally, there will be discrepancies when constructing this new system, but it is what we do to try to amend those differences that will make the difference. In basketball and baseball, that means coming unitedly together on a compromise between the players and league because that is the only fair way it will be solved. While the NBA has done a good job of this, the MLB needs to find common ground with its players and figure out a solution, before they strike out.