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Discussing the moral implications of the Alex Boone holdout

In light of some recent complaints about Alex Boone's holdout, I have some thoughts.

Ronald Martinez

A couple of days ago, we learned that the San Francisco 49ers tried to contact Alex Boone. The reports indicated he rebuffed their advances, which would seem obvious given that his holdout continues. In response, and as a response that I've seen in general to both Boone's holdout and Vernon Davis', some people have asserted that a player is wrong or somehow unethical for conducting a holdout. I'd like to address these concerns.

The easiest way to do so is to point out the fact that the NFL is one of the most unfair professional leagues in respect to players' salaries. The NFL, by far, favors the owners over the players. In an attempt to achieve parity (and, let's be frank, the attempt has been wildly successful), the NFL has imposed upon the league a salary cap. One major consequence of the salary cap is that the revenue that comes to teams from whatever source (like, I don't know, television revenue) disproportionately goes to the owners and not the players. Even though the salary cap changes each year, I can't believe that it does so in proportion to the amount of increased revenue the NFL brings in.

One other major consequence is that the salary cap artificially deflates salaries, hampering the free agency market such that players aren't actually seeing as high of salaries as they would see in a free market. The money that is saved due to this deflation goes to the owners.

I'm not necessarily saying that this is a problem. I'm glad that the NFL has achieved a great degree of parity, particularly because it places an emphasis on a team's management and its ability to draft well, evaluate free agents, and save money with smart contracts. The competition between front offices is heightened when the system encourages obstacles to winning.

That said, I am aware of the consequences of this parity, as are the players. They know that the market is deflated; they know that the owners make significantly more money because of the salary cap; they also know that football is an incredibly demanding sport-more demanding, perhaps, than any other professional sport in America. The window for making money in the NFL is small and these players are some of the most talented athletes on the planet.

So, perhaps Boone isn't handling this with the most grace-I'm certainly not going to say that his actions haven't caused me to question his commitment to the team. Moreover, I'm a firm believer of the fact that when you put pen to paper, you should put serious thought into what you are signing. A contract is an important thing to honor. That said, I don't know what Boone's personal situation is, but I do know how inequitable the structure of the NFL salary cap is. I think it's important keep this perspective in mind.

Creating a moral dichotomy of "honoring" and "breaking" a contract ignores the surrounding context. It also seems to me to set an unhealthy approach to contracts. People need to be able to break contracts. Things change in life.