Thesis Paper-The Players' Revolt and the Great Baseball War
2 October 2014
Professional Athletes in Comparison to Military Members and Societal Values
The Afghan accord approved Tuesday September 29, 2014 extended the United States role and
presence for another two years with troops remaining to help train, advise and equip Afghan soldiers all
while the soldiers earn a meager salary. Meanwhile, professional athletes earn lucrative salaries for
playing a sport. This reflects the societal values of Americans. People willingly pay to attend these games
and sit for a few hours to be entertained while the nation’s defenders receive significantly lower salaries.
Professional athletes did not always have these huge contracts. The reserve clause in baseball sought to
keep players’ salary demands in check. If players had the option of moving from team to team, then
salaries could escalate quickly.
Through the inclusion of having such a clause, owners and managers proved more able to control
the players. Players had two options: “either refuse to play until offered a salary to his liking or quit
Neither option proved great. Refusing to play meant a loss of salary and blatantly quitting
seemed out of the question when jobs outside of the sport were hard to find that would pay an equitable
amount. Players could hardly find a salary close to what they earned playing ball when consistently
players “earned twice and sometimes even three times as much as an experienced craftsman.”2
reserve clause remained in effect until 1975 when the modern free agency system began.
Fast forward to 2014 and large contracts for professional athletes abound. Players like Los
Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw (with his new contract beginning in the 2015 season) and
Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard earn $30.7 million and $25 million respectively
The question as to whether professional athletes are overpaid remains a perennial topic of
discussion and shows a reflection of American culture to let such large contracts exist. Some individuals
will argue that players provide entertainment to everyday people and this is what earns them the large
salary. Yet, military members earn significantly lower salaries all while risking their lives for the United
States. People who either enlist or commission into the United States military do so knowing they have to
Benjamin G. Rader,“The Players’ Revolt,” in Baseball: A History of America’sGame (Urbana:
University of Illinois Press,2008), 62.
Ramona Shelburne, “Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw have Deal,” ESPN (January 16, 2014),
seven-year-deal-worth-215-million (accessed October 1,2014); “Phillies Sign Howard Through 2016,”
ESPN (April 27, 2010), http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=5137456 (accessed October 1,
leave their family behind to go do their job and they might never return. Unfortunately, these individuals
do not receive the recognition from society as professional athletes receive.
In order for military members to receive higher pay, taxes would be raised. It would be a small
price to pay when they defend the country. Airmen upon finishing Basic Military Training (BMT) at
Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas retain the rank of Airman Basic (E-1) or earn the rank of
either Airman (E-2) or Airman First Class (E-3) based off enlistment period, college credits and other
requirements. The salaries range from $17, 892 to $21, 089 for enlisted Airmen.4
Granted in addition to
this salary, Airmen receive vacation with pay, low cost health care,tuition assistance and basic housing
allowance, among other benefits.
This reflects American societal beliefs that military members choose this life by enlisting or
commissioning and that they know what they are signing up for with the low salary coming with the
decision to enlist. This meager salary oftentimes can lead military members living paycheck to paycheck.
While many individuals in times of peace overlook the sacrifices military members make, these people
chose to write essentially a blank check to the U.S. payable up to their lives. Professional athletes, yes
they also spend weeks on the road and time away from their families, but the circumstances are not nearly
the same. Military members earn higher salaries as they rank up and are in the military for a longer
period, but until that time comes, the salary looks low in comparison to professional athletes. In
conclusion, professional athletes make lucrative salaries to play a game, while military members make
significantly lower salaries risking their lives, which reflect American societal and cultural values.
“Enlisted Pay,” U.S. Air Force (2014), http://www.airforce.com/benefits/enlisted-pay/ (accessed
October 1, 2014).
“Enlisted Pay,” U.S. Air Force (2014), http://www.airforce.com/benefits/enlisted-pay/ (accessed October
“Phillies Sign Howard Through 2016.” ESPN. (April 27, 2010).
http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=5137456 (accessed October 1,2014).
Rader,Benjamin G. “The Players’ Revolt.” In Baseball: A History of America’sGame. 62. Urbana:
University of Illinois Press,2008.
Shelburne, Ramona. “Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw have Deal.” ESPN (January 16, 2014).
agree-seven-year-deal-worth-215-million (accessed October 1,2014)
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