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VAUGHAN: Professional sports needs to pay the little guy if a return is inevitable

Economic benefits of pandemic sports needs to benefit all income levels
Todd Colin Vaughan/Lacombe Express Editor

Sports should come back…and not just because I’m bored.

Right now, the NBA, NHL, the MLB, and every other professional sports league are pondering how they can safely return to action during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

If you would have asked me in April, I would have said absolutely, positively, no way that should happen. The numbers were astronomical at the time and there was no way I would be okay with watching sports unless I personally watched Alberta CMO Deena Hinshaw give Connor McDavid and all of his teammates nasal swab tests before every game.

My thoughts have changed.

The relaunch of the North American economy is happening across the continent, forcing citizens out of the safety of their homes and back into the the workplace at a rapid pace.

This is happening while COVID-19 remains very much in our midst, but the necessity of ongoing capitalism means people have to go back to work.

The argument this raises in terms of whether professional sports should return is that if people making minimum wage across the country should be forced back into work without health certainty; than why shouldn’t people making 100 times the minimum wage not be asked to do the same?

Essentially, the wealth of professional athletes and the owners of professional sports teams shouldn’t be a reason to treat them as a protected class during a pandemic.

Luckily, all indications are that the athletes and owners themselves as a general rule want to return to the ice, fields, courts and so on, but what my previous argument leaves out is the thousands of individuals who make a less-tidy income from the business of sports.

Broadcast teams, arena staff, caterers, care-taking staff and many more will be put at risk when sports inevitably returns. These people simply cannot be left out of the business mathematics that are the basis of the decision to return. In fact, every one of these individuals should receive significant hazard pay. I would hope leagues do the right thing and ensure that, but I certainly do not have high hopes the cash will be forked over.

In general, it is important that returning to sports over the fear of loss of revenue should mean that everyone involved with that returning gets paid handsomely for the risk involved — not simply those who quite honestly have the resources to weather the storm financially if another lockdown were to occur.

Sports will return. There is simply too much money on the line not to return. As a fan, I very much want them to return — but the benefits of that return need to trickle down.

Thousands of people will put themselves at risk to make the NBA, NHL, MLB, NFL and all our favourite pastimes possible again.

Everyone, especially the less financially fortunate, should reap the monetary benefits of that return. I doubt they will.

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