On Lockouts and Alimony

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All eyes are on the players during the current lockout, but they may not be the only people who suffer. (AP)
All eyes are on the players during the current lockout, but they may not be the only people who suffer. (AP)

When a wage-earner's wages fluctuate, and sometimes even when that just seems to be about to happen, the wage-earner makes adjustments, or has adjustments thrust upon him or her.

This is as true of players in the National Football League as it is of anybody else who works for a living.

It is also as true of pro football players as it is of any other fellow similarly attached or previously attached that alimony and child-support payments are inclined to rise and fall according to income. When it's falling that happens, you cannot get blood out of a turnip, whether the turnip sells insurance, teaches geometry, or jumps on footballs.

So it's not surprising that according to a widely-read and very widely commented-upon article published this week on, numbers of N.F.L. players have been trying to arrange for more modest payments to various people they've been required to support.

This might be characterized as pre-emptive action, since normally, even absent a lockout, NFL players aren't paid in May. Unless their agents have arranged for advances on bonuses or salary, players receive their checks during the season.

And the premise of the story itself might be characterized as unfair and misleading, since the pro football players exploring the possibility of adjusting downward their financial obligations are only doing what jobless or potentially jobless stock brokers, bankers, and corporate executives too insignificant to qualify for golden handshakes have always done. But NFL players earn an average of 1.8 million dollars annually, and NBA players, who are anticipating a lockout of their own next month, average almost six million, so they are likely subjects for stories about money that is and then suddenly isn't, which is a popular subject. Beyond that, a relatively small number of pro football and basketball players have been spectacularly prolific in the production of children, and accordingly their associates in the games have sometimes been unfairly characterized as generally profligate in that area.

Still, dubious as some of them have been, this week's stories of women and children as potential victims of the lockout does more thoroughly establish the context within which that lockout is continuing. Like all big businesses, the NFL supports a lot of people peripheral to the enterprise itself…not only purveyors of bad food and warm beer and marketers of large, foam fingers, but also the partners and progeny of the players. It all adds up to another reason to hope that whatever petitions for relief the players have been filing will become irrelevant by the time they are scheduled to get paid again.

This segment aired on May 14, 2011.


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