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Newspaper Letter Reveals Faulty Logic On Athlete Pay

At their best, sports provide a bridge to connect otherwise disparate groups often across racial, gender and ethnic lines.

But, our games, or more accurately, the people who play them, can split us too, usually unintentionally and often along those same lines.

We found that in a seemingly harmless letter to the Baltimore Sun last Thursday about a gift from one man to his fellow men.

The letter, written by a Karen Price, described the writer’s disappointment when she learned that Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was giving his offensive linemen Rolex watches as a thank you for their work this season.

Price wrote that instead of giving expensive gifts to professional athletes that are quote making an insane amount of money unquote, Jackson should have given what he spent on the watches to charities and taken the linemen to dinner.

Price said that someone should have given Jackson some guidance, ending her letter quote Sorry, Lamar, I am not such a big fan now unquote.

It didn’t take long for all that peace on earth, goodwill toward men jazz that the holiday season is supposed to promote to disappear, particularly through the auspices of social media.

Price and her letter were the No.1 trending topic on local Twitter for most of the day Friday. And as you might imagine, she was pilloried in language that would have made the most obscene comedian blush.

Most of the criticism broke along two lines. One is that Jackson is not the first player to provide expensive gifts to teammates. The second is that Jackson is free to spend his money as he chooses.

The idea of quarterbacks and running backs providing gifts to their protectors, the offensive linemen, is not an original one and certainly not in Baltimore.

Jackson’s predecessor at quarterback here, Joe Flacco, gave his linemen slushy machines last year, smoker grills the previous year and virtual reality headsets the year before that.

While Price was certainly entitled to her view, her assumptions, in that respect, were grossly unfair and paternalistic, as if she knows better how to spend Jackson’s money.

And candidly, the Sun, where I worked for 23 years, did Price a disservice by not providing her and readers context, not to congratulate Jackson, but instead to give an accurate record.

It’s the second idea about athletes and their money that is frankly more troubling and potentially more explosive.

Price’s assertion that professional athletes make a lot of money is true, juxtaposed against the public. The median salary for NFL players is about $860-thousand, which, of course, is a handsome salary, when laid against the general workforce.

However, that’s a superficial and unfair comparison, since football players generate billions in revenue and have a smaller workforce to divide the money than the populace at large.

We certainly can and perhaps should have a discussion about the relative worth and social contributions of athletes contrasted to the general population.

But that conversation should have as its base something on a higher level than what appears to be an uninformed letter to the editor of the newspaper.

And that’s how I see it for this week. You can reach us via email with your questions and comments at Sports at Large at gmail.com. And follow me on Twitter at Sports at Large.

Until next week, for all of us here, I’m Milton Kent. Thanks for listening, Happy New Year and enjoy the games.

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.