There is no denying the fact that athletes tend to have expensive taste, especially veterans who have been playing in their league for many years and receive higher salaries. Curious minds may inquiry about how these expensive tastes translate into in-season meals and meal allowances. The player unions of the different leagues have taken time to negotiate with the owners of the teams to find a fair daily meal allowance rate per player.
The NBA has the most in depth breakdown of player meal allowances, down to the hour of departure. The 2017-18 daily meal allowance per player was $129. If the team is required to arrive before 7:00 a.m. or depart after 9:00 a.m.; this allowance is for reduced two meals, not including breakfast. If players are required to arrive before 11:30 a.m. or depart after 1:00 p.m.; this allowance is for dinner only. If players are arriving before 5:30 p.m. or departing after 7:00 p.m., they are not entitled to a meal allowance for that day.
The collective bargaining agreement for the NBA goes as far as dictating a specific percentage of the daily meal allowance for each meal. Should a player not be granted meal allowance, they will lose 18% of the original $129. Lunch meal allowance is deemed 28% of the daily allowance, and the last 54% is allocated for dinner. Based on the percentages given, a player would receive approximately $23 for breakfast, $36 for lunch, and $70 for dinner. To put the meal allowance into perspective, the dinner allowance is enough for a player to dine alone at Nobu and order their favorite sushi and also leave a tip, considering they don’t require a five-course meal.
The NFL collective bargaining agreement also goes in depth when it comes to the amount of the daily meal allowance, but they attack the issue from another angle. Instead of allocating a certain amount of money to each player per day, and subtracting a percentage of that money for each meal they are not entitled to, the NFL puts a flat rate on each meal. During both the 2017 and 2018 seasons, the NFL teams were required to pay $28 per breakfast, $38 per lunch, and $56 per dinner, totaling $122 for one full day.
While this is just slightly less than the NBA is offering their players, this is still considered a fair amount per meal. The NFL collective bargaining agreement even goes as far as to include the allowances for future years so there are no surprises. From the 2018 to 2019 season, each meal allowance is raised $3 per meal to account for the increase in cost of living.
For the 2012-13 season, the NHL offered $100 in meal allowances to their players. Each season, the NHL meal allowance increases from the previous year based on the increased cost of living. When traveling to an away game, NHL players leaving prior to 12:00 p.m. local time, are entitled to their entire meal allowance for that day; departure after 12:00 p.m. reduces the meal allowance by one-half. In the event a NHL player leaves their away game prior to 12:00 p.m. local time, meal allowances are reduced by one-half, but a departure time after 12:00 p.m. means players are entitled to their entire meal allowance. No meal allowance is paid to players leaving their home city after 7:30 p.m.
Considering many of these players were once college athletes receiving a meal allowance, the young rookies especially, should be able to budget their allowance properly. Many collegiate athletes receive a daily meal allowance of $60 per day for three meals, which leads to a much stricter budget when deciding what they should fuel their body with.
There is no one way to make everyone happy on a team, let alone an entire league, and I believe the leagues are doing the best they can to provide fair meal allowances for their players when traveling for game. The NFL season for one team has almost as many games as one month of NBA or NHL play does per team, so the number of times the meal allowance needs to be paid out needs to be taken into account. While the NFL may have a larger roster of players, NBA and NHL teams are on the road more often.
It is surprising to see that teams in each league are not required to provide a physical meal for their players on days that they would normally receive a meal allowance. There are times you cannot avoid having to pay a meal allowance, like when you have to spend many hours in an airport, but providing a physical meal through a caterer may save money for the teams in the long run. Providing the meals also provides an opportunity for teams to make sure their players are receiving the proper nutrients and fuel they need to play their sport.