After reading over the collective bargaining agreements for all of the different leagues, I actually find it very interesting how much they can vary among each other. Like how important it is to have regulated knee pads, thigh pads, and shoulder pads in the Canadian football league which was given its own provision in itself in the CBA. Then looking into the MLS and seeing the rules and regulations of legal chin guards while playing. Of course, it is the nature of the sport but seeing how all of these collective bargaining agreements have so much in common, they are also juxtaposing each other at the same time. However, the four professional sports that I want to analyze and observe is the MLB, NBA, NFL and MLS. I find these four to be very interesting as the provision and exhibits in them offer valuable and law-abiding information but vary among the very nature of them.
Bonuses are something that all players want but how they receive them among these different professional leagues are very different. The reason I want to discuss and observe bonuses among the leagues is because my girlfriend is a professional soccer player in the NWSL and is in and out of the Women’s national team camps. Bonuses for professional women soccer players is something that they all count on. For example, there are goalkeepers in the NWSL that negotiated a performance bonus in their contract where if they have a shutout during their game, they can earn up to and not limited to $1,000 for that game. Performance bonuses go a long way in not only the NWSL but also the MLS where in both leagues, salaries are not as high as those of the NFL, NBA, and MLB. Professional soccer players who make the national team can earn up to and not limited to $5,000 for every goal they score dependent upon the important of the tournament they are in. Like many other professional teams, the MLS players receive a bonus if they are successful and make it to the playoffs and/or the championship game that season. The performance bonus structure is a complex negotiation that is set forth by the players agent and the club. “In addition, Reserve Players earning less than the Senior Minimum Salary shall receive a $500 bonus for each appearance they make with the first team in an MLS game during the League Season, and an additional $750 for each MLS game they start for the first team during the League Season. For avoidance of doubt, any Reserve Player earning less than the Senior Minimum Salary shall receive an additional $1,250 for each game he starts for the first team during the League Season.” (Article 10, Section 2.2). These are just the basic pay bonuses for the MLS, some of the other team bonuses include $75,000 for winning the MLS championship, $80,000 for being the runner-up, $35,000 for winning the conference, $20,000 for qualifying for the playoffs, and $7,500 for every game that they win. However, US soccer pays up to a $250,000 bonus if the US team is a USOC champion. These bonuses are very interesting to look at as they are what players hope to earn since their salaries are not as much as other professional leagues.
Bonuses in the NBA vary in a substantial way. For example, in the CBA for the NBA, it states that “no Uniform Player Contract may provide for a signing bonus that exceeds fifteen percent (15%) of the Compensation (excluding Incentive Compensation) called for by the Contract (or, in the case of an Extension, in the Article II 57 extended term of the Extension), and (B) no Offer Sheet may provide for a signing bonus that exceeds ten percent (10%) of the Compensation (excluding Incentive Compensation) called for by the Offer Sheet.” (Article II, Section 12). In other words, there are strict limits to what they player may earn as a bonus because of the strict salary caps in the NBA, limits to bonuses help alleviate the possibility of exceeding their salary cap. Another strict entity I found within this CBA is that, “No Uniform Player Contract may contain a bonus for the player being on a Team’s roster as of a specified date or for a specified duration, or for the player dressing in uniform for or being eligible to play in a specified number of games.” (Article II, Section 12c). I find it fascinating that because NBA players’ salaries are significantly higher than MLS players, there are not as many opportunities to earn bonuses. I really believe that this is a great way to regulate the salaries of different leagues and their players and plays a vital role in pay equality.
The MLB has a different type of view on pay bonuses as well, including performance, award, and team bonuses. A player in the MLB has the opportunity to be awarded a bonus if he qualifies for MLB awards. For example, players who given a bonus if they qualify as a candidate for the “Cy Young” award and are given an even higher incentive bonus if they win that award. Perhaps one of the most interesting entities that I found while reading the bonuses section of the MLB is that, “A Special Covenant in a Uniform Player’s Contract that provides that Player performance or achievement in one year of the Contract will increase the Base Salary in other year(s) of the Contract shall not be considered in the determination of Salary until the triggering event occurs.” (Section E, 4b). This means that once a uniformed player in the MLB earns a pay bonus that of performance, award, or team, their annual base salary increases for that year. A “Special Covenant” is something that was only made for the MLB, giving it quite the different look when it comes to pay bonuses.
The last league that I want to analyze is the NFL, the beast in itself. In the NFL’s CBA, they state that any and all incentive amounts are including but not limited to performance bonus shall be included in the team salary if such bonus is earned. Any incentive bonus that is dependent on a player’s individual performance or any incentive dependent on the player earning a league award that is not listed in their exhibits in the CBA are completely prohibited. Some team incentives included for the offense are points scored by offense, touchdowns, and total offense (net yards). Some on defense include points allowed by team, total defense (net yards), sacks, and interceptions. There is a plethora of ways to earn individual incentives for every position like total pass yards by the quarterback, rushing yards by the running back, and even total punt yards by the punter. I was genuinely surprised after reading all the incentive possibilities for NFL players to earn bonuses especially considering how high their salaries already are.
Even though each league has its own way of distributing bonuses, I believe that leagues that are paid less money like the MLS should be able to have more opportunities to earn incentives. I think it is superfluous for a player in the NFL who is making over $12 million dollars a year to be able to earn even more money for passing a ball 100 yards farther than the opposing quarterback. MLS players should be given bonuses based on how many minutes they are playing per game, this way they have the opportunity to earn more based upon their play time. NFL, MLB, and NBA players would be perfectly fine if they were to not receive bonuses. I hope, sooner rather than late, MLS players have the ability to negotiate this into the team bonuses rather than hoping to make the national team where bonuses are paid out more.