Lionel Messi was sentenced to a jail sentence of 21 months in Spanish prison on July 6, 2016, although it is unlikely he will ever step foot behind bars. It’s not what you are thinking though. I know when I first saw that he would not be jailed, I thought it was because he was the superhuman Barcelona and Argentine football star who was getting away with it because of his prestige. Spanish law says that if you are sentenced to a prison sentence of under two years for a tax crime you can serve that time through probation. Voila!
According to Forbes magazine, Messi makes $81.4 million dollars a year. He has been an endorser for Pepsi, Adidas, Proctor and Gamble and Banco Sabadell – a Spanish bank – just to name a few. The Spanish tax court claims that he avoided paying taxes from 2007 to 2009 on some endorsements by having his father, Jorge, who he claims he let handle his money, set up shell companies in the U.K. and Switzerland as well as dumping money in Belize and Uruguay.
Sadly this case of tax fraud has been dragging through the courts since 2013 when the courts first decided to charge Jorge. In 2014, the courts decided to step up against Messi by telling him that even though he claims he didn’t know he had to pay taxes because he didn’t understand the Spanish system that even when you go to school you understand you have to pay taxes. The Messi duo did pay $10 million in taxes on endorsements in 2010 and 2011 and penalties on the back taxes.
What bothers me the most, is that this seems like another example of someone who is making millions of dollars trying to evade the system. How can he use the excuse that he’s not from Spain so he doesn’t know he has to pay taxes? Or that he let someone else handle his finances? In February 2016, Javier Mascherano, another Barcelona player, was given a one year sentence for not paying his taxes. His legal team didn’t want to pay $312,000 for overdue taxes. I mean really?
Just the other day Andrew Luck, quarterback of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, signed a contract, 6 years-$140 million, which guarantees him $87 million no matter what. He received $47 million of that as soon as the ink dried on his signature. From July 1 to July 4, NBA free agents signed contracts around $3 billion dollars, you read that right, $3 billion dollars. Guys who fill out the bench are getting paid millions – Cole Aldrich signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves for $22 million over 3 years. He averaged 5.5 points and 4.8 rebounds through 60 games for the LA Clippers last season. Can you imagine?
Comedian John Oliver recently made a mockery of the New York Yankees and their Legends Suite tickets behind home plate on his HBO television show “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.” For the opening week of baseball season he gave away two tickets to the fan who would go to the game and act the craziest. These seats in the Legends Suites and Champions Suite that make up the lower section near the field cost upwards of $1,600 a game face value. If you watch a regular season game in the middle of the season you will see these seats empty because average fans can’t afford these seats. Tickets on the field at Rogers Centre in Toronto, putting you as close to the action as you can get, are $297 according to the Blue Jays website. That’s a huge gap in cost. It may be affordable for someone who wants to experience baseball, not that it’s cheap.
Many fans have been priced out of the professional sports experience altogether between the ticket cost, food cost, parking cost and souvenir cost. With the amount of money that is going into salaries it makes sense why many choose to sit at home and watch it on television. The best seat is at home right?
Although if you give it a chance, you may find going to a minor league game can be the best place to be. The New York Yankees AAA minor league team the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders tickets are anywhere from $10-$15. The park is small, 10,000 people capacity, and the stars of the future play there as well as Yankees who are rehabbing on the way back to the majors.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins experience is similar, they play in a 8,300 capacity arena and the tickets can be anywhere near $30 a ticket. It is a small arena and you are right near the action, plus there were a ton of the young Pens who won the Stanley Cup that spent time in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
It’s hard to be a sports fan and feel sorry for guys like Messi, I know I don’t. It’s strange to see guys that barely average 5 points a game get over $20 million dollars considering the era I grew up in. In 1997, Dee Brown was the highest earner on the Boston Celtics at $3.5 million dollars. Aldrich’s contract would put him in the Top 20 of NBA contracts in 1997.
It’s tough to see a guy get $87 million guaranteed and not wonder where all this money is coming from. That money is all coming from the fans who buy shirts, hats and video games. We can also choose to support our local clubs, the ones that we can afford to go see. The ones that don’t get the national attention but are the ones that we should be giving our attention. The ones that put back into our local economies with jobs, donations and community programs. It’s time to start choosing wisely.