On paper, it looks like top sportstars have it all; fancy cars, grand mansions, adoring fans, and an annual paycheck that most of us would happily live off for the rest of our lives. But as the NBA trade deadline draws to a close, and the NFL’s free agency begins, the harsh realities of life at the top are put into focus.
While footballers often have a certain degree of control when deciding their futures, sometimes downright refusing a move if they are not happy with the contract on offer or dropping less-than-subtle hints that they would like to play in sunnier climbs, those across the pond are deviod of such luxuries.
In a move that shocked the NBA, Sacramento Kings star Demarcus Cousins, who can play both centre and power forward, was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, and a couple of 2017 draft picks.
While the trade itself came more out of the blue than a shark attack in a low-budget Jaws spin-off to both fans and media, the man at the centre of it all was left equally out in the dark. As the details of the deal were being finalised by team owners and managers, Cousins was playing in the NBA All-Star Game. According to Fox Sports, he only found the trade had gone through when he was about to face the media in the aftermath of the match. USA Today reported that just a week prior to the move, Sacramento had promised Cousins that he would not be getting traded.
Understandably, Cousins was upset but, as a professional, has already moved on and started work for his new team.
Although this is not a new phenomena, it raises the question of whether players are treated too much like an emotionless commodity, without giving thought to the personal upheaval that comes with relocation across the country. While Cousins will be aware of the benefits that come along with such a move – namely the money, and potential to play with the likes of Anthony Davis – his love for the team, fans, and city that defined the last six years of his life make it no easy departure. For his wife and kids however, the move could be much more arduous. Leaving their lives behind and entering a new environment without friends or family around them could prove troublesome.
Across the NFL, there are similar stories unfolding every day. As teams look to streamline their salary cap, no player is assured of their place within an organisation. After over a decade of committed service, Nick Mangold was released by the New York Jets, forced to look elsewhere for gainful employment. Although he has made enough to not worry about his release, not everyone is so lucky. For most players, a complete relocation would come with serious financial strains, only compounded by their desire to succeed as the ‘new guy’.
Such logistics are rarely thought of by owners as they look to gain the most for their money and strengthen their team – their investment. Although some players attempt to have some control over their destiny, often through hold-outs, the ever-looming threat of being cut and losing it all prevents any major change.
Although the stars of the show, players are still just the pawns in an increasingly costly game of real-world chess.
Image courtesy of Takeshi Pinedo