Ryan Powell: The MLL, A Player’s League?

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Hi LAS followers!

I realize that the MLL is not the NFL, NBA, NHL or MLB.  Not yet anyway!

However, I wanted to bring up a thought that I have had for many years now: The conflict of personal player endorsement deals within Major League Lacrosse.

You all see how the major professional sports leagues have a title sponsor that does their uniforms, provides equipment and footwear, right? The NBA is Adidas, the NFL was Reebok and is soon to be Nike, MLB is Majestic, and the NHL is Reebok. This seems like a fair deal for the players on these major professional sports teams, as sporting good companies dump a lot of money into the league, and that makes it stronger, and overall, more visible.

Let’s not forget that all the players in these leagues are also making hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars, and they play in front of thousands of fans every game – often on TV as well. The MLL is just not there yet.

MLL fan attendance levels are not very strong and there has yet to be a major TV deal. I have played MLL games in front of less than 1,000 fans. Don’t get the wrong idea here, as I am in no way trying to bash the MLL. I have respect for Jake Steinfeld and Commissioner David Gross; they have build a very nice league that allows players to play the game that we love at a professional level and get paid for it.

This is my problem with the league: The Pay! When I started in Major League Lacrosse in 2001, I was paid a pretty good salary for my first Summer. It was a nice part-time gig, over the Summer, and made giving up every weekend, and traveling all over well worth the opportunity to play with and against the best players in the world. The second-year I was paid 16% less, a year later 20% less than my original salary, a year later another 31% less than my original salary, and so on.

I got a call from the LI Lizards last season and they offered me a salary 60% less than where I started with the league in 2001.  When you make so little money from playing professionally, you need to have another job during the week to provide for your family. And I was not able to accept their offer to play for the Lizards. Not because I wasn’t a good enough player, or that I’m greedy, but because I found other ways to generate money without traveling across the country every weekend.

Keep in mind that I was the highest, or at least one of the highest, paid guys in the league. Some players who play give up every summer weekend, and they do it for much less. The MLL is a great gig when you’ve just finished up with college because it’s a decent amount of money to continue playing the great sport of lacrosse. A few years later you realize that you have to get serious about your future and making some real money to support the needs of you and your family.

As lacrosse players, we always say that it’s not about the money, but it’s about the love of the game. I have said that many times and I even recently said it when I signed my contract to play in the NLL for the Boston Blazers.

When is this mindset going to change?

For players, it has to be important for us to make money and continue to grow the game. More money means more dedication to the sport; imagine making enough money to play the game as a full time job. How sick would the on-field product become? Wow!

So how can we keep this league going strong and provide an opportunity for players to make more money? Personal endorsement deals may not be the end-all be-all answer, but I believe that this concept would be a good place to start.

How cool would it be if the players in the MLL where logoed up like a NASCAR racer? You could do this in a way that maintains sharp looking uniforms and team gear. I’m actually in support of teams looking united and dressing as a team, and this personal endorsement idea would not be a way to attract individual attention. I actually think that as crazy as the NASCAR racers are with their logos, they always look clean and sharp.

Dale Jr. looking sharp.

Dale Jr. looking sharp.

Check out pro snowboarders, as another example – they may all be a part of the Dew Tour, but they have their own gear and deals. This could be accomplished in the MLL as well. The MLL could issue guidelines on how big a logo should be on a jersey and how many logos they could have on their helmet, or what color socks the players had to wear, etc. But they would not be able to say you have to wear this or that in order to play and if you don’t you will be fined.

Something like this would allow a lot more players to make more money by doing what they love to do. So, hypothetically speaking, John Galloway comes out of college and is pursuing a career in the MLL. He approaches a few companies and asks if they would be willing to sponsor him.  He says, “I will wear your gear/logo in every MLL game that I play and at all of the clinics and camps that I work.” The big lacrosse companies, sporting goods companies, and beverage companies, etc. would be much more willing to be involved with professional players that are able to represent their logos and gear.

If the player can not wear their logo while playing professionally, the companies are less likely to get behind the athlete.

With this idea, a player could have a personal player endorsement with a company for his cleats ($1,000 from Nike), he gets his sticks from STX and uses them in the MLL ($1,000 from STX), he gets his gear from Brine ($1,000 from Brine), he gets his lid from Easton ($1,000), and then the player works out a deal to have Gatorade, Redbull, Subway and Lacrosse Unlimited provide $500 each for their logo placement. So after this deal is worked out the player is now making an additional $6,000 to his MLL contract.

This would make every company involved have a more vested interest in the game. Exposure would increase because you’d have all these companies working together to promote the MLL. Nike would be doing commercials with Max Sielbald actually playing in the MLL. They would be able to do these commercials because Max would be wearing Nike cleats. They are not going to do a commercial with him wearing a competitor’s cleats, uniform, etc. In the NBA players wear the footwear that fits their feet best and performs the way they need them to perform. These options should exist in Major League Lacrosse.

WWDJW? What Would Dale Jr. Wear?

New Look MLL:

Uniforms – MLL logo would be on the uniforms, and there would be areas that players could add their sponsors.

Cleats – Players could wear whichever cleats they choose to wear.

Sticks – Players use whatever brand they would like to use.

Gear – Again, players would be able to choose the products that best fit their needs. And yes, they would need to be a certain color to fit the team regulations.

Helmets – Use what feels right, has to be the team color with matching team stickers.

Logos – MLL could regulate how many logos are allowed on the front and the back of the jersey as well as the size of the logos (same with the helmets, socks, etc.)

*Like the NBA, if you do not have a sneaker deal with a company, then you wear the league sponsored Adidas sneakers. Same with all of the above mentioned catagories; if a player does not have a deal with a company, then he would be required to wear the league sponsored and approved products.

As the league grows, and players are making $160,000 a year to play the game, I would probably have a different feeling about personal player endorsements compared to a league deal. If I was making $160K a year, and lacrosse was my full time job, I would not be as concerned about being required to wear certain products. But for now, this is the way that I see the league growing and continuing to take the necessary steps to becoming “big time.”

I believe that the most important piece of allowing players this opportunity is the marketing that the league would receive by many more companies being involved. A picture from an MLL game of Brodie Merrill could be in the T-Mobile store in Toronto because he has the T-Mobile logo on his jersey and on his helmet. The more companies involved means more exposure for the sport, the league and more money for the players. In the end, everyone wins!

As I stated at the beginning of this blog, I have respect for Jake and commissioner Gross. But let’s realize that it is the players in the league that make the league what it is; the fans come to see the players. When I had the opportunity to play in front of 22,000 in Mile High Stadium on the 4th of July game in 2008, I realized the fans that attend MLL games come to watch the players. The most electrifying lacrosse players in the world that are the very best at what they do. It is time to give some rights to the players and respect what they do every weekend over the summer months.

I totally understand that the league is currently not in a position to pay everyone in the league $40,000 for playing. I really hope that happens in the near future! But until guys can make a full time living playing the game, it is time to think outside the box and discover new ways to generate more opportunities for these great players that make the MLL what it is today.

About the author

Ryan Powell

A 4x All-American at Syracuse University, 2x MLL MVP, NLL All-Star and 2010 Team USA World Champion, Ryan Powell currently runs his company, Rhino Lacrosse out of Portland, OR.


  • I think it’s definitely an interesting proposal that could for the time being allow the league to grow and the players to get paid. Pro surfers, and even ams, are given stickers by their sponsors to be placed on their boards. Getting a shot in surfer mag with the right sticker generates even more income for the surfers, who also get paid very little (with exception of the top echelon) to stay in the game. Lacrosse, for some reason, has a culture to it that is more like that of surfing and skateboarding then it is to the NFL…warrior even makes skate shoes i think….adrenaline’s adds hardly even highlight lacrosse…and “bro” culture or whatever seems to have infiltrated both realms…”90% is in the flow”. Because of the culture, I don’t think, for the time being, the league’s integrity would be hurt by energy drink adds and the like. Following the surfer model above, it would be crazy to think about Rabil getting a bonus from red bull for sticking a game winning shot or getting a pic in inside lacrosse.

  • As a unrecognizable rookie in the league I find this concept extremely interesting. They pay is meh at best but its not why I signed up to play. More money would be awesome and making this a full time job would be what every little kid dreams about.

    The Nascar idea is pretty cool I think it would only work for premier players like yourself and a few others. Another option would be the euro hockey idea. Teams would receive the sponsorships as opposed to just one player. Local companies can also get in on the sponsorships as well. Small breweries,restaurants ect ect. I feel that this would be a more lucrative concept for not only the league but sponsor and the customer. IE: “Come eat where the Rattlers eat at Henrietta hots” Players are paid to wear the logo/make appearances at the restaurant. Customers go to the restaurants in hopes of seeing a player. Restaurant draws business from customer coming to see (insert pro here), Competing restaurant see’s influx in compeditior and decides to invest themselves. More money goes to the team/player

    Also I think NB strangle hold hurts the league a bit. ( i do understand why it is the way it is) Having multiple companies fighting for attention works out for everyone see hockey again. Players are using a variety of gloves/helmets/sticks/skates ect. This allows everyone to get a piece of the MLL action whether it be STX gloves warrior shaft and a maverick head it makes the league more “authentic” than being forced to use a product because a brand owns it. Kids will be more so inclined to buy the top of the line stick IE Ovechkin hockey stick 300$ easily breakable dollars because its HIS stick that he USES in actual play. K18 uses K18, G22 gets to use his g22 and Rabil gets to use the bull as opposed to trying to sell a product they are holding the a picture and playing with in another.

    just my .02 , Im excited to see where the league goes in the future and hopefully get to stick around for it to become that dream job.

    • You said ” it would only work for premier players like yourself and a few others.” I’d have to disagree. You would be surprised how welcoming some businesses and companies are if the relationship is right.

      Agree with you the rest of the way.

      PS I miss you! hahaha

      • Perhaps you are correct. I guess I am thinking the bigger companies would set the sights on the big name players.

        Come to ROC for a plate this summer if you aren’t to busy playing lacrosse in hockey helmets!

    • “E: “Come eat where the Rattlers eat at Henrietta hots”” Plus thats a win-win-win situation. Player gets extra $, Restaurant gets extra exposure – leading to more business, and the team gets more exposure at said restaurant – leading to more fans in the seats.

      Using the players as a PR rep and having everyone benefit! That is basically what happens already but the players do not see any direct compensation. If it is player initiated, they should see the just comp.

  • I like the concept but I think it fails to consider two central issues:

    1) In the NFL you’re not allowed to wear a competitor’s gear. Only reason guys like Reggie Bush wear adidas is because adidas pays the fine for him (or the contracts far outweigh the fines). I hate to state the obvious but the reason these sponsorships work in surfing, golf, racing, etc, is because they are individual sports; you are sponsoring a single athelete with the specific equipment they choose to wear.

    2) This would be great for the stars of the leauge, but for the most part it would not apply the guys making league minimum (how are role players gonna get endorsements?) and more importantly the league itself. The league/teams need these endoresement in order to keep the whole thing afloat. I believe the league is working hard to pay the bills, the team owners are probably breaking even at best, and having individual players wearing whatever they choose would only disincentivise the exisiting sponsors to give money. Why would NB continue to contribute so much money if all the players are wearing Nike cleats (I realize NB has a bigger stake in the league than just cleats but it’s a simplified example)?

    The best thing, IMO, would be to operate similarly to soccer. Have each teams jersey crowded with sponsorships. Throw sponsor logos (not team logos) on gloves and helmets. Paint company logos on the fields. Sell these jerseys that prominantly feature “Verizon” on the front instead of the Cannons logo. Sell the team shorts with Warrior , Cascade, Vineyard Vines, Rhino, and LAS logos on them. I can go on and on but the point is to sell every piece of real esate like Dale Jr., but for the teams and the league to do it, not the players. Yeah, it’s selling out and probably in a disgusting way but it’s more importannt to have financial growth and security for the league, teams, and players.

    If the teams and the league are making more money they’ll be able to pay the players more, across the board, not just the top players. They’ll be more financially sound and they can expand the league, grow the coverage and the viewership, which will in turn grow the endorsements (Reaganomics anyone?). Also, all of the good stuff Ryan mentioned above still applies except for the ability for individual players to choose your own equipment.

    • 1) Very valid point. However, like surfing/boarding/etc… each lacrosse players play on multiple professional teams. One player can play in a NLL, MLL, WLA/OLA (Canadian Box), each in respect seasons, and play in 2 world championships (Box/Field). And the very high profile Field Tournaments i.e. Hawaii, Vail, Lake Placid, etc… even LXM Pro?!

      2)It is very common for those “role players” to be the most personable and likable guys, not only on their respective teams, but in the community, and with fans. It is all about how you leverage that personality that will drive in the endorsement/sponsorship dollars.

      • Chris, the fact that players play in multiple leagues does not negate the fact that in each league they are playing on a team that needs to 1) look cohesive and 2) could probably benefit from more sponsorship money to be spread around evenly.

        When guys are making enough to have pro lacrosse be their only job it will be because the bench guys and practice players are making enough in salary to survive. Guys have endorsements now & focus on lacrosse year round now (Seibald) but that’s not the vast majority of players.

        Bottom line: role players can try to leverage their personalities all they want but companies aren’t going to dish out REAL cash for somone who sits on the bench and therefore isn’t seen on the field or mentioned in the broadcast. No kid is growing up say, “i want to be the 8th middie in the depth chart”

        • The Niino, you said, “role players can try to leverage their personalities all they want but companies aren’t going to dish out REAL cash for somone who sits on the bench and therefore isn’t seen on the field or mentioned in the broadcast…” Real cash or not, cash is cash, and promotion for selling your own product brings cash in. Example: Connor Martin – Has the personality, played 3 games in the NLL, 2 in the MLL, and kids LOVE him because the guy has an amazing personality.

          • Con Bro Chill is a great example but he’s the exception, not the rule. And what makes him marketable is his notoriety. He’s created that for himself regardless of his performance on the lax field. Could this happen with other players? Definitely. But not everyone is going to have a superstar alter-ego created through youtube.

            I’m a huge lax fan and I don’t know the majority of the starting roster of most MLL teams. I do know who the superstars in the game are, mostly because I’ve been watching them since they were in college. If these players havd the ability to lock down sponsoships, it wouldn’t necessarily increase visibility for any of these products to me, and I’m clearly the target demographic. Not to mention the fact that a good televised game doesn’t have a lot of close up action the way a baseball game might. The game action itself if generally shot from a wide angle prospective, allowing little ability to read player A’s logo on his helmet and why it is different than player B’s. And no matter how we cut it, visibility is the reason these companies invest in sponsorship.

            I hope you can agree that individual sponsorships only benefit the individual players that are able to get the sponsorships through star status (whether by ability or I’ll concede by other means too), whereas more sponsorship money (which truthfully has to come from outside lacrosse) given to teams and/or the league would help the League, the Teams, and the players. At the end of the day, more money in the sport means everyone profits; not just the talented or notable.

          • “I hope you can agree that individual sponsorships only benefit the individual players that are able to get the sponsorships through star status (whether by ability or I’ll concede by other means too)”
            – I do agree

            But I think this topic is becoming to narrowly focused. I want to reiterate that sponsors, and more importantly, as players seek sponsorship, those sponsors are looking at more than what is happening on the field. Yes, the pro lacrosse is on TV. But the player does not control, camera angles, face-time, interview requests, etc… What needs to be leveraged are the camps, clinics, and other aspects of the “pro lacrosse” life style. Sure there are sponsored guys/girls who kate and snowboard. Some have MAJOR sponsors and money is generated. But we dont know who they are (we – general sporting public). This basically comes down to sales. If a player is able to sell his lacrosse career (, camps, coaching, clinics, speaking engagements, etc…) and be able to ADD a corporate logo/patch/screen to his jersey, that sweetens his pot, agreed?

  • Isn’t the NLL even more brand strangled than the MLL? I’ve seen games come down to the fact that a player has the wrong sneakers on even though they are taped up. It is strange that guys like Rabil do not even get to use the product he endorses on any level. How am I supposed to trust his opinion on a head when he only uses it in commercials?

    • How am I supposed to believe in Visa, I never see Peyton Manning use one, not even in the commercials.

      No one should ever buy a product because a professional says it’s great. Remember, they are being paid to say it’s great.

      • I agree with you when it comes to things like credit cards and soup, but I feel like the equipment a player uses has a great deal of pull on the consumer. If you see your favorite player, who’s style you try to emulate, using a certain stick you’re going to be pretty likely to buy that stick.

        This is the concept that profession sports like skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding, cycling, surfing, etc are based on. You see the best using something and you figure it must be good. You buy it.

  • One of the better ideas I have heard that won’t work. You talk about STX paying you $1000 for using their stick, Brine paying $1000 for using their gear, Cascade $1000 for wearing their helmet (yeah..not a fan of the new Halo helmet) etc. There are I don’t know, 24 guys on a team for 5-6 teams. Out of the possible 125+ people, how many guys will STX, Brine, Nike, Cascade etc pay $1000 to?! I don’t see them wanting to payout $100,000+ in “bonuses” to these guys. Also if you start having guys wearing logos instead of team names then why have nicknames like Cannons, Outlaws etc. The top soccer teams like Manchester United don’t have names. So soon it will be the Boston team and team Denver, sounds like a cross-country pick-up game to me. As a guy said below, self-sponsors work in individual sports not team (which I don’t know how the NBA hasn’t done it yet, that’s an individual league but I’ll stay on task). I do like the idea of having team sponsors that everyone wears but not over their logos. I also like the comment that said let the guys use what they want like hockey and basketball with their shoes.

    You got to remember, the NFL didn’t start out with guys making 20 million a year, they were everyday guys with jobs and legitimate children playing for the love of the game on the weekends. Although the MLL has been around for a couple years, the NFL has been around since 1920 so it is a lot further along. Be patient and as the sport continues to grow more attention will be brought to it and money allows follows that. People who start a revolution normally don’t see the benefits but in the years after people will be able to look back and say wow Ryan Powell was a great player and helped shape the league, for example what the NFL does with Bart Starr.

    I’ll sum it up with this last thought, you are focused on the INDIVIDUAL right now, the focus must be on the slogan of this site, GROW THE GAME and the growth of the league as a WHOLE. From what I can tell, Paul Rabil makes a decent enough living for now whereas others struggle. What you are proposing will benefit a Paul Rabil or Matt Danowski not the back up goalie on the sidelines. BUT if the focus is kept on the league as a whole everyone will benefit and I can only hope in the future the back-ups will be making the league minimum of $400,000 like the NFL players.

    and as George Costanza would say, “I’m OUT!”

    • Actually, 125 players times $1,000 a player divided by multiple manufacturers isn’t $100,000 a year, nor is it a bonus, it’s marketing money. But even if one company was spending $100,000 a year, that isn’t a big number in context, in-fact, it means they’d have to sell less than 800 sticks as a result of their efforts to make it all back, giving no value to the added branding.

      Spending that cash, which as I said, is an over-estimate, would be like having one less executive who supervises lax bros, and instead, sponsoring nearly every player in the league and benefitting from their personalities, talents, and targeted appearances.

      What sounds like a better use of money for business?

  • Yuck, one thousand times yuck! This is precisely what the MLL doesn’t need. Nascar looking sharp? I disagree, I think they’re they’re ridiculous. Lacrosse is a team sport, and allotting individuals free space on their uniforms will detract from the team atmosphere. Guys without any endorsements will obviously feel a disconnect while staring the guys with billboards on their jersey in the huddle. I agree with allowing players to use whichever equipment they want if they have a deal with that company, just like in the NFL and NBA, and they can wear whatever helmet they want (they can even do that in the NFL and NHL). One place where things MUST be uniform is the uniforms. It sends a message to be wearing the same shirt as the guy next to you, they’re all the same when they step on the field. The comparison to the Dew Tour is ridiculous. That’s an individual sport, they’re in no way a team and they’re competing against one another. Pro skiers and snowboarders entire professional existence comes from endorsements and gear deals, very few win enough contests to actually use the money for anything useful.

    The MLL is already too much of a monster truck show. The two-point line was a ridiculous addition that detracts from the game, in my opinion. It was a pathetic reach to create more excitement. The only rules I really like are the limit to the number of long-poles and the shot clock. Those are reasonable ways to speed up the game and increase the scoring. Let’s stop making a mockery of the game we love with pathetic marketing strategies. We need to grow the game from roots up to see the professional game become more exciting. Look at the MLS, they’re doing well now without ever adding a two point line and turning their players into NASCAR drivers. Yuck.

  • all good points, but i think if the league is serious about moving forward we have to consider moving the season. college lacrosse sat/ pro lacrosse sunday!! tv could get on board at this time of the year as the only think that we would be against would be final four hoops. there is a dead space on tv from superbowl until the end of march madness, then the baseball season starts and nobody cares until september!!

  • RP does a decent job of addressing how players can be compensated more and tangentially how that might increase the promotion of the sport, but what does that do exactly to increase fan interest? I think most people acknowledge that the “product on the field” is pretty darn good as it stands right now. If players were compensated in such a way that allowed them to focus solely on lacrosse, can we agree that the product would be only marginally better? Would marginally better make a non-trivial difference in the attendance at these games, all other things being equal? Personally, I don’t think so. If you agree with what I’ve said so far, better compensated athlete or not, how long can the league survive drawing, on average, only a couple of thousand fans per game? It doesn’t seem sustainable to me and to me the numbers aren’t for a lack of quality players or promotion.

    I live in the Baltimore area and go to at least at least a dozen D1 games during the spring if you count the tournament, face off classic, etc. A lot of my friends do the same. However, I have yet to attend a Bayhawks game and I don’t know anyone who has. Honestly, I’m not sure why I can’t get into it. I’m a huge fan of the game of lacrosse and will go to mid-week MIAA games just for kicks, no rooting interest at all other than seeing good lacrosse. If I catch an MLL game on TV, I will typically try to watch it, but just can’t stay interested. For some reason, it reminds me of the CA roller hockey games that used to come on ESPN back in the day.

    Maybe it’s a function of being laxed out by the time the MLL season rolls around. Maybe it’s a function of being busier with the family in the summer. Maybe it feels a little amateurish compared to the NCAA tournament that is at that point fresh in my mind. I really can’t put my finger on it, but as much as I try and as much as I love lacrosse in general, I am truly indifferent about the MLL. Perhaps someone smarter than I can figure out why that is.

    • “RP does a decent job of addressing how players can be compensated more, but
      what does that do exactly to increase fan interest?”

      The individual companies who sponsor each player would have it in their best
      interest to promote the game to customers, which would in turn create more
      casual fans.

      I totally feel you on the interest level thing… It’s tough for me to get
      interested in the MLL on TV too.

  • Great piece. The increasing opportunity cost of playing in the MLL is often overlooked by fans, something is not better than nothing when nothing isn’t the next available option.

    Summer is the highest grossing opportunity for camps, clinics, teams and general advertising efforts for the faces of the game. Plus, the best amateur tournaments are all taking place, so they miss out on that fun.

    The value of these summer opportunities has greatly increased since the leagues inception in 2001, in-line with the growth of the game, especially for the big names, while as Ryan pointed out, league pay has been going low and away, in-line with stagnate attendance and pathetic marketing efforts. It’s reached the point where pro-lacrosse is probably the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th best available option economically speaking.

    It’s greatest value, and it’s an important one, has been as a validation of talent, solidifying the name that is the player’s brand. “MLL All Star” has value beyond the bonus in drawing kids to camps and clinics, but sooner than later, something like the LXM but not, will open up an outlet that gives guys the opportunity to flex their talents, while maximizing the player’s time and income opportunities.

    The invisible hand is warding the MLL to the side and it’s close to burying it for good.

  • There is a lot in this article that might sound good for the individual, but really makes no sense.
    – First, players in the MLL are already getting endorsement deals from outside companies. Ryan is with Nike, no? Seibald is with Nike. A few guys are with Maverik, some with STX, Reebok, etc. So, the fact the Warrior sponsors the league has absolutely nothing to do with getting endorsement deals.
    – This concept would basically eliminate the league sponsor (Warrior, Brine, NB). Why would they give all the money and product to the league like they do now when any other company could get the same exposure and benefits by paying a player $500? So if RP’s way did happen, you would have a lot a few of the top players decked out in sponsored gear while many of the lower end players are buying their own stuff because no one has endorsed them.
    – The league and teams operate because o sponsors like New Balance, Brine, Warrior pay them money. That is what pays the salaries, helps operate the teams and pretty much funds the whole league. RIght now, attendance is not to the point where ticket revenue can drive everything. If its gets to that point, you might be able to start thinking about this system.
    – Ryan said ” When I had the opportunity to play in front of 22,000 in Mile High Stadium on the 4th of July game in 2008, I realized the fans that attend MLL games come to watch the players.” Really??? Then why aren’t there 22,000 people there every game? The players are the same, right? You think it had anything to do with a big fireworks show that night? Players need teams to market them, sell tickets, etc. Just because certain players are playing, doesn’t mean 20,000 people are going to show up.
    – The NLL has this same system (with Reebok). Why is it only the MLL needs to change it up? If most pro sports operate in the same fashion, you have to think that its for a reason. Not just to hold the players down.
    – This article is centered around the players. But it takes a well run team and league office to make it work. This system does nothing for the teams that put all the financial risk into operating. Since there is no way for them to operate on just ticket revenue, most owners would not be willing to run a team. No owners, no teams, no players, no league.

    I sincerely hope that players can make more money just playing lacrosse. I think most players are extremely grateful for the opportunity to be able to get paid to play lax. Like Ryan said, its more for the competition and the chance to play. Not for the opportunity to be a millionaire. Hopefully, if all parties can continue to work at “growing the game and league” and attendance grows, everyone will be able to make some more money.

    • “First, players in the MLL are already getting endorsement deals from outside companies. Ryan is with Nike, no? Seibald is with Nike. A few guys are with Maverik, some with STX, Reebok, etc. So, the fact the Warrior sponsors the league has absolutely nothing to do with getting endorsement deals. ”

      – More in-game exposure = more $$$$$ for the endorsement deal

  • Several people (myself included) have been saying things along these lines for years. In order to grow into a stronger league, Major League Lacrosse does need to take action to increase player salaries. The easiest way to do that is through sponsorship.
    1. First and foremost, players with gear endorsements should be able to wear their gear in team colors like the NHL. Rabil should be rocking UA cleats and Maverik gear, for example. Not only does this increase the potential sponsorship dollars for these athletes, it opens the door for these companies to purchase ad time during MLL games. Having deep pocketed companies like Nike, Reebok, and Under Armour willing to shell out money for commercials is huge.
    2. There needs to be an increase in outside advertisement. It seems like at least every two out of three commercials during an MLL broadcast are for New Balance, Warrior, or Brine products. Since NB is already using the league to showcase their products, producing ad content – especially the BULK of the ad content – is redundant. Worse, it makes MLL games seem like unworthy broadcasts. In order to land a better TV deal, which will lead to higher salaries, new advertisers must be found. My first point is one door that can be opened.
    3. Allow team sponsorship deals similar to German hockey. Keep the team logo on the sides of the helmet but throw a sponsor logo on the back, visor, and/or mohawk. Heck, just have the team logo on one side and put a sponsor on the other. Have a short sponsor opposite the team logo. Put a sponsor below the numbers up front. Keep the team logo on the chest. Having local businesses sponsor shooting shirts and reversibles is not a bad idea either. This gets local places exposure during warm ups and open practices. These should all be TEAM sponsors, unlike RP’s proposal. Again, this increases revenue through sponsorship and opens the door to more television advertisers.
    4. New Balance would still be the title sponsor and would be the uniform supplier for the entire league. Players without equipment/shoe endorsement deals would still use NB/Warrior/Brine products exclusively – including helmets. Again, this is similar to other leagues where Adidas products (including Reebok and CCM) are used by non-sponsored athletes. On the average MLL team, this translates to only a couple of guys NOT using NB products. Making a team color scheme requirement has worked in the NHL and would work in the MLL as well.
    5. Kind of unrelated to the above: Major League Lacrosse needs to redefine its business plan and ownership. Following the single entity plan of Major League Soccer should help the league. In MLS, the league negotiates all player contracts and pays all salaries. A hard salary cap is in place with teams being able to pay two players above the cap (a third can be purchased). Players are allocated and drafted on a predetermined scale, unlike MLL where Boston (NB HQ is in Boston) has amazingly been able to consistently grab top name players like Mikey Powell & Paul Rabil. Teams share profits and losses. However, shirt sponsorship deals largely go to the sponsored team save $200k paid to the league; MLL could do something similar. This model has allowed MLS to obtain stronger, more committed owners. MLL should target the same ownership groups, many of whom control fairly new smaller stadiums build for soccer, which makes them ideal for lax.
    6. As much as I love having lax after Memorial Day, I am coming around to the idea of NCAA on Saturday and MLL on Sunday in the spring. It works with football, so it might work with lax. The only major issue I see is that high school games are played on weekends in much of the country, unlike football’s Friday night games. So put the games on in prime time Sunday, maybe start after March Madness, and it could be a recipe for success. Put the championship around July 4 and make it THE event of mid summer. A Monday night showcase game might not be a bad idea either…

  • As far as sponsorships: Yes and No.

    Yes- We need more and more companies to be putting their money into the league via sponsorships. This would, like you said, greatly increase marketing and give a lot of companies the opportunity to participate, even local smaller businesses.

    No- How many professional sports leagues have guys with “PlayStation” or “Gatorade” written on directly on their jerseys? I feel this would give the feeling to the fans that theses athletes aren’t playing for them, but for the fame and fortune from having “Home Depot” stuck to the side of their helmet. This would also give the chintzy look of NASCAR that is somewhat of a turnoff for a lot of people.

    MLS is the only big league I could find that had sponsors directly on their jerseys. Although, in most cases, they were able to still keep it minimalistic and uniform with the rest of the team. That’s where I think MLL could succeed. Continuing what you stated, let each player who’s separately endorsed by gear use that gear as long as it matches the rest of the team and meets their specifications, otherwise you have to use the league-approved gear. When it came to company logos, I believe the best solution would be to sponsor a team as a whole. Instead of having Brodie Merrill wearing “T-mobile”, Ryan Powell wearing “XBOX” and John Christmas wearing “Dick’s Sporting Goods”, have all the Boston Cannons players wear a “Taco Bell” patch on their back. This would look more uniform and give more wealth to the TEAM rather than just one or two players.

    • Agreed, sponsoring the team as a whole would a good solution. They could easily adopt a model similar to most soccer leagues with this – hell, it’s the way most premier club lax teams operate already.

    • “I feel this would give the feeling to the fans that theses athletes aren’t playing for them, but for the fame and fortune from having “Home Depot” stuck to the side of their helmet. ”

      I think you missed on this one. Don’t look too into the sponsorship logos. The main point here is that the players need to have the ability to attract sponsors for themselves so they can make some scratch and keep the league moving forward. Very few pro athletes play for the fans. They play to get paid, if the fans are happy you can usually make more $$. As a kid I often dreamt about one day having a corporate logo on my lid, thats when you know you have really made it.

  • An interesting thing to note — Team Canada is actually selling PLAYER SPONSORSHIPS for the World Indoor Championships in Prague this year.

    With the purchase of a sponsorship, the company’s logo is displayed on the player’s game jersey and on the team’s website. It seems to be the team’s way of helping to support each player. The sponsoring company also receives a signed jersey or helmet from the player as a bonus.

  • Why dont we take the professional soccer rout and have teams dicate their sponsors and budgets. Look at all the top clubs in Europe, they all have team sponsors right on the jerserys. I have always been a fan of this model. It allows teams to generate more money, and keeps the uniforms in sync. We could have players choose their cleat, socks, sticks, and head for sponsors, and the Uniforms and Helmets are the property of the club. EASY AS LEMONPEASY

  • One way could also be to have teams have their own sponsors and have those logos on their shirts. Just because it might be easier for RP to get a personal sponsor than for someone else. I’m from Finland and here all professional teams wear shirts covered with sponsor logos.

  • good job ryan powell on this articlem i have said the same stuff since 2005, he just said it nicer.
    unfortubately, i dought anything of substance will happen in rp’s playing time.

  • I think the MLL just needs to market the league alot better. With 20k plus in attendence every game owner would be able to pay players more. These are the best athletes in the world and they deserve to be paid…the only problem I have with the endorsement deal is the price the kids are going to have to pay for equipment..if Lebron gets a 100 million dollar endorsement from Nike,who pays?the familys buying overpriced sneakers,high ticket prices ect.

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