The Department of the Treasury today announced the creation of a new currency designed especially for professional athletes. The money, called athlodollars, will be put into service immediately in an effort to stem a recent inflationary spiral caused by the routine signing of jocks to nine-figure contracts.
"We had to do something," Secretary of the Treasury Robert E. Rubin said in a press conference. "The wages and salaries in pro sports had gotten so surreal, so out of whack—culminating with the $125 million payoff this week to Kevin Garnett, that 21-year-old kid on the Minnesota Timberwolves—that our monetary system was in danger of collapse."
The new currency, featuring a picture of Garnett on the $1,000 bill, a picture of Albert Belle on the $5,000, Tiger Woods on the $10,000, Michael Jordan on the $20,000 and Jim McIlvaine on the $50,000, will be distributed to all pro teams in America. It will be the only money the teams will be allowed to pay the players in and the only money the players will be allowed to earn—unless they also find a real job for real money.
The athlodollar will be valued at 10% of standard U.S. currency. This will mean that Garnett's six-year contract will be worth only $12.5 million in actual buying power. Rubin pointed out that this still was a lot of money for "someone who really hasn't won a damn thing yet."
"It all goes back to the values we place on contributions to our society," President Clinton said in a statement read at the White House. "Should a man who can stick a tough, turnaround J in the middle of traffic be rewarded so much more than a man who spends a lifetime teaching our children or caring for our elderly or our sick?"
Reaction to the new currency by athletes and their agents and union chiefs was uniformly negative. In Houston, Rockets forward Charles Barkley had to be pulled off a Treasury agent he had grabbed by the throat and was holding off a balcony at the Summit. In Green Bay every member of the world champion Packers wore a black ribbon in practice to protest what quarterback Brett Favre called "the end to the American Dream of getting all you can whenever you can." At various baseball playoff sites, major leaguers pondered union head Don Fehr's proposal to play only 10% of each postseason game, after which they would sit down in the field and at the plate. No immediate action was taken by the players.
Team and league officials in all sports, fearing reprisals from their stars and superstars if they expressed their joy at the move, issued a series of no comments. However, one unidentified NBA owner, close to bankruptcy and pleading for a new arena with luxury boxes to help meet his payroll, added, "It serves the money-grubbing bastards right."
Treasury Department officials declined to comment on reports that other currencies—entrodollars for entertainers, corprodollars for high-ranking corporate executives and journodollars for television-news anchors—soon will be released. The officials did stress that neither the athlodollar nor any of the other possible changes would have any noticeable effect on "the rest of us."