Credit: Dan Levy/Billy Penn

The NFL announced this week a program to give local residents the chance to not only witness the upcoming NFL Draft in Philly, but actually be a part of it. Philadelphia’s Convention & Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) posted a link for local residents to volunteer to work the NFL Draft, taking place on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway from April 27 to April 29.

In less than 48 hours, all the volunteer positions were taken, and even the waiting list was filled up with names of people who love the NFL so gosh-darn much they’re willing to stand outside for hours on a late April weekend just to say they were a part of the draft.

What an exciting time for an NFL fan to be alive in Philly.

Only, not every NFL fan is so excited. Social media (and even the real media, if we consider sports talk radio real media) has been littered with comments and complaints about the NFL asking the citizens of this great city to volunteer their time to work them. As if the NFL doesn’t have enough money to actually pay these people? What gives?

The NFL took in a reported $13.1 billion last year, roughly as much as MLB and the NBA combined, and is projected for $14 billion this year. The league rakes in nearly $5 billion from domestic television partners alone, including ESPN which will televise this year’s draft along with the NFL’s in-house network. They can afford to pay everyone at the draft. Actually, they can afford to pay everyone. If the NFL gave every American citizen — roughly 326 million of us — two dollars, the league would barely cut its annual revenue in half.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, himself, has made more than $150 million over the last eight years. He could walk around the NFL Experience dropping $100s out of his pants and he wouldn’t even notice. (It’d give new meaning to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, that’s for sure.)

Look, full disclosure: If someone wants to spend their weekend manning the turnstile at an inflatable goalpost like a carney working the church parking lot circuit every summer, more power to them. Some people just like to be a part of something, and if the NFL Fan experience isn’t enough, then by golly who can begrudge someone for wanting to slap on a lanyard, an NFL polo shirt — wait, do you think they get EVENT STAFF windbreakers?!?!? — and “work” for the league?

An estimated 200,000 fans will flood the Parkway for the Draft. Credit: Dan Levy/Billy Penn

Still, people are mad, because people get mad at everything the NFL does. So, to quell the concerns of those nay sayers and boo birds, we reached out to the NFL for comment.

Hey NFL, what gives? Why aren’t you paying your volunteers?

“We are excited to bring the 2017 NFL Draft to Philadelphia and create the largest free football festival in league history,” Kamran Mumtaz, an NFL spokesman, told me via email. “The event is expected to generate more than $80 million in economic impact for the city and support nearly 26,000 jobs in the construction, hospitality, and transportation sectors.”

Well then. That should do it.

“We are also engaging the local community to provide fans with the ability to become volunteers at the event,” Mumtaz continued. “This is an opportunity for those who wish to get closer to the action and serve as ambassadors for their city. Volunteers will support the many activities occurring along Benjamin Franklin Parkway, obtain exclusive NFL gear, and receive special access to the Draft.”

Windbreakers for everyone!!!

The 2016 NFL Draft at Auditorium Theatre in Chicago. Credit: Chuck Anderson-USA TODAY Sports

Mumtaz ended his statement by writing, “We look forward to putting on a successful event that showcases Philadelphia as a world-class destination,” which is spin-doctor speak for ‘I hope the $80 million to the economy and 26,000 temporary construction jobs is enough to make the haters in Philly happy.’

And, you know what, it is. Or at least it should be.

The NFL Draft has already generated record interest, with over 100,000 more people signed up for the Fan Experience than they had in Chicago last year, with still a month to go before the event. Those people all have to eat somewhere, and most of them will either be staying in local hotels or taking transit to the event. That revenue is being counted in the projected $80 million.

The braintrust of the NFL Draft organizing committee in Philly. Credit: Dan Levy/Billy Penn

Ron Jaworski, the co-chair of the NFL Draft committee in Philly, told me in late February that same $80-million figure, suggesting with more than 1,700 media in attendance and an estimated 200,000 people coming to the Parkway during the draft, “that’s going to fill hotel rooms, that’s going to fill restaurants and that’s going to be big for our business community.”

It won’t be hard to calculate all the taxes the City’s going to collect in out-of-towners drinking soda! Who better to fund our preschools than obnoxious Jets, Giants and Cowboys fans hepped up on sugary drinks?

Jaworski said the total cost of hosting the draft should be around $5 million, paid for by the city and the local business community, making the draft ostensibly a $75-million net gain for the area. Think of all the volunteer lanyards that could buy.