Why Cowboys Players Might not Enjoy Having Training Camp in California

The Dallas Cowboys, sans Ezekiel Elliott, traveled 1,500 miles for training camp instead of staying close to their home base. To some, this may bring about images of beaches, sunshine, and all things associated with California. It also gets players away from their homes and set their sights on football. After all, training camp is the longest uninterrupted time a team may have together before they get into the heart of competition.

However, aside from the focus on football and California sun, there may be financial reasons that players may dislike this move by Jerry Jones. 

Cowboys players have to pay California taxes

Due to a California law, players have to pay state income taxes, which are some of the highest in the nation. According to Forbes, players are not paid for training camp, and their per diem is the only payment they receive for this time. However, California laws count training camp as “duty days,” or days in which they are performing in the service of their jobs.

That means a percentage of their overall salary is taken out of their annual earnings based on how long they were in California. The result means that some of the highest-paid players will be paying far more than they would have if the team had stayed in Texas, or gone to a nearby state to prepare for the year. 

How does it affect the players?

The Dallas Cowboys head to Oxnard, California for part of training camp, but there's one reason the players might not care for it.
Cowboys players have to pay California income tax for their time in training camp. | Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images

Amari Cooper makes a healthy living in the NFL; he is set to make $13.92 million for the 2019 season. However, according to the Forbes article, the California training camp will cost Cooper $158,000 in taxes, with an additional $40,000 going toward the state thanks to a 2018 postseason game and a pair of preseason games in California. 

Tyron Smith, the highest player on the Cowboys, will also be in deep when the taxman comes along, owing $221,000 in taxes for his brief sojourn West. For about two weeks of work and then some, this is a hefty price to pay for what is essentially, for these players, work-related travel. 

Why California? 

Oxnard, California does offer an advantage over Texas thanks to having more conducive weather to the rigorous training involved with training camp. However, the distance is still an issue. California isn’t the only state in America with good weather. Houston combats the weather by having an air-conditioned space to hold their training camps inside. 

Furthermore, other states, if the Cowboys are willing to travel as far as they have, offer good weather with a lot cheaper tax bills. Forbes points out that states, such as New Hampshire, have no income tax and pleasant weather, which is why the Patriots are smart to use their facilities at the end of every summer. That doesn’t mean the Cowboys come here, but it shows that there are options everywhere. 

Will the Cowboys ever leave California?

Jerry Jones knows about these issues as they pertain to his players, but appears steadfast in his insistence that his team moves there. These issues are nothing new to the Cowboys, but they return there year after during training camp. Unless the players publicly gripe about the move, it will likely remain the same for many years. 

When people hear about the players’ astronomical salaries, they often fail to consider the financial burdens that eat into those large salaries, from taxes, to non-guaranteed deals, to agent fees, and so much more. They are lucky to play a game for money, but it doesn’t mean they are immune to the same financial frustrations as the average fan. By holding training camp in California, Jones is subjecting his players to hardships which, on paper, appear to be avoidable.