Are athletes getting paid far too much?


Robin Bridges

A graph of the top five paid athletes in their respected sports.

Megan County, Writer

Whether or not professional athletes are overpaid has been a long-standing debate. And in a world where some professional athletes are paid almost 100 times the salary of the average U.S. teacher, it comes as no surprise.  

Regardless of whether or not you think athletes are overpaid, the issue at hand is not how much they’re being paid, but why they’re being paid that way.

In a February 2015 article for Business Insider, Cork Gaines offered up a salary comparison for the top 100 players in the four major U.S. leagues. It is no surprise that the MLB has the highest average salary amongst its top players – roughly $16.4 million per year – considering it is the only league without a salary cap. The NBA comes in second, with an $11.9 million average. The typical actual salary, not including major signing bonuses, for the NFL’s top players were little over half that of the MLB at about $9 million. Finally, rounding off the list is the NHL at about $7 million.

Obviously, not all professional athletes make that much money, but even most rookies make more money than some of the world’s other leading professionals.

So why are professional athletes making more money than most of us could ever dream of?

Well, there are many factors that go into it, such as the amount of time athletes put into perfecting their skills, the wear and tear on their bodies, and their short career spans.

As fans, we encourage and allow for athletes to get paid higher and higher salaries each year, because we keep coming back for more.

According to Steven Kutz in a July 2016 article from Market Watch, the NFL generates roughly $13 billion in revenue each year. The MLB, NBA and NHL generated $9.5 billion, $4.8 billion, and $3.7 billion respectively in 2016.

Though a good portion of this money comes from TV deals signed with major networks, a lot of it also comes from ticket sales and merchandise. As a fan of Chicago sports, I can tell you that I have purchased insanely priced tickets to Cubs and Blackhawks games, averaging around $30-$60, with no regrets. I definitely have at least one form of apparel for the Cubs, Hawks, Bulls, Bears, and yes, even the Sox. As much as I would like to sit here and say that athletes are overpaid, considering even some rookies make more than the President of the United States, I am partly responsible for funding their paychecks.

The big four are all multi-billion dollar companies, and you have to think of them in terms of a company. A successful business is only going to pay their employees what they feel they are worth.

Then you have the middle of the road employees who make above the country’s average wages. Finally, there are the department executives. These are players like Tom Brady, LeBron James and Patrick Kane, who are not only faces of the business, but also top earners for it.

My question though is where does that leave the upper management and CEO of the company?

What most people fail to realize is that professional coaches and league commissioners are making just as much, if not more, than some of these players. Now in an industry like the NFL or MLB that comes as no shock because again, these are multi-billion dollar businesses; but what about college sports?

The highest paid public employee are college coaches in 39 out of the 50 states. The highest paid public employee in the United States is Alabama’s head football coach, Nick Saban. With a winning record and a football team that is the pride of Alabama, Saban rakes in a cool $7.09 million per year. To put that into perspective, most governors of states only average $137,415, and according to the Associated Press, Alabama’s own governor, although not required to, doesn’t collect a salary.

When you take a look at the expenses of a college football team, like Alabama, compared to revenue gained, it is easy to see why Saban is paid so much.

Alicia Jessup, a contributor for Forbes, showed this comparison in an August 2013 article. Alabama spent $36.9 million that year, but brought in $82 million. Alabama was only topped by the University of Michigan and the University of Texas who spent less ($23.6 million and $25.9million respectively )and brought in more ($85.2 million and $103.8 million). Both of these team’s coaches are their state’s highest paid public employees as well.

Not all of this money comes from the government though. In a September 2016 article from 24/7 WallSt., Evan Comen said:, “The revenue stream from highly lucrative TV and other media deals and the fact that college athletes are not paid largely explain the exorbitant salaries for coaches.”

I’m guilty of watching college football every Saturday during the season, and I own gear from at least three different colleges, so again, I, as well as other fans, are still a part of the reason these coaches get paid so much.

Professional athletes and coaches have been paid lucrative salaries for years. Of course it seems crazy that a player or a coach would make more money than a doctor, lawyer, fireman, police officer, teacher, or even our president. But as fans and consumers, we keep putting the money in their pockets. We keep returning to our favorite spot on the couch, with our good friends and our usual game-day snacks every week just to watch Tom Brady throw that touchdown, LeBron James hit that three-pointer, Anthony Rizzo hit that home run , and Patrick Kane to score that goal.

Until we as fans decide to give up on our teams, they will continue to help these players make this type of money.

But as long as they keep playing, I’ll keep paying.


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