How Much is Too Much: Are Professional Athletes Overpaid?

In today’s world where the job market is as fierce as ever and the competition is sky high, everyone is trying to make enough money to sustain their family or loved ones. It’s why people go to college, why they work 40 hour weeks, and why they put in tireless hours mastering skills they need to excel in their future job. It’s clear why a surgeon should be making $240,440 annually or why an air traffic controller earns $118,780 a year as they are directly responsible for the lives of hundreds of people. Is it clear why an athlete should be making at least 5 times what a surgeon makes or 10 times what an air traffic controller earns? In this article, I examine both sides of whether or not athletes are overpaid.

Throughout my lifetime, I have watched countless touchdowns thrown, several game winners knocked down, and some amazing home runs hit. It is no secret that sports bring us great entertainment value and a means to relax after a long day at school or work, but should athletes really be making millions of dollars? Take a look at the average salaries in each of the 4 major American sports:

  • NBA: $5.15 million
  • NFL: $1.9 million
  • NHL: $2.4 million
  • MLB: $3.2 million

Athletes Are Not Overpaid

While these figures may seem high, there are convincing arguments that prove these salaries are worth every penny. Just last year, the NFL generated over $13B in revenue, which is ultimately very beneficial for the economy and the capitalistic society we live in. Refer to the image below for more leagues and the revenue they generate on a yearly basis. More money generated means more money available to be spent on goods and services, so don’t we have the athletes to thank for our growing economy? At the end of the day, aren’t we, the fans, the ones that are enabling these athletes to make so much money? Aren’t we the ones that rush to buy our favorite player’s jersey or eagerly spend hundreds of dollars on “good” seats to watch our favorite teams up close? I know I have more Sacramento Kings merchandise than I would like to admit. If one day we decided to not show up to the games or if we stopped buying LeBron James bobbleheads, I’m sure the leagues would take notice and take measures to reduce player salaries to account for the decreased revenue. If people have a problem with athletes’ salaries maybe they should take action to rectify the situation instead of adding your favorite team’s hoodie to your virtual online cart.

There can also be an argument made that athletes make so much money because their careers tend to be nearly twice as short as an average American’s. The average age of retirement for an everyday American is 62 and for a pro athlete it’s 33. The reason for their short career is usually due to injury which can linger for a lot longer than just the next morning. Typically, these athletes pay for their own medical expenses and taking an ACL tear (one of the more common sports injuries) as an example, the medical bill for that surgery will cost you between $20000-$50000. There is no question that an athlete will spend more on medical bills than the average Joe.

Athletes are Overpaid

The other side of the argument blatantly disagrees with all the points presented above and argues that athletes should not be making the money they make. While no one is denying the countless hours athletes devote to their sport how physically demanding their profession is, it’s simply erroneous to think that Steph Curry will make more money in one year than an engineer or doctor will make in their lifetime. In fact, the minimum salary in the NBA for a first year player is $562,493. I’ve yet to hear of any company that has a starting salary of half a million dollars but if you know of one, let me know; I’d love to apply.

In a country where the median salary is $51,939 and where 14.5% of the population is below the poverty line, it is frustrating to see athletes paid so much in comparison to other professions that are seemingly more vital. What’s even more frustrating is to hear a professional athlete complain about their salary, a salary that 14.5% of America would gladly take. Maybe we should take this money generated by the 4 major sports in America and put it towards solving the poverty crisis or finding a cure for cancer.





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