Money Well-Deserved?

If someone were to offer you over $25,000,000 to play a sport you love, would you would take it? Alex Rodriguez, the retired star shortstop and third baseman for the Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, and most notably the New York Yankees, was in this situation and, like anyone, he decided to sign the contract. However, the question of whether he deserved the contract remains to this day. It is still asked every time a star athlete signs a contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars, or an endorsement that pads their ever-growing wealth even further. 

When A-Rod signed his 10-year, $252 million contract all the way back in 2000, it was the largest contract signed in the history of sports. It was considered insane; it doubled the value of the previous highest contract signed by Kevin Garnett with the Minnesota Timberwolves. However, in the 17 years since, sports contracts have climbed ever higher, with players such as James Harden of the Houston Rockets and Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors signing contracts that will pay them an annual average of $36,372,193 and $40,231,758, respectively. Also, Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton signed a contract that will earn him $325 million over its 13-year life. But it’s more than just these contracts, since the majority of players also sign lucrative endorsements with companies ranging from sports equipment to restaurant chains to technology brands. Cristiano Ronaldo, soccer star for Real Madrid, as well as LeBron James and originally Michael Jordan, have signed lifetime contracts with Nike, earning them money deep into the foreseeable future. From the time Jordan signed his contract in 1993 to November 2016, the endorsement had paid him $474,000,000, and Ronaldo and James will make astronomical sums like Jordan has even long after they retire. For these endorsements, athletes are required to wear the brand’s shoes and other gear, appear in their commercials, and assist in the brand’s marketing via social media. Other well-paying endorsements include Kevin Durant's deal with Nike worth over $270 million, retired soccer star David Beckham’s deal with Adidas worth over $160,000,000, and retired NBA legend Kobe Bryant, whose deal pays him over $15 million per year.

Professional athletes in major sports earn contracts paying them millions and millions of dollars, but Olympians and other athletes in smaller sports who work just as hard, if not harder than bigger sport stars, make far less money. In 2015, CNN estimated that the vast majority of U.S. Olympians earn no more than $15,000, below the poverty line. This requires many of them to rely on second or even third jobs, as well as support from their families, in order to make enough money to survive. In addition, players in the MLL (Major League Lacrosse) have salaries that usually fall between $10,000-$20,000. They aren’t paid livable wages despite the fact that they dedicate so much time and effort to playing their sport, while NFL, NBA, and MLB players receive contracts valued in the $100 millions and endorsements paying up to $60,000,000 per year. The best-compensated lacrosse player, Paul Rabil, makes $1,000,000, but that includes his salary as well as all his endorsements, which winds up being far below what a player in a larger professional league can expect to earn.

Many people look up to athletes as heroes and inspirations, buying their jersey’s, tickets to their team's games, and cheering them on passionately. However, these athletes, whose jobs exist for the sole purpose of the fans’ entertainment, can make hundreds of times more money than the average person. The United States per capita income, or the mean salary of all full-time workers, is approximately $56,000. The average salary for an MLB player is $4.47 million dollars, or nearly 80 times more than most Americans. The highest paid American athlete, Stephen Curry, makes 750 times more money than the average. “Furthermore, police officers, firefighters, and doctors save lives while risking their own for a fraction of what sports stars make. People in the military leave their families at home to defend and protect the country knowing they may never return,” according to Mihir Bagat, a former writer for bleacherreport.com. He highlighted how people in more important jobs that save lives and can risk their own, receive zero in comparison to professional athletes whose jobs’ purpose of entertainment can be filled by an X-Box or computer.

Each and every year, professional athletes receive even more money from their endorsements and contracts, but the question will always remain whether or not they should be making all this money. They will always make 100s of times more money than the people who support them and many will make more in a single season than you will make in your lifetime, but, do they deserve it?