DO ATHLETES MAKE TOO MUCH MONEY?
Author: Ken Wolf
When teachers are paying out of pocket for school supplies and working second jobs to get by. When minimum wage doesn’t cover basic costs of living. When the majority of folks have seen little if any of the spoils from record corporate profits. When people in a historically wealthy society file bankruptcy over medical bills. When….I’ll stop. When this is reality, it seems impossible and morally repugnant to say no. But that’s what I’m doing. To a certain extent.
Gary Woodland pocketed $2.25 million on Sunday for walking around one of the most beautiful places on Earth and whacking a ball with a stick. And I thoroughly enjoyed watching it, as did loads of other people generating tons of money that Gary certainly deserved his fair cut of. I’d rather Gary, who I’m confident worked his butt off to get there and be the best golfer in the world over those four days, take that money than some old dudes in a suit. I’m sure plenty of those guys got paid handsomely, too.
Mike Trout’s twelve year contract at $430 million was pretty nice. His per year compensation is comparable to Aaron Rodgers and Steph Curry, but substantially less than Lionel Messi at $120 million. It seems rare when we in the States are outspent by our Euro friends, but soccer (football) is the biggest sport in the world. Boxing, tennis, NHL, auto racing, there’s big bucks to be had all over.
What it comes down to, I suppose, is a just sharing of the revenue. US Women’s soccer seems to get a large viewership and they actually win titles, but are paid substantially less than our underwhelming men. I don’t know the numbers, but they are suing and I’d guess have a good case. Unions in the NFL, MLB, and NBA demand a fair piece of the pie, as they did on a larger scale when our middle class was at its strongest.
We often lose sight of all the athletes struggling to eke out a living. Those we see are of course the ones pulling in the dough. But they’re such a small percentage of the lot. If you make it to a developmental league, you’re in the upper echelon of talent in your sport, but not making bank. Gary from Sunday spent some time on the Nationwide Tour where his finances were quite different.
In the same vain, you can look at athletes as artists and most artists make little to nothing monetarily. The well-known ones do, because their art has been deemed valuable by society. Usually there’s considerable talent and almost always hard work to get there, whether it be music, painting, dancing, writing, etc. My point being, it’s extremely difficult to make a living via your passion. Harder than the conventional business path, which isn’t particularly easy itself unless you start off with considerable capital.
Team owners are doing just fine, I can assure you. As are the executives involved in the TV deals where so much of the money comes from these days. A number of organizations are struggling with ticket sales, but part of that is the convenience of watching almost any game you want from wherever you want. The Reds are worth $1 billion. Up from a purchase price of $270 million in ’06. The Bengals are valued at $1.8 billion. Up from $825 million during the same time frame. Neither has advanced in the playoffs over that period and neither can fill seats. Both are near the bottom of their leagues in valuation. I still watch the hell out of my hometown teams from the comfort of my couch and even gain pleasure from doing so (though not as much as I’d like).
Sports are solid entertainment and a good diversion from the difficulties of being human. I wish employee compensation was fairer and believe it needs to be for the greater good of society, but I’m more than happy for these athlete artists to get their share of the pot….and hopefully give back via philanthropy and humanity.