Imagine a person bringing home nearly $500,000.00 per year at minimum. A common question might be “What is in the world does this person do for a living to make so much money?” It’s natural for a person to think that the individual with this salary is making significant contribution to society. However, the people making $500,000.00 a year are not curing deadly diseases, making huge and new discoveries about the universe, or even teaching important life lessons to children who will grow up to be doctors, government officials, scientists, or teachers. No, the people who are bringing home nearly $500,000 a year are professional athletes. According to Suneson (2018), the minimum salary within the National Football League, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, and Major League Baseball (NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB respectively) is $500,000 a year, with star players signing contracts for tens of millions of dollars a year. Professional athletes are extremely overpaid, and it is important for this to change in our society.
To begin with, it is important to understand how the professional athletes get paid. The majority to the top performing athletes are given a contract for a certain amount of years. It is expected that this contract will boost the team’s performance and generate victory (and more income for the franchise as a result) for the team. For instance, NFL quarterback Joe Flacco signed a three-year contract with the Baltimore Ravens in 2017 for $66.4 million per year (Suneson, 2018). As of the last football season, Flacco completes 18 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions (Suneson, 2018). Remember, this is for the entire season! The number of games in a regular NFL season is 16 games, with four preseason games and up to four postseason games (“Creating the NFL Schedule”, n.d.). That means that Flacco earned $3.32 million per game last season (not including postseason games).
The Ravens statistics were 10-6, meaning Flacco was able to lead his team to victory 10 games out of the 16. For earning such a large amount of money with his contract, it is uncertain if he has successfully generated such revenue for the franchise. Similarly, Craig Anderson, goal tender for the Ottawa Senators in the NHL signed a three-year contract for $12.6 million dollars a year in 2017 (Suneson, 2018). However, his save percentage is only 89.8%, meaning he only stopped the puck 89.8% of the time. This is the lowest save percentage for any starting goaltender in the NHL (Suneson, 2018). Another concern with investing such a large amount of money in multiple-year long contracts for athletes is the possibility that this athlete may become injured and unable to finish a season. This raises the question of is it really worth it for the franchise to make such large investments in their top performing athletes?
Next, it is important to put these salaries in perspective, especially compared to the concerns about the nation. While Miami Marlins (MLB) pitcher Wei-Yin Chen earns $80 million a year (Suneson, 2018), there continues to be a war on poverty in the U.S. alone. 21.3 million people in the United States, or 6.7% of the U.S. population, live in what is considered “deep poverty”, meaning their income is below 50% of their specific poverty threshold. 95 million people (29.8%) in America live close to poverty, which means their income is less than two times that of their poverty thresholds (“The Population of Poverty USA”, 2016). In addition to this, there is also a national crisis in regard to the American education system. There is a significant lack of funding in American schools today. On average, textbooks are outdated by 10 years, if textbooks are even given at all (Sedgwick, 2018). Additionally, teachers spend about $1000 a year out of pocket for their classroom supplies (Sedgwick, 2018). Imagine if the monies used to pay for a fraction of the top performing athletes were instead given to fight the war on poverty and improve the current education system in the United States. It is assumed that the individuals who would benefit from this would be able to further improve the economy, thus creation a chain reaction.
Last, it is important to compare the salary of a professional athlete to the average income salaries for other professions. On average, an Army General who has over 20 years of experience makes approximately $193 thousand a year, a general surgeon averages $395 thousand a year, and the president of the U.S. makes $400 thousand a year (Reed & O’Connor, 2017). Putting it in a more “average” perspective, the median annual household income in the U.S. is $54,000. Teachers, who have what be considered to have one of the most economically important occupations because the future state of the economy relies on the education of youth, have an average salary of $39,000 a year. Firefighters have an average annual salary of $46,000 and police officers have an average annual salary of $54,000 (Reed & O’Connor, 2017). Additionally, a soldier who is classified as a private earns roughly $22,000 a year (Casselbury, 2018). A private is considered the lowest rank, however this person is still responsible for defending the country, can be deployed, and can sacrifice his or her life for the country. Given this information, one can understand the travesty it is that those who risk their lives daily are paid barely a fraction of the salary of professional athletes.
It is understood that some may argue that athletes should be paid the amount they are currently paid because athletes have sacrificed, trained, and worked hard to get where they are. To become a professional athlete means to dedicate themselves to the profession daily, even during off season. Athletes are considered “high risk” in terms of the chances of being injured and their “play time” is short, averaging about 5 years as a professional. Professional athletes are an inspiration and challenge people to do more or be better. It is acknowledged that athletes make tremendous efforts to get where they are. However, is this profession more important than one who chooses to sacrifice his or her life for citizens? Shouldn’t that person be compensated more than the athlete? The truth of the matter is that an athlete’s job is to entertain. Without athletes, the nation would survive, and Americans would be entertained in some other manner. However, the country would not survive without doctors, teachers, or service members.
In conclusion, professional athletes are grossly overpaid. Although athletes have made sacrifices, these sacrifices cannot be compared to the sacrifices that those have made in other professions. Reducing the salaries of professional athletes can have significant benefits to reducing poverty rates and improving the education system. Professional athletes may have an important role in society, yet they are not vital to the community.