9 December 2005
For the Love of the Game? Or the Money?
Today's professional athletes make enormous salaries and they are only going up. Every year we hear about how some new professional athlete just signed a contract worth a record amount of money . Then the same next year we hear about how another athlete is signing a new contract worth even more than before. In fact, most professional sports minimum salaries are over $100,000 per year. And furthermore, the entire “game” has become corporate, and seems to no longer hold any value in society. Professional athletes are making too much money in a society that’s salaries and wages are traditionally based on the value of ones work.
Whose fault is it that these athletes make these huge salaries? According to most people you ask, it is societies fault. It is the fans’ fault. And that is right. We are the ones who go to these sporting events and pay $50 for a ticket, and $100 for a jacket, and $20 for a hat. We are the ones who support these professional sporting teams, and in turn the players. The reason these ticket prices go up constantly are partly because they need to make more money to pay for our favorite stars, but mostly because they know, no matter how much, the fans will pay it. If everyone was to stop supporting their favorite team by not going to the games, or by not buying the jackets, or by not watching them on television, do you think the salaries would start to decrease? Yes they would. Nobody is going to get paid $100 million dollars if the money is not there for him to be paid with.
According to Marshall Burrow, Michael Jordan made 33 million dollars a year, and another 40 million a year in endorsements. (Do Sports Players get Paid too Much so Ticket Prices Go Up). This is equivalent to about $170,000 a day. Is anyone worth $170,000 a day? In my opinion, Jordan's salary is not at all reflective of his value in society. To put this in perspective: the president of the United States makes $250,000 a year, whereas this basketball player brings almost that much home each day.
On the other hand, professional athletics is a business. And like any businessman, these athletes want the highest salary that they can get. However, this is not what professional athletics was originally intended to be. Athletes used to play these games for the joy of it, but this does not seem to be the case today. Everyday it becomes more and more like a business and less and less like a game, which is simply what it is.
Since Jordan is maybe the most famous and the highest paid professional athlete of all time I will use him for a few more examples. According to Forbes magazine, in 1996 Michael Jordan made 31.3 million dollars solely in salary. (It's a Whole New Ball Game). Jordan also made another 47 million in endorsements that year for a grand total of 78.3 million dollars in 1 year. Doesn‘t seem too bad for playing some basketball, making a commercial or two, and allowing a few companies to put his face near their product. In fact, according to authors of “Forbes” magazine, Richard O'Brien and Hank Hersch, in that same 1996 season, Michael Jordan played 3,106 minutes of basketball and that equaled out to $160.97 per second. These figures seem out of control, but they are true. Even more amazing were Mike Tyson's earnings. Tyson made 281,000 dollars a second in a single match against Peter McNeeley. In a society where a salary is traditionally determined by the value of a persons work, these figures do not seem reasonable or fair.
An argument made on the other side has to do with the number of athletes receiving this much money. Zachary M. Jones, an attorney at Howard University in Washington D.C., states, "Superstar athletes are few in number, so the demand is high, which raises the price for their services significantly" (Saporito 61). He says that...