Columbia Heights, Minnesota
By Gabe Hewitt, iLander Student Editor
Meet Kobe. He’s a 33-year-old man who grew up in Philadelphia. He’s had a steady job that he loves for the past 15 years and makes more than a million dollars. Did I mention that he didn’t go to college?
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant made $53 million in 2011, according to Forbes’ annual list of the world’s highest-paid athletes. $53 million is money that most people won’t make in their lifetime. Want to know something? Bryant was only second on that list.
There is no debate as to whether professional athletes get paid a lot of money. The real debate is whether or not they deserve so much money. The world of professional sports is home to some of the world’s best athletes. It’s also home to some of the world’s wealthiest people.
According to Forbes, Tiger Woods was the highest paid athlete of 2011, earning more than $70 million. Much of his income came from endorsements with Nike and Electronic Arts. That type of income is a whole different story.
The top five list of highest-paid athletes:
1. Tiger Woods (Golf) - $75 million
2. Kobe Bryant (Basketball) - $53 million
3. LeBron James (Basketball) -$48 million
4. Roger Federer (Tennis) - $47 million
5. Phil Mickelson (Golf) - $46.5 million
Forbes also has a list of America’s highest-paying jobs. Here’s that top five list:
1. General Surgeon - $225,000
2. Anesthesiologist - $220,000
3. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon - $214,000
4. Obstetricians and Gynecologists - $210,000
5. Orthodontists - $200,000
Nine out of the top 10 jobs in that list are in the medical field. Some of those jobs help people stay alive and get paid only a fraction of the amount of money a professional athlete does. This is partially because doctors and surgeons aren’t endorsed by Nike.
To put it into another perspective, the President of the United States has an annual salary of $400,000. Minnesota Timberwolves guard Wayne Ellington, who plays 16 minutes a game coming off the bench, has an annual salary of just over $1 million.
If the average person is sick and can’t work, he or she stays home and doesn’t get paid (unless his or her employer offers sick pay). If an athlete gets injured and is out for the entire season, he's still paid. Given that they go through rehab and have to stay in shape, the athlete still gets paid a significant amount of money for doing little work compared to the average Joe.
Athletes are paid millions of dollars, but where does the money to pay them come from? It comes from the you: the fans. When Minnesota Vikings fans pay $50 to go and watch their team lose, some of that money goes right into Adrian Peterson’s pocket. Aside from the team’s revenue and merchandise sales, another chunk of a player’s salary comes from television revenue.
Looking at it from the other side, these athletes may deserve the money. People are paid more money if they possess more skills than the average person and those skills are what professional athletes have. Depending on their superstar status, some of these athletes are very valuable to their respective cities and bring in a lot of money from ticket and merchandise sales. When LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat, the city of Cleveland lost millions of dollars in revenue, according to The Atlantic.
When we think of wealthy people, we think of greedy, selfish and arrogant slimeballs. Some are but not all professional athletes are slimeballs. A lot of them are involved with nonprofit organizations or founded organizations/charities of their own. The fact that these athletes give back some of the money they make is very respectable.
Some of these athletes don’t ask for the money they’re given. There are the select bunch who won’t play unless they’re given a bigger contract, but ask yourself this: Would you turn down millions of dollars if somebody offered it to you?
There’s going to be overpaid people in every profession. Some professional athletes are definitely overpaid, but what can be done? I’ll tell you what. You lower their salaries. According to Time, the average person only needs to make $75,000 to be happy. They need to make between $30,000 and $40,000 just to survive. In a way, Tiger Woods makes enough money to make 1,000 people happy.
Lowering salaries is easier said than done. In reality, athletes are always going to be overpaid because fans will keep paying money to watch them.
(Photo: Kobe Bryant is one rich athlete. Photo courtesy of the Miami Heat. Used with educational license.)