Do professional athletes make too much money, or do they deserve every penny? Why?
While I cannot address all professional athletes, it does make sense to me why a professional football player would be worth the potentially millions of dollars they can earn in one year, and it all comes from a logical mathematical point of view.
If you go by Super Bowl numbers, the NFL has potentially over 1 Billion fans. In 2006 the NFL was estimated to have gross earnings of $6 Billion, with $3.7 Billion of those dollars earned from the network affiliates at ESPN, CBS, FOX, NBC, and the NFL Network.
On the expense side, each of the 32 teams had a regular season roster of 53 players. Each team was also allowed a practice squad of 8 players. I also calculated (using the Seattle Seahawks as an example) that the average professional football team has a coaching staff of around 20 people, and management/employee staff of around 127 people which brings us to a total of 208 people per franchise. 208 people per franchise multiplied by the 32 franchises in the league brings us to an estimated employee pool of 6,656 people (not including the unknown number of people who work with and for the commissioner of the league and the players union).
If you divide the $6 Billion in earnings by the estimated employee pool of 6,656 you arrive at an average earning of $901,442 per person. Some might argue that the players are being paid too much when some of that money could be spread around to all of the other employees who makeup up the NFL brand, but I would argue that because the players have to perform under such incredible pressure and because their earnings are not guaranteed should they become injured or unable to perform at the same high level consistently and because their earnings are often dependent on wins more than losses, they deserve $901,442 or more per year for their contributions to making this world a brighter and more fun place to be in.
Put another way, imagine the Super Bowl where the number of viewers reaches easily over 1 Billion. You have 2 teams, 106 players, 40 coaches, and 254 employees, all brought together to entertain those 1 Billion people. How much is that entertainment worth to each individual who has experienced the peaks and valleys of an NFL football game? $1 dollar per viewer? More? Less?
I think we’ve all met the guy who is willing to spend hundreds on his cable or satellite bill in order to see his favorite team each year. To that guy, the Super Bowl is clearly worth more than $100 of his annual earnings. If every person who was watching paid only $1 per person and the amount was divided evenly among all the participants, each of the 400 participants would roughly receive $2.5 million just from playing that one game, the Super Bowl. Is it their fault that so many people enjoy the sport? Put in that perspective is it really unfair to pay a top performing player say $10 million dollars for the entire regular season? I think not.
Would we object if a person sold a piece of their art to the public for a nickel and over 1 billion people bought a copy? Would their contribution to the human experience during that moment not be worth the $50 million dollars they just earned?
What about the worth of the stories about the players exploits that can be handed down from father to son, mother to daughter? Look back in hindsight at the importance of players such as Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan to their leagues. What is their worth, when now, years after their playing careers have ended, they are still providing entertainment to the masses? What sporting fan doesn’t have a memory or hasn’t heard a great story from another fan who witnessed one of their sporting exploits?
To be fair to the professional athlete, I think we must also consider the unseen expenses that each athlete will incur during the average playing year. They will not keep all of those millions to themselves. If they are paid $10 million dollars in a season they will likely owe around 50% of those earnings to the U.S. government. From the remaining $5 million they will owe another $1 million to their agent. From the remaining $4 million they will pay for any personal trainers and chefs to stay in peak performance shape. They will also need to pay a portion for the services of various accountants, lawyers, and stockbrokers to manage the record keeping such earnings will require. They will spend another sizable sum in travel expenses related to keeping their public persona at a level commiserate with their pay.
And this is all just when we consider the top stars in the league. The average player in the league only earns the league minimum which is dependent upon the number of years of experience the player has in the league from $285,000 per year for a player with no experience in the league to $820,000 for a player with more than a decade of experience.
Also factor in that the average NFL player’s career is only 4 years and you are talking about a huge income risk each player takes every time they step onto the football field.
In a country like America where we value the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, would it not be un-American to deny a just income for the efforts produced by each player?