Are Professional Athletes Overpaid?


Anthony D'Amato, Staff Writer

Professional athletes get paid a tremendous amount of money for the services they provide. Amidst the global pandemic, a question has been raised about whether or not professional athletes are overpaid. Despite the millions of dollars they receive each year, throughout the rest of this article, I am going to argue why professional athletes are overpaid (for the most part).

First, let me establish some context. All four major United States professional sports leagues (MLB, NFL, NHL, and NBA) have a league minimum for the value of contracts teams can hand out to players.  For example, Major League Baseball recently saw its minimum salary raise $8,500 meaning the new minimum salary is $565,500 in the year 2020. This means that every player on a major league roster for the upcoming season must make at least $565,000 or a prorated number based on that number if a player gets called up midway through the season. The minimum player salaries for other leagues are as follows: $898,310 for the NBA and $700,000 for the NHL. The NFL is unlike other leagues in that they have a minimum salary that increases for each year a player has been in the league but as a rookie, the minimum salary is $495,000.

The public is typically not concerned with the minimum salary players are given, and instead, they are more concerned with how much the top athletes make each year. created a chart that listed out the salary of every NBA player and at the top of the list for the 2019-2020 season was Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry. Curry made $40,231,758 during the 219-2020 season and was one of 45 players who had a salary higher than $25,000,000. According to the average NBA salary for the 2019-2020 season was $8,320,000. This number is surprisingly low considering 82 players made $15,000,000 or higher during the same season meaning that there is a large pay discrepancy inside the league. The top players get paid a substantial amount of money, while the bottom players receive the minimum or just above it. I am aware that the stars are the players who generate more revenue for the sport and the owners, so it makes sense that they are getting paid more than other players. I just have a problem with how much more these players are getting paid.

As briefly referenced in the previous paragraph, star players generate a ton of revenue for the league. Leagues are able to market their star players which can boost ticket sales, can potentially lead to networks fighting over broadcasting rights, and merchandise sales. Looking back at the 2018-2019 seasons (seasons that were completed before COVID-19 hit) these sports leagues generated billions of dollars. The MLB generated roughly 9.9 billion dollars, the NFL generated roughly 15 billion dollars, the NBA generated 8.76 billion dollars, and the NHL generated 5.09 billion dollars. These 4 sports league collectively generated around 38.75 billion dollars for the United States economy over a year’s span which many people state as a reason for athletes getting paid so much, but in reality, even the athletes making the minimum are making more than first responders, doctors, and other vital people. Athletes spend so much time perfecting their craft and keeping their bodies in peak physical condition, but they are not and will never be more important than workers like healthcare workers, first responders, etc. The purpose of sports is to entertain millions of viewers, and because of that, I believe that some of the top athletes are being paid too much as their contribution to society is much less than other workers who get paid much less.

I asked 12 friends whether they believed professional athletes were overpaid and 8 responded yes and 4 responded no. There was a common consensus regarding the idea that players making the minimum salary were not overpaid, but that the highest-paid athletes made too much money. Common reasons to support their claim were that nobody needs that much money and also that they do not deserve to make that much more money compared to teachers, doctors, first responders, and other healthcare workers. The 4 people who did not believe athletes are overpaid stated that athletes put so much time and money into their profession that they deserve the high pay levels and also that in today’s capitalistic economy, the athletes are just using the system to their advantage and that they are doing nothing wrong.

In my opinion, professional athletes are overpaid. They provide viewers with entertainment for months out of the year, but ultimately I do not believe anyone needs to be making more than 15 million dollars per year. I believe more money should be given to more important workers or the excess revenue can go towards charities to help get people back on their feet or research cures for the numerous diseases prevalent in our society. I have no problem with athletes making less than 15 million dollars per year because I recognize the value they bring to the economy and the countless hours they spend working to become the best. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to answer the question of whether or not professional athletes are overpaid, each person has their own perspective and everyone is right in their own sense. This topic may be revisited in the upcoming years as the average salaries of athletes continue to rise each year but in the time being, let’s just sit back and enjoy the sports we love.