Are professional athletes making too much?

Taylor Manley, Staff Writer

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CBS News reports that Alex Rodriguez, the third baseman for the New York Yankees, earns $25 million per year. This is 500 times the salary of a teacher, police officer, or paramedic.

In 2011, each NBA player made an average of $5.15 million, according to wisegeek.com.

Compare that to $30,377, the average starting salary for a teacher according to the National Education Association.

When we really put it into perspective, why is that professional athletes are making hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars? What exactly are they being paid to do, compared to the people educating, healing and protecting our country? How can playing a game ever hope to compete with that?

It would be unfair to say that these athletes don’t do anything. After all, they are professionals for a reason. These athletes spend years training to make it to the big leagues. Endless years of coaching and experience are needed in order for these men and women to build the skills necessary to compete at such high levels. Plus, athletes need to learn the rules of the game and be able to develop strategies to win.

But does that make them worth millions of dollars when the rest of us could probably never dream of seeing that much money?

Essentially, these professional athletes are playing a game that they love and are good at, and they deserve to be recognized for it, just not paid an absurd amount of money to entertain the public. Nesn.com proves there was a time when the professional sports leagues were getting it right. Ernie Banks played baseball for the Chicago Cubs from 1953 to 1971 and $85,000 annually. Babe Ruth made $80,000 each year playing for the New York Yankees from 1914 to 1935. Jackie Robinson, one of the most well-known baseball players of all time, only made $35,000 annually playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1947 to 1956, which is 100 times less than the average salary MLB players earn today. Bill Russell earned $100,001 each year as a center for the Boston Celtics in the 1950s and 60s. The amount that Russell earned is 50 times less the average salary a professional NBA player makes today.

In 2004, the U.S. census reported that the average household income in the United States was about $60,500 a year. The median household income was around $44,300. The gap between the $5.15 million that NBA players can earn and the average income of an American is mind-boggling. Are Americans not working as hard as or even harder than professional athletes? What makes athletes  “worth” so much more than anyone else?

The answer most people come up with is talent, but that just isn’t good enough. Every single person on the entire planet has a talent, any talent at all. However, talent should not equal an ego-inflating paycheck.

It’s unfortunate that society is to blame for the salaries these professional athletes earn, while common folk live off of significantly less each year. Joel Sherman, a New York sports columnist, made an excellent point. “Does anybody go to a movie and go ‘Man, Tom Cruise is making $25 million for this movie and this is his performance? Al Pacino’s making this? Julia Roberts is making this? Cameron Diaz is making this?’ What is it about baseball players? If you’re asking me ‘Is society messed up?’ Yeah, society’s messed up. We put a lot into celebrity, fame and sports. But we’ve decided as a culture that we like our leisure time. We like our free time, and we’re willing to pay those people and pay a lot to go see those people.”

Sherman made a very good point. We, the public, asked for these athletes to be a huge part of our culture, but we seem to forget that we are also the people paying for these sports. By allowing ourselves to be charged so much money to see a game or buy a souvenir, it’s the people being screwed while professional athletes strut away with millions weighing down their pockets.

Asking Americans to boycott sports would be impossible, since it is such a major part of our lives. But consumers need to remember that they’re in control.  Demanding that the cost of tickets, or our cable bills or even food at the arena/stadium to decrease could make a huge difference. Less money would be going to the leagues, therefore less money would be pocketed by athletes.

Even if prices don’t drop, Americans ought to remind the NBA, MLB, etc. that there are causes much worthier than the athletes playing for our entertainment. Those leagues could be donating that money to groups that need it. It’s wrong for an outfielder or a linebacker to make so much money while others barely scrape by, no matter how much work they do.

At the end of the day, Americans should be able to enjoy their culture without getting screwed over for the privilege of watching a two-hour game.

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