There I was sitting on the first day of the second semester in my fourth period economics class listening in on the discussion. First, Mr. Lindberg started talking about the meaning of economics and how it all works. Then someone asked him about his cardboard cut out of the NBA player, Kevin Garnett. He started working that into his discussion, about how athletes got paid such ridiculous amounts of money. Sitting there, I started to really think about it. By the time I got into my sixth period senior English class, I found out that we had to do a research paper. I knew what my topic was going to be about, why do athletes get paid so much? This was a great question that I was willing to search and find the answer to.
My research took my to so many different aspects of the big three pro leagues and how they all work, but first let’s start with how. How do they even get the money to pay these athletes so much? Well, this is kind of an easy question to answer. The biggest part of profit is from the dedication of the fans. “If Americans didn’t spend so much time watching and reading about sports, athletes wouldn’t be paid as much,” said former NFL player, Robert Smith. Exactly, the fans are the ones that go to all these sporting events paying ridiculous amounts of money for tickets and for team merchandise and everything else that involves all these sports. Yet they ask, why are ticket prices so high? Well tickets are pretty expensive. For normal season games to see the Seattle Sonics, the prices range from $9 – $110, but that doesn’t even show anything close to courtside seating.
I remember looking for tickets to the past Lakers vs. Sonics game that was on February 28th at ticketmaster.com and noticed that they had tickets for more than $500. It’s so amazing to see that people really pay that money to see one game. Now to the recently built Seahawks Stadium, in their pocket schedule it shows prices ranging from $20 – $72. With club seating costing anywhere from $150 to $280 a game. Ticket prices haven’t always been this high though. On an ESPN show, a discussion involving athlete’s salaries Commentator George Will said, “…since 1998, ticket prices have increased by 37 percent” (Ley). The profit not only comes from the fans though. You have to remember those owners of the teams. “We have situations where we have owners entering the system who pay $500, $600, $700 million for teams,” said Sport Agent Scott Boras (Ley).
Do athletes even deserve to make such money? Is it fair that players that barely do anything in the sport make an enormous amount of money as well? Well there are many views on this question. For example, in sports there are many health issues involved. Athletes are constantly involved in injuries, the NFL having the highest number of athletes with injuries (Ley). I recently e-mailed Paul Silvi with my interview questions for this paper. In one of his questions concerning bench players he replied with his view, “Some athletes do deserve big money. Michael Jordan, Shaq, Kobe, top pitchers in baseball, top quarterbacks in football. Yes, some guys deserve to get paid a lot of money, as long as it’s within reason.” I agree with Paul on this one. I think it’s totally fair for these bigger, better known players to get paid the amounts of money they get paid because they really deserve it. They go through so much, not just being an athlete but by having so many fans and having such a higher standard of what is expected from them. For example, with the Los Angeles Lakers, Shaquille O’Neal was not playing for a couple of games because of a sore toe and some other injuries, so Kobe Bryant had to be more dominant. It was the game against the Houston Rockets, a big game for the Lakers to win. The game went through two overtimes, and throughout the whole game Bryant was in a lot of pain because of sore knees and other little injuries, yet he played through it. Not only did he finish playing that night, but also he wanted to play for his team the next night, so they could improve their record. All of the pain and subsequent treatment proved his dedication to his team. Now, isn’t he worth a big salary? But then again, you come to those bench players. Basketball is full of them. They barely play during the season, but occasionally get some break out games once in awhile that gets them somewhat known. Are they really worth it to pay millions of dollars to see them sit on the bench? “The Sonics are a perfect example of bench players making too much money. Calvin Booth sits, but earns five million a season. Vitaly Potopenko, over five million, and he sits for most of the season. The salaries for bench players are out of whack,” said Paul Silvi.
There is some control over these athlete’s wages, even though it doesn’t seem like it. The big three leagues all have instituted a salary cap over the years. Though we still see a record of lockouts and strikes from all of these leagues. The latest lockout for the NBA was in 1999, the season after Michael Jordan retired. The lockout lasted for more than 50 games because of a dispute between owners and players. For baseball, they had a close call. The players had planned a strike to start on August 30th 2002, but many didn’t want that at all, so lawyers did as much possible to make it not happen. The new deal that the players and owners agreed on will run through 2006. With the deal, owners gained concessions from one of the most powerful unions in the nation. The players’ association lifted the average salary of its members from $51,501 in 1976 [the last year before free agency] to $2.38 million this season (ESPN). This would have been baseball’s ninth stoppage in 30 years. The first time the baseball players went on strike was in 1972. This was because of the player’s pension plans; it only lasted 13 days.
Sports have changed quite a bit because of the luxury taxes put on. Most of the time when teams are trying to trade players it’s not just for talent, it’s more about can we afford this player? Teams that go over their payroll have to pay a dollar-for-dollar tax on the overage (Sheridan). For example, the recent trade with the Seattle Sonics and the Milwaukee Bucks. Seattle was scared that this being Gary Payton’s last season before he becomes a free agent, that Payton would ask too much and Seattle didn’t want to pay so high for a veteran player. They decided to look towards a younger all-star, guard Ray Allen. The trade included Gary Payton and Desmond Mason being sent to Milwaukee, and to Seattle was Ray Allen, Kevin Ollie, and Ronald Murray.
Through all of my research I’ve learned quite a bit about the different pro league sports and how they work out player’s salaries. I didn’t know that the leagues have gone through so much with all the lockouts, strikes, and the salary caps put into use since they started. They’ve done so much just to work out player’s salaries, yet as the years go by the salaries still rise with the salary caps. But after all of my research I still ask myself this question, why do athletes get paid so much? If there are actresses and actors that get paid just as much or even more per movie, why is it such a problem? Athletes have to go through so much more because they have to be healthy physically and mentally. So with this issue, I’m stuck in the middle. I feel that some athlete’s deserve to make big money, with the keyword being some there. I don’t think there are many athletes out there that deserve to make such money. So you ask yourself, do you think athletes really get paid too much?