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Sports are one of the most common and popular activities that people indulge in. At a professional level, however, there are limited positions for individuals who manage to make a living from their sports activities. Thus, the majority of athletes participate in sports for only health and leisure purposes although sports seem to be an easy profession. Nevertheless, the professionals are more appreciative of their sporting talents and price themselves out of the labor market. This has provoked the debate on whether or not professional athletes are overpaid in the world today.
Athletes across the world earn millions per year compared to other professions like nurses in the US who only earn about $40,000 a year. Considering the state of the world economy and the ever worsening plight of the poor people across the globe, the wages athletes are paid and the way they spend their money engages public interest. This debate is not conducted on a mathematical platform but rather a moral one as athletes are often labeled as greedy and the sporting industry – as misguided and extravagant. For the most part, sports fans also agree that the money resources the industry accommodates are impressive, and the public opinions on this subject have divided. Currently, the highest paid athlete is a baseball player named Alex Rodriguez who is paid about $28 million a year (Agyemang & Singer, 2013).
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First, it is important to acknowledge that from a mathematical perspective, the salaries in sports are mildly speaking blasphemous. According to Agyemang and Singer (2013), athletes earn between $800,000 and $6,000,000 a year, and these are just their basic wages that exclude sponsorship and endorsement deals. This aligns them with the highest earners in the world regardless of how much work they do and how many hours they work, which proves that the figures revolving in this industry are extremely high.
There are two main arguments that support the idea that athletes are overpaid, and the most interesting one is the concept of deserving high salaries. Sports are an entertainment that others indulge in for their own health benefits, but at the professional level, it only serves to excite the spectators. This means that professions like teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers and engineers deserve much higher salaries considering the kind of work these individuals do and how they contribute to the social welfare and global economy. The fact that athletes earn much more than any of the ‘deserving’ professions implies that there is something wrong with the calculation formula given that those who contribute more actually get paid less (Beamon, 2008). The business world today is modeled around the concept of performance related compensation practices, and in the sports industry, performance is measured within the industry but not with respect to the global economy. Athletes are thus argued not to be contributing to the development of world economy in any way, and yet, their wages number into millions per year.
Another argument is that athletes are not necessarily role models considering the reckless lifestyle that they engage in (Beamon, 2008). Putting them at the top of the food chain in terms of their earnings sends the wrong message to the youth who eventually want to model the riotous lifestyles of the athletes. The problem resides in the fact that the vast sums of money deprave athletes to the point that they even lose concentration on their talents and start using illegal performance enhancers. The high salaries are paid to people who are not prepared for that kind of money and social responsibility. Although there are some sportsmen who donate some of their earnings to the poor and needy, the overwhelming majority of them waste their money, which results in debts once their short-lived career comes to an end.
To become a professional athlete, one has to train vigorously for a long time in order to develop that extra factor that helps them stand out against other athletes. For this reason, not so many professional athletes exist in a world where almost everyone is engaged in sports. Therefore, the amount of money paid to a professional athlete is relevant to the amount of work it takes them to become a top-ranked sportsman.
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Secondly, professional athletes are constantly in the spotlight, and to be interested in sports, people need to see how joyful the life of a sportsman is. Thus, athletes are paid hefty sums to comply with the glamorous stardom. In today’s high society magazines, the athletes share popularity with super models, fashion designers, musicians, actors and other media personalities (Bascom, 2012). In addition, they are the internal market for their organizations, which requires that they be treated well to attract other athletes into the organization and industry.
Also, the career span of an average athlete is rather short and can end more abruptly than predictably. This means that the athlete needs some kind of security in exchange of good performance. The high wages paid to them ensure that they are able to live comfortably after their retirement. Unlike other professions that imply to 40 years of active employment, sports has an average of between 3 and 6 years of active engagement, and this would not be enough for retirement savings the wages were not as stupendous as it is now (Zambalist, 2001). Most athletes dedicate the best years of their lives to their work, and leaving them uncared once their career is over would be inhumane.
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The last argument is that the money paid to professional athletes is not public money, but it is money that belongs to the club owners, raised from ticket sales and player merchandise like jerseys, mugs, balls, jackets, etc. This means that a reduction in athletes’ salaries would not lead to an increase in the ‘deserving’ professions’ salaries.
In this debate, both sides adduce serious arguments, and it can be seen that they are all valid. However, the reality is that the sports industry is a lucrative one and the athletes deserve a fair share of the earnings their club owners gain from the large customer base in ticket and team merchandise sales. Thus, if one concedes that the players are overpaid or not, it is clear that this is more of an equality issue with respect to distribution of resources in the various business sectors of the world.