High Salaries of Professional Athletes

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Every person has their own idea about how celebrities, athletes or other entertainers should be compensated for their time and talent. Some actors make more than even doctors see in a decade, and perhaps this is the issue with the entire system. The same applies to professional athletes, with soccer players (American and European) as one prime example. It is simple: professional athletes, soccer players, in particular, are paid too much in comparison to others in non-sports professionals.

An Argument for High Salaries

Objectively, it is hard to deny that professional athletes do not have skills that are important to people. Many people think that the high salary awarded to athletes each year by their teams and sponsors is a well-deserved paycheck. “Sports fans, says Larry Lundy, who is the director of sports marketing at Walt Disney World in Florida, are always willing to pay increasingly higher ticket prices to watch live games, and watch TV sports events in large numbers in their homes. For many, these sports events are family events, large parties that mean a lot to these fans. Lundy says, according to the article, that “it is the consumers who drive the market” (1997). The sports fans are the markers that make their favorite athletes so popular, despite any level of talent that they may possess.

For many, as well as these avid sports fans, watching sports is their favorite form of entertainment. Just movie buffs pay heavy prices to see their favorite films at a premiere sports fans do the same for games. “Others say athletes are paid fairly when compared with others in the entertainment industry… actors such as Tom Cruise make between $15 and $20 million per movie” (1997). “Top athletes believe they are worth the big bucks because they generate millions of dollars for team owners, who make money from ticket sales, television deals, and sales of team memorabilia” (1997). As mentioned, a good majority of this large salary is popularity. Many athletes are being supported by big names like Nike, Adidas, or Gatorade.

The salaries earned by professional athletes are a source of considerable discussion by many people. Fans do want the best soccer, football, baseball players possible for their favorite team. As well, fans expect each athlete to adhere to certain standards as a professional. “High salaries earned by sports stars have a double-edged property” (Simmons, 2007). They, as professionals and public figures, are able to act as role models and help encourage young people to work hard, to go above and beyond their potential.

The specialized ability of professional athletes is another reason why many believe that athletes deserve their enormous paychecks. “Similarly, in sports, top professional athletes have rare ability and a large market willing to pay to view their performances, either at the stadium or on television. In contrast, schoolteachers (arguably) do not have such specialized ability and do not have their performances in classrooms viewed by a large paying public” (Simmons, 2007). Because of their ‘rare’ skill, professional soccer players deserve their million-per-year salary.

Athletes are valuable to their schools, their teams, and to the companies that choose to sponsor them. The market value of professional athletes is sometimes said to bring value or money to their respective colleges (if they are college athletes), but the status that they bring with sponsorships and popularity (2010). As well, these athletes could potentially create revenue for the schools, but cannot due to prohibitive rules against compensating NCAA athletes. “Rather, in the name of amateurism, the NCAA creates baroque and restrictive rules that work against market forces and inevitably give rise to black markets as universities compete with one another for the much-in-demand talents of best players” (2010). So these college athletes are not making nearly as much as people may think, although true professional athletes – like the soccer players mentioned – still make millions upon millions each year.

An Argument against High Salaries

The highest salaries of popular soccer players can be quite shocking, especially to those who believe that these professional athletes are paid too much in accordance with their skill set. According to a 2010 article, the highest-paid soccer player is 25-year-old Portuguese player Cristiano Ronaldo, a $17.06 million per year. 29-year-old Zletan Ibrahimovic of Sweden made $15.7 million for the 2009-2010 season. Lional Messi of Spain is the youngest player to make the ‘highest-paid list’ at $13.74 million a year. Samuel Eto’o of Cameroon makes $13.74 million per year. 27 year old Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite (known as Kaka to fans) makes $13.13 million per year. Even the last player on the top 20, 26-year-old Robinho of Brazil, makes $7.85 million per year (Madden, 2010). These numbers can be alarmed when one realizes that the most complex type of doctor on an average salary does not even measure up to the salaries of a professional soccer player.

On the other side of the coin, these large salaries are a source of envy among the general population, and especially smaller-league athletes or those aspiring for such a profession. Simmons marks these as ‘social unproductive’ as well as ‘unfair’ (2007). Also, in the 2012 article, “Two Sides to Every Coin: Are Professional Athletes Overpaid?” from The Bleacher Report, writes that, no matter how a person should look at the situation, “the guy is still getting paid 19 million dollars to swing a bat at a ball” (Mueller). On this side of the coin, the ability to play a sport well is simply not comparable to the skills of a doctor, surgeon, astronaut, or college professor.

Of course, each sport, MLB from NBA salaries, varies for each athlete. The differences between one player and another can actually be in the millions. If one player is more talented or more popular than another, there is a great difference.

In a time when many Americans are struggling to make mortgage payments, student loan payments and find good employment, it sometimes becomes frustrating to hear about someone who makes millions playing a game demand more money and then get it” (Mueller, 2012).

It really is unfair that someone who plays a sport should make millions of dollars per year, when honest everyday heroes, such as doctors and soldiers, offer an actual purpose in society and make so much less.


It is hard to judge how entertainment personalities should be paid because everyone has an opinion. However, it cannot be denied that athletes do make much more money than everyday “heroes” such as doctors, astronauts, soldiers, and teachers. For this, it can be argued that professional soccer players and all other professional athletes simply are overpaid considering their skill set when compared to others.


Madden, J. (2010). How much do top soccer players earn? CNN. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/worklife/06/07/cb.footballers.earn.what/index.html.

Mueller, C. (2012). Two sides to every coin: Are professional athletes overpaid? The Bleacher Report. Retrieved from http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1089195-two-sides-to-every-coin-are-professional-athletes-overpaid.

Simmons, R. (2007). Overpaid athletes? Comparing American and European football. Working USA, 10(4), 457-471. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/236516005?accountid=458.

Current Events. (1997). Show me the money! Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/196407853?accountid=458.

The Faster Times. (2010). The argument against college sports. Retrieved from http://www.thefastertimes.com/college/2010/11/25/the-argument-against-college-sports/.