Are Professional Athletes Overpaid?

If you compare the salaries of professional athletes with those of other people, you can easily determine whether athletes make a lot more money or not. For instance, in the U.S, professional athletes make more money than half of its population. However, it is important to note that becoming a professional athlete requires a lot of hard work. Also, it is a short career that lasts roughly between 5 and 10 years, unlike other jobs that last between 30 and 40 years.

In this article, we are going to answer this question; are professional athletes overpaid?

Salaries of the Highest Paid Athletes

The following is a list of some of the world's highest paid athletes and their salaries.

Lionel Messi$130 million
LeBron James$121.2 million
Cristiano Ronaldo$115 million
Neymar$95 million
Stephen Curry$92.8 million

Salaries of Other Professions in the U.S

The following table shows the average salaries of some of the highest-paid professions in the U.S.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons$311,460

Also read: Professional athletes that went broke.

How Do Professional Athletes Get Paid?

Professional athletes are paid in different ways that include:

1. Salaries. Professional athletes get paid a regular income by their teams. Teams earn money from the sale of tickets, advertising sales, and broadcasting rights. These teams then pass their huge incomes to professional athletes through salaries.

2. Signing bonuses. Professional athletes are paid a signing bonus. When they sign a contract with a team, the contract specifies how much they will be earning throughout the year. Besides, they also receive lump-sum payments up-front for just signing their name to the contract.

3. Sponsorships. Professional athletes get paid for sponsorships and endorsements from different brands. For instance, a company can opt to sponsor a team or a single athlete.

4. Prizes from competitions. When professional athletes win, they are given medals and gifts by their teams or countries.

Are Athletes Overpaid?

When you compare the salaries of professional athletes and those of other professions, you can conclude that athletes are overpaid. However, the salaries of athletes vary a lot depending on their performance and popularity. There are athletes who are highly paid while others are struggling to make a living. It's only a few athletes that earn high incomes.

Related: How do Olympic athletes make a living?

5 Reasons Why Athletes are Overpaid

The following are some of the reasons why athletes are overpaid.

1. The main reason professional athletes are overpaid is because of popularity and fans. Teams make lots of cash through the sale of tickets and merchandise sales. As a result, teams pass their high earnings to their athletes. Besides, if a team has more popular athletes, fans and companies tend to contribute more money.

2. Professional athletes are paid millions by brands for endorsement. For instance, a company can pay an athlete to become its brand ambassador. For example, Eliud Kipchoge received Isuzu D-MAX double Cab in 2019 worth $54,000 for completing a marathon in less than 2 hours. 

3. It is a short career. The average productive years of professional athletes are between 5 and 10 years. Unlike many other careers that last between 30 and 40 years, professional athletes ought to earn huge incomes to compensate for the years they will not be in service.

4. It takes hard work to become a professional athlete. Athletes train for months and years to become professional athletes. Although they are paid for participating in a competition that lasts for a few hours, it takes them months and years to train.

Also read: Why do professional athletes go broke?

Summary: Are Athletes Overpaid?

Professional athletes are some of the highest paid professions. However, not all athletes are paid huge salaries. Athletes are paid based on their performance and popularity. Their income varies a lot. However, if we consider the salaries of top-earning professional athletes, we can conclude that athletes are overpaid.

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This article was updated on January 10, 2023

Vincent Nyoike

Vincent Nyoike is an experienced business consultant and financial analyst. He is a CPA and is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Finance and Accounting at JKUAT. He holds a B.Sc. in Applied Statistics from the University of Eldoret