By LAUREN TENCZA, junior
As the salaries of professional athletes skyrocket, complaints have erupted regarding the fairness of their earnings compared to those of other upper-income professions. Besides the enormity of these contracts, the most cited reason is that these athletes do not contribute to the general population and play mostly for their own benefit.
Contrary to popular belief, athletes do contribute to our society. Athletes entertain us just as comedians make us laugh or writers make us reflect upon their ideas and stories. With every game they play in, millions of people reap in the adrenaline and exhilarating suspense of the sport. The importance of pure, carefree entertainment tends to be downplayed, but without it, we would have no escape. The performance of an athlete allows fans to forget daily troubles and take a break from continuous work. Fans scream, laugh, and cry as their favorite players score goals, fumble, or hit the last second three-pointers. Even people who do not continuously follow sports can appreciate the enthusiasm in watching any two rival teams battle it out during the playoffs.
Another common complaint is, “Why isn’t this money given to the numerous worthy causes instead?” Teams, as well as individual athletes, do make the extra effort to contribute to charitable foundations. In the past nine years, NBA Cares has raised over $220 million for charity and donated more than 2.5 million hours of volunteer service to global communities. In addition, the MLB has donated over $130 million between 2010 and 2012 to various charities including Autism Awareness and Stand Up To Cancer. Evidently, professional athletes are indeed contributing to society in a meaningful way.
But the main reason why athletes are paid such high salaries is much simpler: they work that much in return. Take Eli Manning from the New York Giants, for example. He currently makes an average of $16.25 million annually. While most of us would be astounded if we made that much in our lifetime, Eli’s salary is only a fraction of how much he is worth to the New York Giants. The New York Giants have a contract to pay Manning $97.5 million for six years on their team, but the profits and the work he puts into the team are huge as well. Not only does Eli Manning get paid like a professional athlete, but he works like one too. The heavy and demanding training regimen that the star quarterback must endure is not just child’s play; it consists of grueling exercises like core workouts, circuit training, passing drills, and flawless nutrition to top it off. In addition to working hard to help the Giants as best he can, Manning also draws a lot of attention and, subsequently, money to the team. How many people stay out in the cold and the rain to watch Eli Manning every game? How many people buy a Manning jersey or other paraphernalia? His jersey is currently ranked as the eighth best-selling jersey out of all the players in the NFL (National Football League). Especially in New Jersey, people commonly sport his jersey: in supermarkets, schools, and especially homes, where countless numbers of fans half-sit and half-jump on the couch after every play on Sunday night. It is these fans who sponsor each team, which in turn pay for each player’s contract.
Therefore, the extravagant sums tied to the sports entertainment industry lie primarily in our power. If everyone decides to stop watching the NFL, the million-dollar contracts would dwindle, and eventually the entire league would die out. But because our society loves sports, professional athletes have been and will continue to be paid millions of dollars. Those who disagree with these salaries do not have to support the teams; they can ignore the sports world and use their own money however they see fit. However, because society loves and values sports, most people decide to invest in sports entertainment. As a result, these athletes make millions for their respective teams, and in return, they deserve every penny that their teams grant them.