Grasping the logistics of college, professional athlete’s salary

By ElsaJurrens & MalloryConnealy

Today, most peoples’ salaries are based on their value to society. During COVID, the sports community experienced this drastically. Only the occupations deemed the most important were able to work and continue to maintain a steady salary. 

Yet, teachers, police officers, firefighters, and doctors make only a fraction of what sports stars make. Playing a professional sport is definitely not an easy feat. Athletes spend a tremendous number of hours training and dedicating their time to the sport. 

That being said, the athletes do nothing more than entertain the general public. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for professional athletes was $77,300 in 2021, with the top 10% making over $200,000. The more popular the sport, the more revenue the athletes make. The NBA guarantees each player a hefty eight million dollars per year, just for making a team. 

Now, this revenue isn’t only limited to professional athletes. Many college students have begun to be compensated for their time and effort playing on their college sports team. 

As of July 2021, college athletes gained the right to NIL which means that they could create and sell gear for name, image and likeness. This completely changes college athletics because it allows athletes to be paid extra for competing.       The Nebraska Husker football team began promoting their NIL program aiming to raise $1.2 million to pay their athletes for their contributions to the program through their marketing and merchandise.

These payment opportunities are really only given to half of professional athletes, men. The salary between men and women athletes differs based on revenue of the games. A primary example that most people think of is professional basketball players. The NBA or the men’s association brings in an annual average of 22 million fans. In 2021, the revenue from NBA fans totaled  $6.41 billion compared to the WNBA, the women’s basketball league, bringing in only $60 million in total profit. This drastically affects the salary gap between the men and women athletes. This leaves the average men’s pro basketball player making about $5.3 million per year and the average women’s pro basketball player making about $130,000 per year. 

While these athletes continue to make well above the average salary of a U.S. citizen, the inequality between genders is extremely shocking.

Athletes aren’t the only people benefiting from the extreme revenue sports bring in. Coaches are also guaranteed a large portion of it. Most college football coaches are making well over $1 million per season, while the average NFL coach receives a little over $7 million each year. 

While athletes and coaches greatly benefit from the deals they are able to make with their network, what about everyone else involved in the process of these sports games? 

Janitors and concession stand workers are barely making minimum wage. Even in college level athletics, what is Scott Frost, Nebraska’s ex-head football coach, making compared to the professors at University of Nebraska? 

As the wealth gap continues to grow, as a nation the U.S. needs to decide: is it time to reconsider the salary of professional athletes and put that money towards decreasing national poverty? 

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