Yes, professional athletes make tons of money, they are far wealthier than most people, and they live lavish lives that only a select few of us in the world could ever dream of.
Clearly, the perks that come with playing sports for a living are great, but “living the life” certainly comes with huge sacrifices, serious commitment, and extremely hard work. The hard work that’s required to sustain a career in sports is the reasoning behind players’ lucrative salaries.
Athletes work on their craft daily to become the best they possibly can be, which in turn creates the best entertainment to the fan base. In conclusion, it is the quality of performance put out by the players of a team that brings in the revenue for teams and leagues in professional sports.
The NFL, an organization with revenues far exceeding any other league in professional sports in the entire world, is currently dealing with an issue: players who desire bigger contracts. But the common question to be asked is, how does the league with the highest revenues deal with this compelling contract issue. Many would assume that because they bring in boatloads of money, they would be able to pay their players the most.
It is easy to understand why NFL players might be upset about their contracts when compared with the new NBA deals that are now being inked. When the salaries of NFL stars such as Odell Beckham Jr. who makes under $3 million a year, and Le’Veon Bell with his $12-million-a-year contract go up against NBA stars Stephen Curry and James Harden who are each scheduled to make north of $40 million, the comparison seems so silly.
Yes, this is a fairly extreme example, yet there is still a massive difference between the two sports. In 2016, the average NFL contract was $2.1 million per year, while the average NBA salary was $6.2 million. To most people, this just seems unfair to the players of the NFL who undergo such brutal physical punishment week in and week out.
That punishment is one of the factors why NFL teams cannot pay players the same type of money that basketball athletes take home. Due to the nature of the sport, athletes participating in the NFL are much less likely to stay healthy and consistently produce for their organizations over the long haul. NFL players’ careers have a shorter lifespan than that of basketball players.
On another note, basketball players can and do have far greater impacts on a franchise than any football player possibly can. As football players have specific roles that limit their impact to just one facet of a team’s performance, basketball players can impact a team in every way possible.
For example, Lebron James has often led his team in points, assists, rebounds, blocks, and steals – all during one single game – while an NFL wide receiver most likely won’t have any passing yards, will have minimal rushing yards, and won’t even be on the field for defense. Basketball players spend a much greater portion of the game on the “field” than football players do, due to the nature of the sport.
Another factor that justifies lower pay in the NFL is the number of players on a football team. As NBA teams only have to pay 15 players on their roster, NFL rosters carry 53 players, all deserving of nice fat contracts. This statistic makes it extremely difficult for organizations to give lucrative contracts to players as they need to spread the wealth of their budget across such a large group of deserving men. It is somewhat irrational and unreasonable to think NFL teams can offer their players anything close to the salaries that NBA stars are agreeing to this offseason.
Football players just have to face the reality of their situation and understand that they are still better off than the majority of Americans that make much less than them.
Blake Miller is a sophomore at the University Miami studying Business/Finance. He is a former Miami Herald All-County football and baseball player (2015-16) and runner–up for Athlete of the Year in 2016.