Are Pro Athletes Paid Too Much?

There’s been a lot of talk recently about whether or not professional athletes are being overpaid relative to the importance of their jobs. And, while it is true athletes can make an absurd amount of money, I think a lot of people are forgetting about a few key points in their rants against athletes. But before I get into the details, I want to explain why this issue is important. How is this a civic issue? Athletes in professional sports compete in their sports (obviously) but they also compete for your time, your money, and your support.You deserve to know why the ticket prices have increased, or why so many people have resorted to buying $30 Chinese-made knockoff jerseys instead of paying $100 for the “real” ones. For better or worse, sports fans are invested in their teams and the discussions surrounding the role of money in sports are important to them.

Unpopular opinion time: I do not think that athletes are paid too much money.

I think they are paid ridiculous amounts of money, but I don’t think it’s too much. Why is this? Well let me tell you.

The main arguments claiming athletes are overpaid are generally feeble and generally lack logic. The comparisons they draw (and they love to draw comparisons) are noble but are ultimately not plausible. Let’s take a look.

Their job isn’t important enough to make that kind of money.

Umm… think again. This is a popular argument used as it questions why someone playing a sport deserves to make more money than, say, a teacher. Well, unfortunately, being deserving has nothing to do with it. Those who subscribe to this argument note that teachers, police officers, firefighters, and doctors all make less money than most professional athletes, even though their jobs are much more noble and important to society. But while this is true, this argument doesn’t consider why this is so. This type of wishful thinking could be easily countered by applying some basic economics because the market determines the price.

Supply and demand. On perhaps day one of an economics course you will learn that when something is in high demand or short supply, people will pay a lot of money for it. Well, with professional sports, we see both short supply and high demand. The amount of people who make it to professional sports constitutes not even a fraction of the people who played that sport at any other level. These athletes are the best of the best and people are willing to pay to see them. Teachers, police officers, and everyone else are generally in great supply. In fact, any recent education graduate will tell you that there are more teachers looking for jobs than there are jobs to fill. And, while unfortunate, this is how the job market works.


Why do we spend so much money on sports when we could just as easily use it to solve the glaring social issues we face today?

This may be hard to hear, but perhaps the amount of money we spend on sports speaks to what we value as a society. While I am not arguing against helping the poor or saving the environment, I also do not find it odd or disturbing that we place such a high value on sports. We are advanced enough as a society that we can afford to spend money on entertainment. Evidently, we hold our entertainment in a rather high regard. This argument also looks past the fact that some of the leading philanthropists in our society are athletes who are giving back to their communities. But, this aside, the money athletes make is a direct response for this
need for entertainment. Another reason athletes are paid so much is because owners are willing to pay them that much. An owner who is not willing to spend the money will find themselves with a bad team, and bad teams don’t make money.


Not even the President makes that kind of money.

Well people don’t usually get into politics to make money. Honestly I’m not really sure why this is as popular an argument as it is, but I’ve come across it in nearly every article I’ve read. The President is a public employee who’s salary is paid for by taxpayers, so of course it’s not millions of dollars. Athletes are private sector employees who are at such a premium that we are willing to pay them as much money as we do. Also, past Presidents often make most of their money through book deals and speaking tours, and we seem to have no problems with that.


Not only do they make too much money, but they also are greedy and complain that it’s not enough.

Why are we blaming the athletes? I find no fault in people using their skills to benefit themselves (assuming they do it in a way that doesn’t hurt others). I also find it hard to believe that if any of us would not do the same if we were put in the same situation.


Perhaps I am missing the point, but I don’t think I am. I think if people find issue with the amount of money professional athletes are being paid, they should look inward to what we value as a society when assigning blame. While there are certainly more noble professions, the fact remains that the righteousness of one’s profession has no relation to the amount they are paid. If this were true, the director of a non-profit would make billions while the CEO of a pharmaceutical company that drastically marks up the price of essential medications would be struggling to get by. So while the argument stating athletes are overpaid has some merit, I ultimately can’t believe that we should accept it.



College Athletes Part 2: Should College Athletes be Compensated?

A few weeks ago I talked about the college requirement for some pro athletes. In short, the National Football League and National Basketball Association, specifically, require some college attendance to those who seek to play in them. Today I am going to examine what happens when those athletes are forced to attend college and the potential hardships they face. Today I will examine the question of whether or not college athletes should be compensated for their services.

This issue has been around for quite a while with no real major developments other than it being brought to national prevalence. The reason for this is that this issue is perhaps one of the most complicated ones in all of sports. There are many conflicting ideals and groups and the answer may not be so clear cut as to receive a simple “yes” or “no”. So, in order to fully understand this issue, we must first look at the history behind it.

The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) formed in the early 1900s as a way to standardize rules and regulations for college athletics. This changed in the 1950s due to the emergence of college football as a large television market, and it was the first big influx of money into college athletics. To make a long story short, the NCAA assumed more control over its member schools and began to regulate college athletics beyond the rulebooks. As a result of the rapidly increasing revenue of the NCAA and individual colleges and universities, certain groups of athletes began to ask if they would be getting a share of the money that they had helped earn. What happened next was perhaps one of the greatest instances of framing in human history.

To combat workers compensation claims, the director of the NCAA in 1964 coined the term “student-athlete.” By manufacturing this term, the NCAA could frame the issue such that the athletes were viewed as “students first, and athletes second.” They claimed that since these were students and amateurs, they could not be paid. In fact, they were actually already being paid in the form of an education. This strategy was massively successful, as can be seen by the fact that this is the very same argument we are having today. In 50 years the stances of the two sides have not changed.

The argument for paying players is rather simple, they are the ones bringing in the money yet they see none of it. In fact, they can’t even profit off their own name according to NCAA rules. Additionally, the “student-athlete” model is a facade that can easily be broken down by taking a closer look. A Division I football or basketball player spends nearly 40 hours a week (in season) in practice, which means that their status as athletes is essentially a full time job. To have a full time job on top of school and homework is not an easy thing, and when so much pressure is being put on them to win in their respective sport, their role as a student takes a sort of back seat. And to the argument that these athletes are being paid with an education, many football and basketball players never wanted to go to college in the first place, yet they were required to. Additionally, while many football and basketball players are given stipends meant to cover their costs of living, they are often not enough and the fact that many of them come from poorer families means they can’t cover the difference. In short, these players seem to be forced into a system which requires them to work without them being compensated (in their eyes).

The argument against paying players can easily be written off as rich people wanting to keep their money. And, to a degree, it’s hard not to view it in this way. However, some of the arguments against paying athletes do speak to valid concerns. But first, we must look at the illogical arguments that many people make. First off, an argument is often made that it would be a logistical nightmare to pay athletes. This is some Class A bullcrap. Just because the alternative is hard doesn’t mean its okay to deny a person their rights. The fact is if a group of people deserve to be paid, you can’t deny them it on the basis that it would be too hard. Another largely invalid argument is that paying athletes would ruin the “integrity” of college sports. First off, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of integrity involved in making billions off the backs of unpaid kids. But, looking past that, the amateurism to which this integrity alludes to is really a construct created by the NCAA. The notion that the athletes (namely in football and basketball), play for the love of the sport is a little misconstrued. Many athletes are also playing because they are being forced through college before going pro and making their money. So while I’m sure many athletes are playing for the love of their sport, they are also playing for their future payday.

Now, moving past this there are some legitimate concerns about compensating athletes. First off, would big schools gain an unbeatable advantage over small ones based on their ability to raise money? I sure hope not. Coming from a big school, I know Penn State might benefit from this, however it seems like it would ruin college football to create a system where athletes go to the highest bidder, and the highest bidder is only ever one of a few schools. Also, what kind of values are we instilling if athletes choose universities based not on their ability to educate, but on the size of their wallets?

So, while I do not believe the current system is fair, I’m not sure that paying college athletes is the right way to go. I think the solution rests on two actions. First off, professional leagues (actually just the NFL and NBA) need to invest in developmental leagues. The NBA needs to get rid of their age requirements for their D-League and the NFL needs to create some sort of minor league. This would allow the few athletes who are good enough to play straight out of high school (refer back to the previous post if you have issue with this). More importantly, this would ensure that the athletes who do go to college truly value their education as opposed to being forced into it. Secondly, the NCAA must allow their athletes to profit off their own name. No other student in America would be kicked out of college for agreeing to be sponsored by a product, yet for some reason this rule applies only to the people it matters most to. The NCAA and the schools shouldn’t be allowed to profit off the players if the players themselves can not.

While this issue is incredibly complex, and difficult to fit into one blog post, I do hope I’ve done some justice and shed some light on it. If you have a different viewpoint than mine, feel free to share it! While perhaps my idea is not the absolute best one, I do believe that something has to be done. The fact that no major progress has been made in the last 50 years is appalling to me. We need to resolve this issue and we can’t keep pushing it back.



Should athletes be paid to play?

Deliberation Reflection

The deliberation I attended was entitled “The Birds, The Bees, Reducing STD’s: Let’s Talk About Sex[ual Health].” The group led a discussion on different ways to encourage sexual health among the population. The three approaches they looked into were improving sex education, changing legislation surrounding prostitution, and rethinking the current healthcare system.

The deliberation team was able to present well and generate good audience discussion. The audience was completely comprised of students, although there were only about ten of us so there may have been a slight lack in diverse viewpoints. After the deliberation, it was the conclusion of nearly everyone that while all three approaches had good merit, the root of each one was better education. The group seemed to gravitate towards the idea that better sex education was the best way to improve sexual health.

Pretty much everyone in the group agreed that we need better options when it comes to sex ed, however there were some differences in opinion on how exactly to go about it. One of the main reasons for this that I found interesting was the apparent inability of many Americans to differentiate between comprehensive sexual education and promoting sex. Many people see any attempt at teaching kids about sexual health as encouraging them to have sex, a viewpoint that is extremely detrimental to any productive discussion that one may seek to have. The group seemed to recognize that this was a big problem and it created a sort of division among opinions. One side felt that although this view was wrong it should be considered when designing different sex ed programs, while the other felt that they should sort of “steamroll” over people who thought like this in favor of giving kids the best possible education.

The other division in how to approach sex ed stemmed from whether it should be optional or not. This viewpoint considered the notion that comprehensive sex ed courses should be available but optional dependent on the desires of the parents. This created a fissure within the deliberation group as well. On one hand, some students argued that the parents should be allowed to decide whether their child receives an education on sexual health in school or at home, which would allow them to instill their personal values within their children. On the other hand, some students believed that sex ed was too important to make it optional.

This view also stemmed from the discussion surrounding our personal sex ed experiences. Through the deliberation we came to realize the true range of sex ed programs throughout the country or even just Pennsylvania. Because everyone is coming to college with drastically different levels of understanding sexual health, a good portion of the audience came to the conclusion that there needs to be some baseline for sex ed programs in grade-schools. They believed that by setting a standard for the education they could improve many of the problems currently associated with the lack of knowledge, like STDs/STIs for example. They also argued that this would dismantle the taboo surrounding the subject currently, which would allow for the problems to be addressed more directly without the fear of offending people with the way in which they talk about it.

Through the rest of the discussion, we all came to realize that the other two approaches were essentially a more convoluted or roundabout way of tackling sexual education. So, although there was some disagreement in exactly how to do it, everybody came to the general conclusion that best way to improve sexual health was through improved sexual education.I wish were able to spend more time discussing the best ways to implement it, however I thought the deliberation went very well and I am glad to say that I came out of it with some new perspective on the issue.

College Athletes Part 1: Should College be Required?

Over the next two posts I want to take a hard look at one of the most prevalent issues in sports: how to deal with college athletes. Specifically, I wan to talk about two issues that go hand-in-hand, and they are should college be a requirement for pro athletes? And if so, should they be compensated with more than just scholarships. Today, I am going to focus on the former.

Please note, for the purpose of these next two posts I am really only going to be talking about the four major professional sports: football, basketball, baseball, and hockey. I know that there are many more sports at the collegiate level but these are the only four with notable professional leagues (at least in America). These are the sports where athletes have the most to (potentially) lose by being forced to play college sports. Also, just to be clear, I am only going to talk about the men’s side of each sport because, at least right now, there aren’t any professional women’s leagues in these sports that are comparable to the men’s in popularity or value (not taking a stance here, this is a completely separate issue). To catch everyone up to speed here are the current rules for league eligibility for the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB and their effects:

National Football League: The NFL’s current rule requires at least three years of college football, with a few other options that generally require more than three years. There are a few other routes that don’t involve college but college teams provide valuable player development so nearly all NFL players come from some college team.

National Basketball League: No player may sign with an NBA team unless he has been eligible for at least one draft. To be draft eligible a player must be 19 years old and at least one year out of high school. For this reason many players play college basketball to improve their value but often leave without a degree.

National Hockey League: The NHL has no college requirements. Their rules stipulate that any 18-20 year old (or first-year European player) must enter the NHL draft, and all other players may enter the league as free agents. About 31% on all NHL players played college hockey.

Major League Baseball: The MLB rules for college do give players the option to enter the draft straight out of high school; however, if they do go to college they must play for at least three years. About 4.3% of baseball players have college degrees.

So as you can see, the NFL and NBA are the only leagues with a rigid college requirement. So, why is this? In short, it sort of developed this way. Baseball became popular long before college sports became the gateway to professional sports. And college hockey only became popular relatively recently. College football and basketball, however, became popular in tandem with their professional counterparts. They are also by far the most lucrative sports for universities, and they could stand to lose value if the best players never went to college. It was only when questions to the status quo came about that the NFL and NBA cemented their college requirements.

A wall with each MLB at the top, and their affiliated farm teams below.

The arguments for keeping these rules in place are twofold: (1) they allow for the players to develop and (2) it forces them to get the highly coveted college education. Now, while the NFL has a legitimate argument for the issue of development (football requires a higher amount of learned skills and smarts compared to the other sports), the issue could be resolved by the inclusion of a farm system. The NHL and MLB have efficient farm systems that allow them to develop players while still paying them. The NFL and NBA, however, do not. In terms of the college education argument, I’ll get to that more next post, but essentially if a player doesn’t want the education they’re being forced to receive, it’s not all that valuable.

The arguments against keeping the rules in place seem to heavily outweigh those for keeping them. It comes down to a matter of freedom to choose and working rights. While baseball and hockey players can begin making money right out of high school, football and basketball players are forced into colleges where they play for free (again, see next post for more on this), and risk injuries that could ruin their careers. An analogy that is often made is no one forced Taylor Swift to go to college for vocal performance before she pursued a professional career. In fact, that sounds a bit ridiculous, but I would argue that how are athletes any different? The rules that are currently in place only serve to hurt them.

I must admit that I am a big football fan, and I would hate to see any decline in the competitiveness of Penn State football. Yet, I find it hard to argue for the continued forcing of athletes to go to college. I would argue that baseball has the best system currently in place. It allows players to enter out of high school, and if they don’t like their offers they can turn them down to go to college and seek to reenter the league a few years later. Stay tuned for next week when I’ll examine the ever-pressing issue of college athletes and the NCAA’s student-athlete model.



A Stadium Too Far

We all inherently associate a sports team with the city they play in. They tend to move beyond their basic status as a source of entertainment into a role that significantly impacts their city. In essence, they come to define a city. For me, the image to the right is equally, if not more, recognizable than the actual Philadelphia

Sports Complex in South Philadelphia

sky-line. Those four monuments to Philadelphia sports represent a huge part of my identity and where I’m from. However, and as a sports fan it pains me to say this, all of this noise and glamour is really a distraction that masks the fact that sports franchises, in reality, are businesses. And what does every business need? A headquarters. A stadium.

The Problem

Professional stadiums, which are increasingly becoming more and more elaborate and luxurious, cost a lot of money. Additionally, every so often, teams need or choose to build new stadiums for many various reasons. The problem arises because professional teams of the four major American sports (Football, Baseball, Basketball, Hockey) are in rather unique positions as businesses. Their intimate relationships with their cities and their fans, as well as their supposed contributions to their local economies (which we’ll talk about later), allow them to extort a rather large degree of influence over the cities. And many of them use this influence to acquire public funds, taxpayer dollars, in order to fund their new stadiums. To my knowledge (and the knowledge of many journalists who have written on this subject), no other business in America has been able to successfully lobby local governments for funds to build or maintain their headquarters. This is a problem.

Analyzing the Issue

A Huffington Post graphic of taxpayer contributions to NFL stadiums from 2013.

From here on out I am going to focus specifically on NFL stadiums because they generally cost the most money and they tend to acquire the most public subsidies. From 2000-2015, nearly $12 billion in taxpayer money was spent on football stadiums, and many times the teams put pressure on the cities, which were initially reluctant to provide any money. Teams often put immense pressure on the local government and routinely threaten the city with relocation in order to get their way. In 1994, the Rams left Los Angeles for St. Louis because the mayor had refused to pay for a new stadium, and just this past year the left St. Louis for Los Angeles for the same exact reason. In addition, the San Diego Chargers have now become the Los Angeles Chargers, and the Oakland Raiders will soon become the Las Vegas Raiders. Nearly every move in NFL history has occurred because the teams were frustrated with not getting any or “enough” money to build a new stadium, and they were able to create a bidding war with other cities who were willing to pay.

And, as if to make matters worse, the cities that do end up securing an NFL team rarely reap the advertised economic benefits. Although they are recent, the many studies that have been done on cities that subsidize new stadiums have shown no association between the new stadium and an economic boost. In fact, a great majority of the studies show that cities who spend money to attract or retain pro teams generally turn out worse economically than those that do not pursue them. In general, many economists agree that the potential benefits of spending public funds on stadiums for sports teams is not worth the risk. The team owners and the leagues reap most of the rewards while the public bears the bulk of the risk. Additionally, although the stadium projects initially create any jobs for construction, once it is complete these jobs go away. In their place are many temp jobs as vendors and other workers who are paid somewhere around minimum wage. Also, we have to remember that a football stadium is generally only open for about 8-12 games a year, maybe closer to 20 if it is shared with a college team. Other than those days it only opens for a select few concerts or events of that nature. The fact is, for most of the year the stadium is not in use.

In Conclusion

I feel I must point out here that not every NFL team is owned by greedy billionaires. There are, in fact, a great many players and owners who make it a point of theirs to give back to the communities they represent through charity. Atlanta Falcons’ owner Arthur Blank, for example, has focused his charity work on

The Georgia Dome (left) and the brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium (right) in Atlanta, Georgia.

revitalizing English Avenue and Vine City, two of the poorest neighborhoods in the country, both of which lie only a few blocks from the Georgia Dome and Mercedes-Benz Stadium. However, for each hope-inspiring case such as this, there is another that is equally uninspiring. Take, for example, the case of U.S. Bank Stadium, the new home for the Minnesota Vikings. Initially, the building of the stadium required a public referendum on the issue of public subsidies; however, a “stadium authority” was created to surpass this referendum and allocate the $498 million requested without taxpayer consent.

Actions like this make me wonder how and why it came to be this way. It may not be a huge deal in, say, Los Angeles, with 4 million taxpayers; however, it would be a much larger deal in, say, St. Louis with its 300,000 taxpayers (aka why the Rams moved back to LA). As to how to deal with this, some have suggested legislation to protect local governments (or taxpayers), but anything short of federal action wouldn’t make much of a difference as there are 32 teams and a whole lot more cities that would be happy to take them in. It is true that the allure of a professional sports franchise, especially an NFL team, is very appealing. However, it is also true that we must protect the public from extortion from big businesses and something must be done.



“Building a Stadium, Rebuilding a Neighborhood” – Ken Belson

“Taxpayers Have Spent a ‘Staggering’ Amount of Money on NFL Stadiums” – Travis Waldron

“The Never Ending Stadium Boondoggle” – Richard Florida