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Are Pro Athletes Overpaid?

When basketball player Stephen Curry signed a new contract with the Golden State Warriors in 2017, jaws dropped at his salary: a whopping $201 million over five years. That's about $40 million a year--one of the highest annual salaries in team sports. The National Basketball Association (N.B.A.), the National Football League (N.F.L.), and Major League Baseball (M.L.B.) are the three biggest sports organizations in the U.S. They reap billions of dollars every year from TV deals and merchandise and ticket sales. The top players in these leagues earn huge salaries that most Americans can only dream of. Are pro athletes overpaid? Two sportswriters weigh in.

YES

There's no question that professional athletes are paid too much. In 2018, the average annual salary for an M.L.B, player was $4.1 million. Mike Trout, a centerfielder for the Los Angeles Angels, gets $35.8 million a year. In the N.B.A., the average annual salary was $7.1 million. In the N.F.L., the average was "only" $2.7 million, but one of football's highest-paid players, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, just signed a four-year contract for $134 million.

Compare those wages with the national average salary for a firefighter: about $45,000 a year. It's about $56,000 for a schoolteacher and nearly $74,000 for an emergency room nurse.

Does it make any sense that someone who throws a football for a living is paid more than 700 times as much as someone who helps save people's lives, or that swinging a bat gets you nearly 650 times as much as educating kids? In my opinion, no.

However, it's not the athletes' fault that their wages are so high. The main problem is the huge amount of money involved in professional sports. Team owners and the three big leagues rake in billions of dollars a year.

Some of it comes from fans who shell out big bucks for costly game tickets and hugely overpriced snacks at stadiums and arenas, and for hoodies and hats with their favorite team's logo. But far more comes from the multibillion-dollar deals made with cable and TV networks to broadcast games.

With leagues and team owners making such massive sums, the athletes who put their bodies on the line for their sports deserve a large share of it. But they're still earning way too much money.

Maybe highly paid athletes (along with team owners) should have to pay a special tax that would help fund better salaries for firefighters, teachers, nurses, and other people who work for the greater public good.

--JESSE SPECTOR Sportswriter and radio host

NO

When fans look at professional athletes' salaries, it's easy to say they make far too much money for playing a game. After all, athletes earn more money than teachers, first responders, and members of the military. More than half the people in the United States make less than $62,000 a year.

But it's important to remember that those athletes are an essential part of enormously profitable companies. The National Football League, Major League Baseball, and the National Basketball Association generate billions of dollars in revenue. Without the players, the leagues wouldn't exist. Players' salaries are simply their share of all the cash these hugely successful businesses bring in.

Plus, making it to the pros takes years of hard work. And the few athletes who get that far have relatively short careers--just 5 to 10 years to earn a living, compared with 40 or 50 years for other jobs.

Besides, not all athletes make millions of dollars. The lowest-paid N.F.L., M.L.B., and N.B.A. players make about $500,000. (While that's still a lot, it's not nearly as much as their top-level teammates earn.) And pros in less popular sports make even less than that. For example, players in the National Women's Soccer League make only between $16,000 and $44,000 a season.

Also, think about who'd get the money if the athletes made less. Lower salaries wouldn't necessarily lead to lower ticket and hot dog prices for fans who go to the games. The billionaire owners of the N.F.L., M.L.B., and N.B.A. teams would likely pocket the difference.

The truth is, some professional athletes make huge salaries because millions of people are happy to pay money to see those players make the amazing catches and breathtaking plays we love to watch.

So if you think pro athletes make too much money, maybe you should stop watching them.

--FRED BOWEN Washington Post sportswriter and author

LESSON PLAN: ANALYZING AUTHOR'S CLAIMS

DEBATE PAGES 22-23 Lexile level available online

Are Pro Athletes Overpaid?

YES: Jesse Spector, sportswriter and radio host

NO: Fred Bowen, Washington Post sportswriter and author

Analyze the Debate

1 Set Focus: Frame the inquiry with these essential questions: Is there such a thing as being paid too much? If so, how is the bar set for what is too much?

2 Read and Discuss: Have students read the debate and then answer the following questions:

> What is the issue being debated? How does it relate to current events? (The issue is whether professional athletes are paid too much. The five-year $201 million contract basketball player Stephen Curry recently signed has catapulted this issue into the spotlight.)

> Evaluate why these two authors might be interested in and qualified to comment on this issue. (Spector is a sportswriter. He also hosts a radio show about sports. Bowen writes about sports for The Washington Post. He has also written books about sports.)

3 Core Skill Practice: Project or distribute Analyzing Authors' Claims, and have students use the activity to analyze and evaluate each author's arguments.

> Analyze Spector's view. (Spector argues that professional athletes are paid too much. He says that it makes no sense for people who play a game for a living to make millions of dollars a year when people who save lives and educate kids make less than $100,000 per year. He recognizes that the sports industry generates massive sums of money but still thinks that athletes' salaries are too high.)

> Analyze Bowen's view. (Bowen argues that the high salaries pro athletes are paid are justified by the billions in revenue that pro sports generate. He believes that the athletes deserve their share, as they are the ones who attract the fans and, thus, the money. He also says that the high salaries are justified because most pro careers are short.)

Additional Resources upfrontmagazine.com

Print or project:

* Analyzing Authors' Claims (online and on p. T13)

Vote: Choose a side in the debate and see instant results from across the U.S.

Extend & Assess

4 Writing Prompt

In an essay, evaluate one of the debater's arguments. Assess whether the reasoning is valid and whether it's supported with evidence. Point out biases or missing information.

5 Classroom Debate

Are pro athletes overpaid? Have students use the authors' ideas, as well as their own, in a debate.

6 Vote

Go online to vote in Upfront's poll--and see how students across the country voted.

ANALYZE & EVALUATE CLAIMS
Analyzing Authors' Claims

Read the debate on pages 22-23 about whether professional
athletes are overpaid, then follow the directions below
to analyze each author's claims and decide who makes a
stronger case.

AUTHOR: Jesse Spector               AUTHOR: Fred Bowen
Sportswriter and radio host         Washington Post sportswriter
                                    and author

Author's main claim or argument     Author's main claim or argument
in the debate:                      in the debate:

REASON 1: Name one reason the       REASON 1: Name one reason the
author gives for his claim.         author gives for his claim.

List evidence the author gives      List evidence the author
to support Reason 1.                gives to support Reason 1.

REASON 2: Name another reason       REASON 2: Name another reason
the author presents.                the author presents.

List evidence the author gives      List evidence the author
to support Reason 2.                gives to support Reason 2.

REASON 3: Name a third reason       REASON 3: Name a third reason
the author presents.                the author presents.

List evidence the author gives      List evidence the author gives
to support Reason 3.                to support Reason 3.

What persuasive devices             What persuasive devices
does the author use?                does the author use?

__Appeals to emotions               __Appeals to emotions
__Uses data or scholarly research   __Uses data or scholarly research
__Tells why the other side's        __Tells why the other side's
  argument is weak                    argument is weak
__Other:__                          __Other:__

EVALUATE: Which author do you think makes a more effective case?
Do you spot any weaknesses, such as a bias or missing information,
in either argument? Explain on a separate sheet of paper.


Caption: Big earners: Aaron Rodqers, Mike Trout, and Stephen Curry
World's Highest-Paid Athletes, 2018

ATHLETE                 TOTAL EARNINGS,      SALARY/
                           INCLUDING        WINNINGS
                         ENDORSEMENTS

1. Floyd Mayweather      $285 million     $275 million
(boxing)

2. Lionel Messi          $111 million      $84 million
(soccer)

3. Cristiano Ronaldo     $108 million      $61 million
(soccer)

4. Conor McGregor         $99 million      $85 million
(mixed martial arts)

5. Neymar                 $90 million      $17 million
(soccer)

6. LeBron James          $88.5 million    $33.5 million
(basketball)

7. Roger Federer         $77.2 million    $12.2 million
(tennis)

8. Stephen Curry         $76.9 million    $34.9 million
(basketball)

9. Matt Ryan             $67.3 million    $62.3 million
(football)

10. Matthew Stafford     $59.5 million    $57.5 million
(football)

SOURCE: FORBES
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Title Annotation:Debate
Publication:New York Times Upfront
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2019
Words:1561
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