Are Professional Athletes Overpaid?

The world of sports is entertaining to the point where no leading newspaper is complete without a sports section, influential enough to inspire role models and wealthy enough to afford the lavishly high 9-10-digit salary packages for athletes. Whether or not athletes deserve the huge sums of money they are paid is a subjective argument, based on personal opinions and how close or distant one is from the ‘field’. 

We are not here to give you a hard and fast judgement on the subject but to shed light on both ends. The decision will, however, be up to you, but, between the words of a writer and the eyes of a reader, we’d say that it is alright to still be indecisive about the matter. It is alright to like and appreciate the athletes but not support the extravagance and it’s also completely fine to justify the wealth they earn with every cell of their being. For now, let’s just have a look at the different arguments people pull up when discussing the fact of ‘are professional athletes overpaid?’

World’s Highest Paid Athletes

According to Forbes, for tracking an athlete who is a member of the top 100 club, the cut off was $17.3 million 5 years ago. Today however the rates have climbed as high as $25 million. But who are these people? Who are these names that have earned themselves a right to such huge and luscious amounts of salaries? Let’s find out. 

1. Floyd Mayweather

With a total income of around 285 million dollars, the legendary boxer and an acquaintance of Hublot, Floyd Mayweather tops the list of highest-paid athletes in the year 2020.  With a salary/winning of approximately $275 million and the endorsements earning him around $10 million the boxer has made his mark once again this year.

2. Lionel Messi

With a total income of about $111 million, Messi is the second most highly paid athlete of the year. The Argentinian, Spanish Soccer hero has a salary of $84 million and makes the rest of his income from endorsements and partnerships with companies like Adidas, PepsiCo, Huawei and Hawkers etc. Additionally, the Chinese city of Nanjing is all set to open up a theme park named ‘Messi Experience Park’ in 2020.

3. Cristiano Ronaldo

The Portuguese star and the most popular athlete on social media with a fan following of nearly 400 million is also the 3rd highest-paid athlete of the ongoing year. Ronaldo currently plays for Real Madrid and has a salary/wining of about $61 million, earning around $47 million from endorsements and adding up to a total income of $108 million.

Other top ten members of the list are:

4. Conor McGregor

Income: $99 Million
Sport: Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing

5. Neymar

Income: $90 Million
Sport: Soccer

6. LeBron James

Income: $85.5 Million
Sport: Basketball

7. Roger Federer

Income: $77.2 Million
Sport: Tennis

8. Stephen Curry

Income: $76.9 Million
Sport: Basketball

9. Matt Ryan

Income: $67.3 Million
Sport: American Football (NFL)

10. Matthew Stafford

Income: $59.5 Million
Sport: American Football (NFL)

World’s Highest Paying Jobs

In order to understand that are professional athletes overpaid, it is only justifiable to compare their income with other high paying professions out there. The world is kindest to healthcare professionals. On various lists, available around the internet, healthcare professional jobs make at least 4/5 top ones. Here’s a list as reported by CNBC, on which the top 11 jobs are related to the field of medicine and healthcare.

1.  Anesthesiologist

Anesthesia is a highly risky prerequisite of a surgery, having no single standard that fits all. The amount differs from person to person, depending on their weight, physiology, immunity and medical history etc. Anesthetics holding a doctoral degree, according to CNBC earns a mean salary of about $267,020 per year.

2.  Surgeons

A practicing and certified surgeon with a doctoral degree makes a mean annual salary of around $255,110. Given the amount of hard work a surgeon puts, and has been putting ever since he or she entered the med school or maybe since years before that, the high paychecks may just a small reward to all those efforts they put to save and enhance the quality of life.

3.      Public Health Professionals

These include a wide range of workers with varying amounts of salary packages. The managers and directors usually get bigger paychecks (about $100,000 to $150,000) but other professions like Epidemiologist (~ $71,000), Biostatisticians ($72,000 till $120,000) and Environmentalists (the median range is about $68,000 but can go up to $110,000) are also quite graciously paid for their services in bettering the lives of the masses.

4.  Software Engineering Manager

Typically tasked with leading a team to research, develop, test and fix a company’s software(s), a software manager usually makes around $163,500.

5.  Software and App Architect

A fancy term for technical professions who are responsible for deciding which strategies to use while developing an app or software. When should the company use, launch a certain app, when to use the existing tools and when to build new ones are all part of their decision-making quota. A software architect usually makes around $145,000 while an app architect makes slightly higher i.e. about $149,000.

6.  Acting

Acting is one of the highest-paying professions in the world just like sports. Actors such as Dwayne Johnson and Scarlet Johansson make up to $89.4 million in case of males and $56 million in case of the female.

7.  Teaching

On average a university professor makes about $75,000 per year but according to reports, the highest-paid 10% of professors do make up to $168,270.

8.  Scientists

According to, nature scientists have a mean annual salary of about $140,000 whereas other scientists like astronomers may make up to $111.000.

Reasons Why Professional Athletes are Not Overpaid

1.  Vigorous training, Expectations and Scrutiny.

Most kids grow up seeing sports legends as role models. Their well maintained and athletic body, their stardom, their fandom, their sport. The idea that they are getting paid for simply ‘playing’. Truth is that maintaining to be the best in the game takes rigorous training, extra long hours of practice, constant pressure of exceeding, no excuse for poor performance and if for whatever reason you do perform badly, your entire career is on the line. 

Fans curse you, blame you and even feel it a right to torch you alive for it. For all those things a little fatter paycheck might just be a reward and motivation for the players to live upto the enforced standards of perfection. In light of what they do, if you ask that are professional athletes overpaid? The answer might be “no”.

2.  Short Career Span

Athletes like actors have a specific age range within which they can shine and make their mark. Most athletes are forced to retire in their 30s or maximum 40s. They have only till then to secure a future not just for themselves but also for their families. Hence paying them a bit more than others seems to be justification given by many.

3.  We, as fans dictate how well athletes are paid.

From buying expensive tickets to watch the games to getting your hands on the exclusive merchandise of your favorite team or player, fans willingly invest heavily in their beloved sport bringing in more business and creating greater demand for specific athletes. Since it’s the player who is bringing in the finances, it seems only fair that they receive a part of what they have helped earn.

Reasons Why Professional Athletes are Overpaid

1.  Economic and Social importance does not line with their insane paychecks.

In a world where life-saving and socially impactful professions like healthcare, medical professions and teachers are paid a maximum of a few hundred thousand dollars, it seems unfair that athletes and actors get millions of dollars for the sole purpose of entertaining the audiences.

2.  Not giving back to the society as much

Even though certain athletes do get themselves involved in charity and philanthropy, it is still negligible compared to how much they actually make. Most of the sports stars are seen flaunting their luxurious lifestyle while the common masses continue to suffer and struggle with basic necessities.

3.  Threatens the future of sports and diminishes the true spirit of the game.

Where the average annual income of a US household is approximately $60,000, professional athletes make between $2.1 -$6.5 million. If the statistics continue with the same imbalance then there will soon be a time where the average person will no longer be able to afford the tickets to the games or even get his kid merchandise of his favorite player. Furthermore, The hefty paychecks are diminishing the spirit of the game as more athletes shift their focus to money rather than the game itself. History has examples like Albert Haynesworth who received huge paychecks only to give their worst performance in a season. Playing for the money rather than excellence and simply enjoying the game with a sportsmanship spirit is taking away the soul of the games.


Like most things, the coin has 2 sides, making the heavy payments to sportsmen both justifiable and condemnable at the same time. While entertainment is necessary to relax the brain and may take the mind off our everyday stresses, the fact that those entertaining us are getting paid much much more than us can be an equally frustrating thought as well. So, are professional athletes overpaid? We let you make that decision! 


What do you think?