Joshua A. Vinson

Joshua A. Vinson | Sports editor

Joshua A. Vinson: We should ask how much Jeff Bezos makes, not LeBron James

People often argue that professional athletes get paid too much. I find that to be an interesting stance because no one ever says that the CFO at a Fortune 500 company’s salary is too high. I mean, this is America, right? Are we not still capitalists? Do not get me wrong, I agree there are some professions in our country that are under-valued, and we would be lost without them. 

For example, teachers at our public schools. The average salary for a teacher in the state of Tennessee is a little more the $48,000 per year. When you think about the amount of time, work and effort that they have to put in to their profession, not to mention they help raise these children, they should be paid double, if not triple. But they are not, which is not their fault. Blame your lawmakers. Every time teachers try to get a salary increase, they find themselves at odds with the school boards and local government who never have enough money, but they have money for everything else.

Conservatives are the ones that make me laugh out loud when they say athletes are paid too much and teachers and others should get paid more. They will say that, yet at the same time they are union-busting every chance they get. The reason why these players are securing the bag is because the players’ associations bargain with the owners to get a fair share of the pie. In other words, they have a great union. 

What we also have to be honest about is understanding why these athletes are paid so much. Anybody can go to the University of Memphis and get a teaching degree, but there is only one LeBron James. That is not a knock to someone who is going to be teacher, but in reality there are plenty of people who can fill those roles, whereas that is not the case in professional sports.

But to keep it real, what is really comical about this conversation is how the “typical” American tends to agree with this mindset. At the same time, they will argue that people at McDonald’s should not get paid $15 an hour, yet the company’s net worth is $104 billon. Let’s talk about the Amazon people who work like slaves while underpaid, yet work for the richest man in the world.

There was a story in The Washington Post last year that said one out of three workers at Amazon in Arizona received federal benefits such as food stamps. People on the left would say let’s make those companies pay for that and force them to pay their employees more. Those on the right call that response un-American and say maybe the people should find a new job. 

I say let’s stop counting LeBron James’ money or even Mike Trout’s money and start questioning our government and ask why we don’t pay the hardworking Americans who wake up every day to try to change the world.

Oh, we cannot do that, because our government is too busy trying to build a wall that will cost more than $5 billion dollars, but some Americans will turn a blind eye to that because they fear people who do not look like them and they wrap it up and tie a bow on it and call it national security.

But I digress.

Isaac O. Weston

Isaac O. Weston: It’s more than a game, but it’s also more than a paycheck

On average for every season, a player makes $2.1 million in the NFL, $6.2 million in the NBA, $4.4 million in MLB and $2.9 million in the NHL, according to Forbes. The median wage for workers in the United States in the fourth quarter of 2017 was $44,564, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

I do not believe in dictating which incomes are too high for their respected vocation, and I do not believe in imposing my financial views on others. I think professional athletes do make more money than the job merits, but at the risk of sounding hypocritical, that is our own fault because we, as Americans, make more than we deserve compared to the rest of the world. Plus, we are the ones paying money to keep these sports around.

In high school, I played football with and against guys that are now in the NFL or are entering the draft this spring, so I respect the grind and believe the job is just as important as any other.

To say professional athletes are overpaid does not mean I think they don’t deserve a pretty penny for the money they bring to the franchises they represent. It’s just as unfair to say an NFL player deserves $100,000 per season when they are the reason the NFL made over $14.2 billion in 2017. To put that in perspective, international shipping giant FedEx has been appraised at $25 billion. In two seasons, the NFL’s revenue could buy FedEx. So, yes, athletes bringing in that kind of cash flow do deserve compensation. After all, CEOs make millions, too.

But here is my main problem with professional athletes’ paychecks: it’s too much too soon with too little guidance. The problem is not shooting guard Michael Jordan being worth almost $2 billion and all he did was “play a game.” The problem is young men and women spend two years in college, leave without a degree, receive seven or eight figures and constant attention before they are old enough to buy alcohol, then after three years of playing professionally they are done. 

Within two years of retiring, 78 percent of NFL players go broke or are struggling significantly and within five years of retiring, and 60 percent of NBA players go broke according to reports from The Huffington Post. It’s all about money now. That’s why players will sit out for a season and wait for better offers. Keep in mind, that’s one less year to play the game they love. If we continue to make sports solely about money, athletes will see they are just a dollar sign and behave accordingly. 

Professional athletes have a priceless task that is not in their job descriptions. They are role models for the boy whose dad wasn’t around, they are motivators to strangers in the stands and they are platforms for progress. It’s more than just a game, but it is also more than just a paycheck.

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