Big sports salaries survive during pandemic

For a while during the Coronavirus Pandemic there were lots of different sports games on television. The only problem was that a goodly number were from particular colleges showing highlights and in some cases entire games from yesteryear emphasizing winning seasons of a particular sport for a particular college.

They were okay if you had something else to do while the television provided background noise. The audiences and sometimes the uniforms of the players were clearly from quite a few years back and even the rules of the games had sometimes changed, such as basketball’s three-point range from the basket.

Then football and basketball had real live action from the present, but without any audience or the audience was a few cardboard cutouts. Later sometimes there were some real audience members sometimes interspersed around the arenas. Of course without a real live audience, the question came to mind of how are they able to pay all of the high salaries to the players with the income of those seats not being filled with paying customers?

For professional sports the answer seemed to be they could do just as well financially by getting the sponsors who had their many interruptions to hawk their products. The story is a bit different for high school and college games which many of the smaller schools and at the lower levels had no advertisers to fill the coffers ordinarily filled by the paying fans.


At the end of April, the news broke that some help would come from the administration of the NFL that they could reduce some of the overhead by paying less to administration, managers, and other executives. So without the ability to contact all of the necessary offices and officials to find out what was happening, I thought I could maybe get at least some of the story by checking out what showed up on the Internet. It was not long before I discovered that that is not an easy task because some of the “news” appeared to be contradicting other news stories.

The main example of this involved Roger Goodell, the National Football League Commissioner. One of the headlines I came across from April was, Goodell…“gives up $40 million salary and will cut League Employees pay.” However, another quote was, “Last month the Commissioner requested that he voluntarily reduce his salary to $0 which went into effect earlier this month.” Unfortunately, from the printed stories, the two articles left different impressions because one of the articles said that Goodell’s salary was just $6 million, the rest of the money to bring it to $40 million began to sound to my ears like it was not salary, but was pay of bonuses for reaching certain expectations.

AHA! What is the truth? Did he forego $40 million or just the $6 million that was carefully stated as “salary?” Reading about eight or ten stories on the internet, I cannot say that I ever came to a definite conclusion, but I can guess – What is your guess?

Indeed another Internet article (this by USA Today) said earnings were $4-$5 million in salary with total annual compensation of $40 million. Oh, Fiddlesticks!


In an October 4 article partially from Forbes Magazine, it was mentioned that from when Goodell was hired as Commisioner in 2006 to 2015, that he earned somewhere around $200 million. In that time period Quarterback Drew Brees, in the highest category of player salaries, had made just about $185 million. In other words the Commissioner was likely making more than any of the individual players.

In comparison with the top 500 business companies, the estimate for the average leader executive was around $13 million while the average worker for the 500 companies was only $37,362.

CNBC estimated that a one year contract in the NFL averaged about $450 thousand, after 3 years about $705 thousand and after 7 to 9 years about $915 thousand. Individuals, of course, may have far exceeded those pay amounts.

There are really comparatively few who get to the 7 to 9 year category due to the physical hazards encountered on the way. In 2017, the average NFL salary was $2.7 million with a median salary of $860 thousand. For football, the percent of high school players who get to the NFL is only about 0.2%.


There was a comparison of average salaries for different sports: The National Basketball Association at $8.32 million, Major League Baseball at $4.03 million, National Football League at $3.26 million, National Hocky League at $2.69 million, and Major League Soccer at $410 thousand.

The competition is stiff. For example, the Houston Chronicle estimated that only about 1% of college baseball players will be chosen and that some of those players will remain in the minor leagues for 10 years never to play on a major league team. Further the playing life in general is something less than six years.

Until next time: Oh, Fiddlesticks!


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