In the past few weeks, many Americans have probably noticed that some major league baseball players has received ridiculously large contracts for their services. Among these are the contracts signed by Zack Greinke and David Price, two former Cy Young Award winning pitchers. They are so highly thought of that the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Boston Red Sox, respectively, will be paying each of them over 30 million dollars per year in the coming years. Since they are starting pitchers, they usually will only work every five days. Their work day may only be about two and a half hours long. It is good money if one has a shrewd agent that can negotiate a mega-million dollar deal.
The money that professional athletes and television and movie superstars make has long been a point of contention among American workers. While it’s true that Americans create the demand for entertainment by patronizing movie theaters, cable and satellite television, and professional sports arenas, there is something to be said for the priorities that employers place on the value of workers.
To get a better understanding of the imbalance in paychecks, one needs only to do a simple comparison. In comparing the salaries of people in the helping professions such as healthcare, education and public safety to that of corporate CEOs, television and movie performers and professional athletes, it is quite obvious that the real heroes in life are grossly underpaid, at least in comparison to pseudo-hero celebrities. People argue that a baseball player making 30 million dollars per season is not nearly as valuable as a nurse, certified nursing assistant, firefighter or police officer, all making a fraction of what an actor or athlete makes.
Below are average annual salaries of a few helping professions:
- Certified Nursing Assistant: $28,045 (salary.com)
- Firefighter: $43,646 (salary.com)
- Teacher (Kindergarten through 12th grade): $44,525 (payscale.com)
It should be noted that the minimum annual salary of a major league baseball player in 2015 was slightly over $500,000, still far and away more than any of the other professions listed above.
Where does all of that sports revenue come from? Ticket sales dictate some of that money. As annual salaries have skyrocketed, ticket prices have, too. But tickets are not the only source of money. Concession costs are enormous – one need only compare the price of one 20 ounce beer at a ballpark to a six pack of twelve ounce cans at a liquor store. However, one of the biggest sources of revenue in professional sports comes from stadium naming rights and television broadcasting right. For example, the St. Louis Cardinals recently negotiated a contract with Fox Sports for over $1 billion over 15 years beginning in 2018. Money like this is being pumped into an entertainment industry that’s demand continues to be fueled by the public despite complaints of growing salaries for players.
The comparisons between salaries lends some credence to the argument for narrowing the income gap. For one thing, this comparison offers an interesting perspective on what Americans place as priorities. Do Americans really feel that the performance of a professional athlete or television celebrity is more important than adequate education, health care or public safety? Surely not, yet many fans seem to turn a blind eye to the swelling of athletes’ paychecks and multi-million dollar movie deals for actors. Should a corporate CEO really make a salary that is exponentially greater then someone who works in the company mail room or the marketing department? Once again, the division of wealth and the shrinking middle class are spotlighted. America is becoming a nation of only two classes of people: the very rich and an ever-increasing amount of people living in poverty.
While no one is saying that teachers, nurses and firefighters should make $30 million per year, salary increases are usually welcome. The sight of American celebrities, athletes, and corporate executives drooling over millions of dollars is hard to bear for many everyday working people who are working hard and long hours just to survive. But as long as people create the demand for movies and sports, and until more people take seriously the disparity in the division of wealth in the United States, this issue will continue to be a sore spot for many.