With capitalistic bubbles stretched taut, economies and individuals staggering under debt, infrastructure rapidly falling apart and the legitimate rape of the planet continuing unabated and ignored, one of the distractions in a Canadian’s life, hockey, seems to be heading for another strike. Imagine that, individuals of the top 1 % arguing over how much more of the pie they can take. As of 2012, the average wage of a NHL hockey player for one season was $2.4 million, about $29,000 per game. In the real world $2.4 million equals someone making $48,000 per year for 50 years. Yes, wow.
Comparatively, the other major sports in North America that keep us preoccupied and distracted and who also possess an insatiable thirst for our hard earned dollars, the NBA, MLB and NFL, have combined revenues that are higher than most countries make in a year.
The numbers quoted in this article for any players cited as being one of the richest 100 athletes in the world include player salaries, bonuses, appearance fees, prize money and endorsements and licensing, just like any other corporate entity, because that’s what they are, ask them. These 100 players combined earnings last year was $26 billion.
The National Football League brings in revenue of about $9.5 billion a year and even though they generate the most money of all the pro leagues in the entire world, their players are the least paid at an average wage of $1.9 million a season. And yet as so happens, of the 100 richest athletes in the world, thirty of them are NFL players, the most from any sport.
Leading the way in the NFL is Peyton Manning who just recently signed with the Denver Broncos for $96 million over 5 years. For signing he was given a $6 million advance. Last season (2011) he did not play because of rehab from neck injury but his team at the time, the Indianapolis Colts still paid him his player’s wage of $32.4 million. Manning also made over $10 million in endorsements, making his combined earnings in 2011 $42.4 million. Manning is listed as the 10th richest athlete in the world, while on average the top ten players in the NFL are making upwards of $20 million per season.
NFL players get 47% of league revenues, but there are 1,696 of them, spread out over 32 teams, playing a 16 game season and perhaps a few playoff games. The NFL has the shortest average career span of the big leagues of only 3.3 years.
The Dallas Cowboys (#1 at $1.8 billion), Washington Redskins, New England Patriots and three other NFL teams are presently, some of the most valuable teams in the world of a combined worth of over $8 billion.
Yes the States has the over-hyped bling, attitude and 2 yard running plays of the NFL, but in Canada a superior game of football is being played, mostly because of a slightly different set of rules and character of player. The Canadian Football League is all about finesse, throwing the ball and the smoothness of the game as it is played out, mainly because a CFL team only has three downs to get 10 yards and a first down so you have to make things happen, while in the NFL they get four kicks at the can to get 10 yards, conveniently allowing lots of time-spots for advertisers. There are only eight teams in the CFL, with 42 players per team, 19 of which may be imports, plus 4 players in reserve, playing 18 games and a few playoff games if lucky and they’ve been working hard. League revenues each year are between $120 and $150 million, with each team having a salary cap of $4.3 million. Playing wages go from league minimum of $43,000 per season to the quarterbacks on each team, who make the most at $250,000 to $400,000 per season. The average CFL player makes about $82,000 per season and the average career span is about three to four years.
Major League Baseball has revenues in the $7.7 billion range, the second richest pro league in the world. With 30 teams and 750 players who play a 162 game season and a few playoff games, the average wage of a player is $3.31 million per season, while the average career span in baseball is about 6 years. Twenty-one baseball players make up the world’s 100 richest athletes, with fourteen of them making more than $20 million per season. And then there is Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees.
In 2000 and playing for the Texas Rangers, Alex Rodriguez signed the largest sports contract in history, a ten-year deal worth $252 million. In 2004 he was traded to the New York Yankees and in 2007 he opted out of what the Rangers had still been paying him, and what they still owed, by signing a deal with the Yankees for $275 million over ten years and breaking a new record for sports contracts, the record being his previous deal with the Rangers. Since he started playing major league baseball in 1994 Rodriguez has made over $296 million, with his teammate Derek Jeter, playing since 1995, having over $220 million in career earnings. Rodriguez’s current annual playing wage is $30 million. Meanwhile, his team, the Yankees, had a 2012 team payroll of over $198 million and is the third highest valued sports franchise in the world, at $1.7 billion.
Even though they are the second richest pro league in the world, MLB is also the most regional of all major sports and is strictly and truly, America’s game. And lord knows, especially today, they desperately need the distraction and the emotion the game brings to them and are obviously still willing to pay for it.
Though actually attending a pro game is far above what most people can afford because the arenas will soon be filled with corporate boxes, we do have bars and TV. Instead of actually going to a game and spending a hundred or more bucks, if you’re lucky to find a ticket, we can buy a $200 team jersey with someone else’s name on the back, go to the pub and spend another $50 on pints and a burger, with friends.
Over on the hard court, the average wage of a player in the National Basketball League is $5.5 million per season, making them the highest paid players of the major sports leagues. Indeed, only thirteen NBA players are in the top 100 richest because there’s so many of them right behind them. The NBA has only 450 players, on 30 teams which play 82 games and if hope willing, have a long playoffs to endure. The average career in the NBA is about six years.
The average player earns about $67,000 per game. League revenues in 2011 were $3.6 billion, of which nearly 56% went to player salaries. The elite players are earning anywhere from $10 to $15 million per season, Kobe Bryant is the highest paid basketball player at $20 million per season playing for the LA Lakers. He also is paid $32 million from endorsements, making his 2011 income in the $52 million range. Lebron James of the Miami Heat meanwhile made more overall money than Bryant, with $13 million in players’ wages and $40 million in endorsements, totaling $53 million, he also now owns a stake in the English League, Liverpool Soccer Club.
Bryant and James were both on the US Olympic Basketball team, their games as exciting as the Canadian Olympic Women’s Hockey team beating yet another opponent 16-2.
Ah, finally back to the good old game of hockey. There are no NHL players amongst the 100 richest athletes of the world and considering a very recent poll suggesting Canada could support another 3 NHL teams, hockey is truly Canada’s game.
The National Hockey League made $3.2 billion in 2011-12, a 50% increase over the past 7 years. Currently the players receive 57% of revenues, with the owners taking 43%, though as I’m writing this article, the players union and the league are at an impasse at meetings to renew their contract, mainly concerning economic issues. If no deal is made by Sept15th the players will be locked out. The player’s side would like to see an increase of $100 million to $250 million for a subsidy fund which goes to teams who can’t afford to pay their players and are struggling in shitty markets, such as the successful operations in Phoenix, Arizona, two teams in Florida and one in Carolina. To keep these teams and others, competitive, they must be subsidized by the other team owners to do so.
The players union has also said they would be willing to have a hard salary cap in place and are willing to take less than 57% of revenues for 3 years, maybe 54%. The NHL is countering with the players receiving 43% of League revenues and the owners getting a 25% raise. The League would also like to end long-term contracts with their front end loaded deals, such as those being signed over the past few months by their very selves, and that the same amount is paid each season of that contract, which would also have a 5 year cap on its length, forthwith.
Like kids in the sandbox, the owners have the bucket that the players shovel money into and the players who have the shovel are refusing to play any more if they can’t have their share, with the owners wanting a bigger share and if they don’t get it they’ll take both the bucket and the shovel and go home in a pout, it gives me a headache. Collectively the players make more money than all the CEO’s and owners who hire them and individually make far more in one season than what 80% of the planet will make in a lifetime.
As mentioned earlier, the average NHL player’s wage is $2.4 million per season, with thirty teams carrying 690 players, playing 82 regular season games. This year each team has a $59.4 million salary cap. The playoffs are four rounds of best of sevens, with the champion team having to win 16 games, playing a maximum of 42 games over nearly two months to achieve it. The Stanley Cup is mutually agreed upon as being one of the hardest physically and mentally challenging championships to attain in team sports. Yet in North America, out of all the major team sports, NHL hockey is the lowest rated sport. The average career in the NHL is five years, though 50% of all NHL players play less than 100 games.
The two highest paid players this past season, both earning $10 million were Roberto Luongo, currently of the Vancouver Canucks and Vincent Lecavalier of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Luongo signed a new deal with the Canucks in 2010-11, a 12 year $64 million contract, which paid him $10 million this past season and then pays $6.7 million each year after. Lecavalier signed his front-end loaded deal in 2008, an 11 year $85 million contract. The top NHL players meanwhile, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin each make $9 million a season. Tied for sixth richest contracts in the NHL are Chris Drury and Scott Gomez at $8 million per season each, which is sad considering since signing such huge deals years ago, both have either been injured or inept and ineffective when they have played.
The average NHL franchise’s worth is about $228 million. Toronto, NY Rangers, Canadians, Red Wings, Philly and Boston are all valued at more than $300 million, while Nashville, Tampa Bay, Winnipeg and Phoenix are valued at $150 million. Two teams, representing both ends of the scale, were sold during the 2011-12 season. Tampa Bay was sold for $93 million; the Canadians were sold for $575 million.
Besides the pro North American sports teams and athletes already mentioned, many of the richest players in the world are in individual sports. The boxer, Floyd Mayweather, is the richest athlete in the world. From June2011 to June 2012 he fought twice. The first fight he made $40 million, the second he pulled in $45 million, for a total of $85 million. I say this with a pure white cat on my lap which I am stroking and a pinkie finger touching the side of my mouth. Total time in the ring for Mayweather was less than an hour. Besides being his own fight promoter and having no need to endorse anybody other than himself he made no outside endorsement money.
The second richest athlete in the world is also a boxer, Manny Pacquaio, who made $56 million fighting and $6 million on endorsements. Number three, surprisingly, is golfer Tiger Woods. He made $4.4 million golfing and $55 million from Nike. The combined, $59.4 million is half of what he made in 2009. He would have made more, but after his wife attacked the car he was driving with a five-iron because he was following his little head around, he lost sponsors Tag Heuer and Gillette. Woods’ net worth as of 2010 is $500 million.
After #4 Lebron James, is the tennis player, Roger Federer, whose total earnings were $52.7 million, $7.7 million in winnings and $45 million on endorsements. #6 is Kobe Bryant, then golfer Phil Mickelson, who made $4.8 million for golfing and another $43 million on endorsements. Eight and nine are the soccer players David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo is the highest paid soccer player in the world, but Beckham made more on endorsements. Beckham’s salary to play soccer was $9 million, with endorsements of $37 million. To-date he has made over $260 million in his career. Ronaldo on the other hand was paid $20.5 million to play soccer and made another $22 million on endorsements.
Soccer is actually the world’s third richest pro sport, behind the NFL and MLB. The franchise, Manchester United, is the second most valuable sports team in the world at $1.86 billion, followed closely by Real Madrid and Arsenal, both at over $1 billion each.
The tenth highest paid athlete is Peyton Manning and right behind him is another soccer player, Lionel Messi, with $20 million in playing salary and $19 million on endorsements.
Other notables, who are leading their respective sports in earnings and are included in the top 100 richest include, Formula One driver, Fernando Alonso with total earnings of $32 million, Valentino Rossi earning $30 million racing motorcycles and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the highest paid cricket player in the world earning over $26.5 million. One of only two women players on the list is tennis player, Maria Sharapova, the 26th richest athlete in the world, earning $27.9 overall earnings. The other woman is also a tennis player, Li Na, at #81.
Interestingly enough and at first a surprise, Usain Bolt is one of the richest athletes in the world besides of course being the fastest human on the planet. Bolt is the 63rd richest athlete with only, at least compared to this surreal world we are walking through in this article, $300,000 in prize money, appearance fees etc, but he makes over $20 million in endorsements, Puma pays him $9 million alone.
Basically, the top twenty-five paid athletes in the world are making in excess of $30 million per year, roughly the same as someone making 60 grand a year for 500 years, yes, five hundred years. There are no hockey players on the richest list, though they still make very, very good coin. And there are no rugby players, who average around $50,000 per season, with the top class players making $300,000 per and the elite, $500,000 plus. Also not on the list are the hundreds of millions of people, who are playing for the love of the game, whatever that game may be.
While back on earth, in Aug. 2012, over 20% of the United States population, 66 million Americans and each representing a family of four, made about $28,800 last year. Comparatively, over 80% of working Canadians are making less than $48,000 per year.
There you have it, at least inquisitively. The sheer wealth and the representative numbers so far mentioned makes my head spin. But then athletes are only one part of our distracting celebrity culture and always have been, with the question always being, how much of the integrity of the richest athletes in the world and their ilk, such as corporate CEO’s, movie stars, rappers and rock stars, is left after withstanding the demands, pressures and greed to make even more money. There are many who are wealthy and still show glimpses of empathy, they appreciate what they’ve got and they make an effort to give back, though never as much as they could afford. What they all share is that they understand what they do is strictly business.
Others are taken over by the voices in their head, the whispers in their ears and they simply can’t help themselves. What once was and who they really are is gone, reshaped, forgotten and not even allowed by their status and class, they’ve sold their souls. Enough will never be enough and eventually many simply stop caring.
A celebrity’s job is twofold; they help us endure while our society goes through controlled collapses and the more the situation deteriorates the more grandiose, fictional and contrived the spectacle of the arena becomes, whether in a stadium, boardroom, on a screen or upon a field. Personal dramatics become the agony, the defeat and the winning with tears of joy and chest of pride, while fiction eventually erases what is natural, genuine and spontaneous; and they are the faces and hawkers of goods for corporate society and the gods of consumerism.
We admire our stars because of three things, how much money they make, what they do and we wish it were us. We live our lives through them and the maybe couple of hours we spend watching them we can hopefully forget about the real world, perhaps even hoping for some inspiration. Our celebrities show us that we can triumph and get to the top of the world, often just so we can give a finger to those who thumbed their noses at us or belittled us at one time and we act and are able to extract revenge on something or someone. Or become a hero and save the day by overcoming much pain and hardship. These storylines run through most all that happens on television, in movies, sports, business and politics. But in reality, for a vast majority of people, they never happen.
I’ve coached young hockey players who besides talking their parents into buying them $200 high-tops so that they could be cooler, get them to pay for a $200 stick, which breaks at their next practise, and $400 skates, both believing they’ll make the kid a better hockey player. This is the other side of the celebrity’s job; to be the “human representation of commercial commodities.” Most of the world’s richest athletes make more money from endorsements than from their playing wage, the numbers are obscene. They’ve become salesmen for materials we don’t need or can’t afford and they personally don’t seem to have a problem with that and no matter how much the planet sickens and deteriorates around them they relentlessly ask us to spend more, to support them so that they can make even more money.
To underscore this article, I’d like to end it with a paragraph listing some of the corporations who gave the aforementioned richest athletes millions of dollars to sell their products for them. They predominately target people that have money or credit, children, those whose religious belief leans toward consumerism, those who believe there is no such thing as climate change and those who smile and say everything will be all right as long as everyone sticks to the status quo. The list is what our heroes and our children’s heroes want us to purchase, even though in reality none of these products define us, or at least they shouldn’t. Materialism is never ending, never enough, like allowing the voices in our heads to go on and on and on, like the band on the Titanic, until we eventually slip beneath the waves.
Nike, Mercedes, Chevrolet, Monster Energy, Haagen-Dazs, Hennessy, Hewlett-Packard, McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, State Farm Insurance, Rolex, the Nike Jordan brand (over $1 billion in sales each year),Wilson, Credit Suisse, Exxon, Amgen/Pfizer (pharmaceuticals), Burger King, Samsung, Castrol, Reebok, Sony, Wheaties, DirectTV, Gatorade, PepsiCo, Dolce, AT@T, Adidas, Kia Motors, Bacardi, Quaker State, Rawlings, Range Rover, Toyota, Shell, Kraft Foods, Tag Heuer, Verizon Wireless, Gillette, General Electric, Head and Shoulders, Pepperidge Farms, Vita CoCo, Ford, Goodyear, Subway, RBC, Polo/Ralph Lauren, MusclePharm, EA Sports, Jeep, Pennzoil and Toshiba.