Commentary, Opinions, Pop Culture, Sports

Professional sports gross show of socio-economic disparity

Two weeks ago, 96.4 million people watched as the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers battled for the chance to call themselves Super Bowl Champs.

That same day, 1,301 people died of coronavirus.

Over the past 13 months the country has grappled with the growing COVID-19 pandemic and its related side effects, like economic strife, unemployment and increased levels of poverty.

Now that’s not to say that the country was without any of these issues before, however, the continuation of the pandemic has exacerbated already existing disparities.

The pay of professional athletes and money invested in leagues has always been something that’s baffled me.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the average salary of a NFL player is about $860,000. In comparison, the National Center for Education Statistics estimates that the average salary of a teacher in California in 2018 is $78,711.

Why do individuals who entertain the masses make 90% more than those tasked with educating those same people?

Now some may argue that a teacher doesn’t do as much as a football player on a daily basis, because for some reason teachers are not highly valued in this country.

That being said, most can agree that a career like being a neurosurgeon requires immense skill, precision, dedication and training–not much unlike a professional athlete. According to Glassdoor, the average salary for neurosurgeons as of 2021 is $571,893, 33% less than the average of a NFL player.

This year, Mike Evans of the Buccaneers and Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs, were the top two paid players that appeared in the Super Bowl. Mahomes’ annual salary topped his team’s roster at $16.5 million per year, or $82.5 million for a five-year period. Likewise, Evans’ salary of $45 million per year, or $450 million for a ten-year period, topped his team’s pay.

To be guaranteed millions of dollars every year is something that most Americans couldn’t even fantasize about, let alone have the chance to actually experience the luxury of a guaranteed income.

Because of coronavirus related shutdowns, millions of people have been left without work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of Jan. 2021 10.1 million people were unemployed. As a whole, the country has seen up to 50 million people unemployed as of 2020.

According to a US Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey, 18.3% of renters said that they were unable to pay rent on time in July of last year. In that same survey, it showed that Black and Latinx populations were twice as likely as white renters to not have an ability to pay for that month’s rent.

But the pay of athletes is not necessarily their fault, they simply accept a contract. The money that is invested in professional athletics, is however, something that still needs to be contested.

Super Bowl ads are well known for their importance to the brand and extraneous costs.

In 2021 a 30-second SuperBowl ad cost $5.6 million, which could pay the rent of nearly 4,000 Americans, as the average rent in Feb. 2020 was $1,468, according to Statista.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage on and disparities become more evident than ever before, it’s time to reexamine what we value in this country and what we invest our money in.

Professional sports provide comfort, inspiration and entertainment to millions and that can’t be denied. However, does this emotional draw warrant the millions spent on maintaining and the upkeep of professional leagues?

The time and effort professional athletes put into their craft is undeniably commendable. I surely couldn’t maintain the physical aptitude they do year round. And there are athletes that put their money to good use.

Heavy-hitter of the Los Angeles Angels Albert Pujols established the Pujols Family Foundation “to promote awareness, provide hope and meet tangible needs for children and families who live with Down syndrome,” according to the organization’s website.

Former 49ers player and social activist Colin Kaepernick also used his income for good. Following his ousting from the NFL for his protest against civil injustice in America he established the Colin Kaepernick Foundation which included the creation of Know Your Rights Camps to “advance the liberation of Black and Brown people through education, self-empowerment, mass-mobilization and the creation of new systems that elevate the next generation of change leaders,” according to the organization’s mission statement.

Other players have given back to their communities, their families and invested their incomes in other ways too, but the issue of their extraneous incomes still stands.

In the face of one of the worst economic crises in our history and the devastation of the pandemic, I think not. People’s lives, their ability to pay rent and maintain a livable wage entirely outweighs the importance of grown men playing a children’s game around on national television.

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