PRESS BOX: The money’s the motive

Illustration by Gareth Bentall
Illustration by Gareth Bentall

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Kirk Cousins easily became one of my favorite athletes when he came out of nowhere in 2015 and threw for nearly 4,200 yards to lead the Washington Redskins to the playoffs.

The fourth-round draft pick completed 72.4 percent of his passes and threw for 1,086 yards (362 per game) with eight touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 124.4 in weeks 10-12 this season.

The 28-year-old undoubtedly exceeded expectations across the board, and thus landed a comfortable one year $19.9 million contract to ensure he wasn’t a one hit wonder (like a previous Redskins quarterback).

Washington has the second-most expensive offense in the NFL, with a team salary cap of $162,186,324. That probably sounds like a lot of money… because it is.

Cousins has an undergraduate degree in Kinesiology from Michigan State University and holds a $19.9 million one-year contract.

In contrast, President Barack Obama holds a J.D. from Harvard and a B.A. from Columbia University and earns an annual salary of $400,000… for running our country. 

Sports serve a pivotal role in society. Many people are involved in the production, playing, delegating, watching, coaching and selling of sports — it’s easy to understand how some players get overpaid.

However, the main issue is not why or how players get paid a lot of money. The issue is these players get paid significantly more than people who play very important roles in society.

In the consumer society so many of us take part in without noticing, athletes and teams are held in higher esteem than any other individual job in the United States. Millions and millions of dollars are spent and made each year off the games, seasons, teams, arenas, broadcasting, players and fans watching and participating in sports.

Teaching is one of the most economically important occupations because our future invariably relies on the education of our youth — yet teachers indulge in debt to get a higher education for five or more years and are paid astronomically less than the average professional athlete is.

Professional athletes, without a doubt, have played an irreplaceable role in inspiring and entertaining fans around the world and enticing people with a feeling of relaxation and excitement.

Olympic athletes still manage to inspire and entice their fans and the International Olympic Committee doesn’t pay their athletes, despite the fact the committee makes millions each year.

Surely, well known Olympians such as American swimmer Michael Phelps or U.S. soccer player Alex Morgan make a comfortable chunk of money from marketing — but out of the 558 athletes who competed for team USA this year, only a handful left Rio with big time sponsorships.

Illustration by Gareth Bentall
Illustration by Gareth Bentall

That means Olympic athletes have to get creative — holding down part-time jobs and landing endorsements. What’s surprising is just how much some athletes rely on donations and the kindness of others.

For example, fencing may be low-key, but it isn’t cheap.

The uniform alone, which includes a mask, pants, jacket and sneakers, costs more than $1,200. Weapons are $300 to $400 each. Then there are coaching fees, tournament entry fees and travel expenses.

These athletes are competing out of their love for the game, not for millions of dollars. After watching footage of Cousins’ mic’d up during the Redskins’ win over the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 20, it is clear the Redskins’ quarterback loves what he does.

“Celebrate! Celebrate! Celebrate! Celebrate! As a team! Celebrate!” and “High-fives from everyone! High-fives from everyone! Everyone get in on the high-five party! High-five party! Awh man, that felt good,” were amongst the phrases Cousins said to teammates and staff during the game.

So why does it take several million dollars to keep these players but not others? Sports at every level seem to be transitioning into a more flashy style.

At one time, professional sports were simply a pastime, no money involved, or at least not as much as these days. Even in the 1950’s and 1960’s many professional athletes still had to get jobs to help pay the bills but they still loved the game.

Also referred to as a “gentleman’s agreement,” baseball club owners worked together to avoid competitive bidding for players as a means of forcing down player salaries.

All changed in 1966 when Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, star pitchers who helped the Los Angeles Dodgers win the 1965 World Series, held joint negotiations and agreed on one-year contracts of $125,000 and $110,000 respectively. At the time, it was the largest two contracts in baseball history.

Athletes should earn good money, but now it seems like the money they are getting is not ever going to be enough.


SPORTS EDITOR

Sophia Belletti. Photo by Julie TrippSophia Belletti
Sophia is a junior journalism major pursuing a minor in gender, sexuality and women’s studies. She enjoys writing about current events and sports, and hopes to one day be a sports reporter covering soccer, basketball and/or baseball. You can usually find Sophia drinking way too much coffee and laughing at her own jokes.
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ILLUSTRATIONS EDITOR

Gareth Bentall. Photo by Julie TrippGareth Bentall
Gareth is a cartoonist and illustrator currently in his senior year as a communication arts student. He specializes in political cartoons, humorous illustration, underground comic trivia, bird watching, hoarding, forwarding, boogie boarding and Parcheesi. Gareth currently resides inside of his inkpot. Last year, Gareth won the National Society of Professional Journalists award for Editorial Cartooning.
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