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Hayden Klemenok
Ms. Gardner
English Period 2
11 May 2015
Do Athletes Really Earn Their Income?
After retiring from the average laymens job of a businessmen, school teacher, or
whatever it may be, people are able to enjoy their families, focus on their lives, and live a
healthy, functioning life; however, this is not the case with professional athletes. After grueling
careers compilated with both physical and mental sacrifice, sportsmen are faced with crippling
disabilities, memory loss, and ongoing discomfort. A lifestyle of this intensity should warrant
extensive salaries without controversy you would think; however, athletes worldwide are faced
with the argument that they do not earn their pay. The issue of an athletes pay is one that is not
new to the medial discussion. For years, from sports fanatics to sports columnists, the argument
of whether or not professional athletes actually earn their colossal incomes has been up for
debate. Although the topic of an athletes income is less urgent than other global issues, a
settlement to this confliction is still beneficial to our society, because through either clear
support, or lack of, it would provide a strong reference and possible justification for the incomes
of other mass money-producing careers. Common suggestions include imposing limitation laws,
and although there are no current laws in place on the matter, there are however strict rules in
line that are enforced by each leagues respective governing forces, as well as luxury taxes,
which are fines the teams pay for over budgeting. Taking this into consideration, professional
athletes should not be accused of not earning their multi-million dollar deals because of the

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intense responsibilities they take on with the job, the physical risks they take, and the mental
suffering they undergo.
Initially, after seeing the mass income of athletes, many critics as well as the public, do
not believe that the career of a sportsman is justifiable or beneficial enough to society for them to
earn that much money. Along with this, the argument has been brought up that with the
opportunity to attain mass incomes, athletes no longer play because of their love for the game
and whats necessarily best for their career, but instead for the money and how much they can
get. Such points as these have served as common issues for journalists to write on such as Austin
Belisle, a corporate affairs writer for Cisco Systems as well as a contributor to the Minnesota
Vikings team news site, emphasizing that instead of playing solely to win, now some of the
games best players are being blinded by dollar signs (Belisle). Additionally, he along with
many others argued after the contact of Albert Pujols, a first baseman for the Los Angeles Angels
who signed a ten year deal for 250 million dollars, that it is flat out ludicrous to be paid a
quarter of a billion dollars just to swing a bat (Belisle). The reason for which people oppose an
athletes salary is that they feel as though the massive incomes will ultimately ruin the
professional sports the world loves and enjoys, because of the players focus on money instead of
the sport. Although for many years there has been a lack of justification behind the astonishing
salaries professional athletes attain, their incomes should not be cut because of the pressured
responsibilities they take on, the physical risks, and the mental suffering they undergo as a result
of their careers.
One could provide a very strong argument that athletes could play for far less amounts of
money, while still attaining prestigious salaries with more than enough comfortable spending
money. Nevertheless, despite this point it would be unfair and plain selfish to charge athletes of

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not earning their income after the many stressful responsibilities they assume with their careers.
For instance, many sports journalists believe that when a professional athlete is paid more than
their teammates theyre obligated to do more on and off the court (Professional). The higher an
athletes income, the more theyre then entitled to do for their teams, creating a supportive
reasoning for their salaries, if they do contribute their worth. Additionally, the superstar
athletes are responsible for both the revenue sales of their teams, and the popularity the team
creates; as a big name can be very attractive to fans of any sport. As Stefan Fatsis, a writer in the
New York Times, explains:
In down times, teams need marquee players to give penny-pinching fans
additional reasons to attend games and bolster the teams bottom line. Youre not
going to see Matisse and Cezanne available at your local dollar store, said Andy
Dolich, chief operating officer of the San Francisco 49ers. (qtd. in Fatsis)
As well as the effect major athletes have on the public and the persuasive power they
carry to convince fans to buy tickets, they also provide an air of excitement to the everyday
sports industry. The excitement of sports could be derived from the big-time players as in
Hollywood, implies Stefan Fatsis, superstars drive the sports business, for reasons of talent and
box-office appeal. (Fatsis). As seen, the appeal that the superstar athletes have on the public
draws more attention to their respective sports, but they would not have the same effect on the
community if they did not produce the career statistics everyone expects of them. So, if an
athlete is placed with the responsibility of not only their team, but the appeal of the league they
play in as well, then through this increasing responsibility, they effectively earn their large

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In addition to the ongoing responsibilities they assume, the physical harm athletes risk
upon themselves is much higher than that of almost any other career. In recent years, it has been
called to attention exactly what the multitude of physical debilities professional athletes suffer,
specifically after their careers are over. Jim Baumbach, an investigative sports writer for
Newsday, wrote on this phenomena to illustrate the dangers sportsman subject their bodies to.
Within the article was an interview of Wesley Walker, a former NFL wide receiver, who spoke on
his day-to-day struggles as a retired athlete; revealing that he is in constant pain every day, that
he relies on heavy medications in order just to sleep, and that he has suffered so much nerve
damage and muscle loss from his years of playing that he needs assistance with activities most of
the population takes for granted, such as removing the cap from a bottle of water (Baumbach). In
addition to the first person accounts of Walker, several polls have been taken of former NFL
players asking about their post-career lives: of which forty-two percent of the players polled said
injuries from their playing career have been the biggest challenge in their post-NFL life
(Baumbach). Another survey was also found, which polled seven hundred sixty-three former
NFL players, with the question asked of what ailments in specific they suffered from their
playing careers. About fifty percent claimed they experienced head injuries, sixty-five percent
experienced shoulder injuries, sixty-seven percent experienced lower back injuries, and seventy
percent experienced knee injuries while playing professional football (Baumbach). As seen from
the numerous surveys of former football players, of which all contained negative feedback about
the player's state of health, the physical debilitations suffered from former professional athletes
provide more than enough support to the argument of whether or not athletes earn their high
salaries. As a result of the many health issues they have to live with for the majority of their
lives, professional athletes effectively earn their incomes.

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Despite the major responsibilities and physical debilitations professional athletes are
forced to cope with, ultimately, the main supporting factor as to if athletes earn their incomes is
the mental damage they suffer from, both during and after their careers. Many former players
often simply cannot handle the mental pain theyre forced to endure, and as a result, they see no
other way out from a life of suffrage. Alexander LaCasse, a social journalist for the Monitor,
illuminated the post-career struggles of players.
There has also been a spike in untimely deaths among former NFL players, most
notably former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson, Pittsburgh Steelers center
Mike Webster, and linebacker Junior Seau, who played for three teams over a
twenty year career. Duerson and Seau both committed suicide, but preserved their
brains for study. Webster suddenly died, but had been battling acute dementia,
Frontline reported. (qtd. from LaCasse)
As well as the ongoing epidemic of players committing suicide because of their failure to
cope with life threatening mental discomfort, there has been an ongoing increase in reported
cases of CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in players involved in contact sports such
as football. CTE, a disease known to lead to memory loss, dementia, and severe depression is
very dangerous to a persons health and can lead to death (LaCasse). To put things in perspective,
the prevalence or number of people living with MND (motor neuron disease) at any one time is
approximately seven in every 100,000 (Brief). While in a 2009 review of CTE, motor neuron
practitioners Michael Saulle and Brian Greenwald wrote on the recent increase, revealing that
of 51 neuro pathologically diagnosed cases of CTE 46 (90%) occurred in athletes (Greenwald,
Saulle). In addition to the many studies, former NFL player Bruce Harper provided a first-hand
insight, claiming that people have no idea how it feels to go through life with stuff that just

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wont go away. Its horrible (qtd. in Baumbach). Through the many studies and experiences of
former players, the results of playing contact sports as a career can lead to life threatening
disorders of the brain; therefore providing ample support to justify that these now crippled
former athletes truly did earn their salaries.
In conclusion of all this data, professional athletes should not be accused of not earning
their large salaries, because of the intense responsibilities they endure with their careers, the
physical risks they chance, and the mental suffering they undergo. To accuse athletes of not
earning their income would be selfish of the sports community, and above all, inhumane to the
athletes themselves, because of the bodily and mental sacrifices they subjected their lives to.
That is why it would be unfair, unethical, and above all unjust to continue to cynically critique
these sportsmen of not earning their career salaries when they sacrifice everything they have for
their love of the sport, and for the worlds entertainment.

Works Cited
Baumbach, Jim. "Life After Football: Tough to Tackle." Newsday. 25 Jan. 2015: A.2. SIRS Issues
Researcher. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.

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Belisle, Austin. "MLB: Show Me the Money!." University Wire. 01 Apr. 2014: n.p. SIRS Issues
Researcher. Web. 19 Apr. 2015.
"Brief Guide to MND." Brief Guide to MND. MND Association, 2015. Web. 04 May 2015.

Fatsis, Stefan. "What Recession? We're Ballplayers." New York Times (New York, NY). 07 Dec.
2008: WK. 5. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 19 Apr. 2015.
Greenwald, Brian D., and Saulle, Michael. "Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy: A
Review." Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy: A Review. Hindawi Publishing
Corporation, 6 Feb. 2012. Web. 04 May 2015.

LaCasse, Alexander. "Why Are NFL Players Walking Away from the Game So Early?."
Christian Science Monitor. 12 Mar. 2015: n.p. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 28 Apr.
"Professional Athletes Earn What they Deserve." University Wire. 05 Aug. 2014: n.p.
SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 19 Apr. 2015.