Athletes or Fans? Who is Really Driving the Multi-Million Dollar Express

Robin Ficker, a superfan for the Bullets professional basketball team, had season tickets for twelve years. His seats were located directly behind the visiting team’s bench. His mission was to get underneath the other team’s skin by making rude and obnoxious remarks. Ficker became so well known amongst the teams that Charles Barkley flew him to his team’s (Suns) NBA final game against the Bulls in hopes that Ficker would help them win. How insane is that!?! Ficker paid for twelve years’ worth of season tickets just to mock the other team to try to give his team an advantage. In the Bleacher Seats article of 15 Best Heckling Moments in Sports it says that because of Ficker “The league eventually had to institute a new rule forbidding fans from engaging in ‘verbal abuse that interferes with communication between coaches and players.'”

Imagine how many thousands of dollars Ficker spent on season tickets, merchandise, and clothing just to heckle with his team’s opposing players.

Ficker’s obsession is not uncommon. Today, we live in a society that revolves around sports, whether it be the World Series, March Madness, Stanley Cup, or the Super Bowl. Professional athletes get paid millions of dollars to entertain us. Others like myself, can not believe how much money these athletes get paid for entertaining us. How will these salaries go down when it is the fans themselves causing them to go up?

A common question is where does all of this money come from for the athletes? A majority of the money comes from contracts with other large companies. CNB claims the NFL had $1.07 billion dollars in sponsorship income in 2013. A few of the companies that the NFL has been in deals with are Microsoft and DirectTV. Basically, different companies pay sports teams to use and promote their products. CNB states, “The money generated by sponsorships, television deals and ticket sales-the same revenue source that is disclosed by the Green Bay Packers- is taxed through a for-profit organization owned by the 32 teams, called NFL Ventures.” From there the money is divided amongst the athletes on each of the teams.

The amount of money each player makes is different. Certain sports bring in more money than others, just as some players make more than their teammates. The average NBA player makes $24.7 million ($5.15 million per year). Compared to the average MLS (Major League Soccer) player only making $0.5 million ($0.16 million per year). Athletes can also get more money from personal sponsors. Nike sponsors a large number of athletes including Michael Jordan and Lebron James. Total Sports Tek claims Michael Jordan makes 60 million a year off of his shoe series and Lebron James will continue to make 30 million a year, in addition to part of his shoe sales, for the rest of his life. Buyers of items like Nike gear are the ones fueling these athletes’ bank accounts. Businesses use athletes because they know it will help to increase revenue flow.

Now, compare this to the average middle class worker who makes anywhere from $46,960 to $140,900. They can be making that much money for, give or take, 35 years. The average money-maker is working on his or her profession for just as many hours a week as a professional athlete, but his or her salary is considerably less. Some would say this is unfair; however, many middle-class workers are actually supporting the professional athlete by spending money on professional sports.

Fans spend their money on a variety of things such as season tickets, cable tv, merchandise, and clothing. Make money in life says in 2009 “adults in the U.S. spent more than $8 billion on sports apparel.” That’s around $725 per fan annually, $1,143 for a young professional and $1,554 for a wealthy adult.

This video proves just how much money people are willing to pay for sports tickets. In this case it is the Super Bowl.



Initially, I was very strong about my opinion on this topic. I thought, “How come they get all of this money to just entertain us, when people like doctors, who help save people’s lives, do not get paid nearly that much?” From researching this topic I still agree with my original thought but have realized that the fans are the ones who affect athletes’ salaries. Most athletes do not get paid any where close to the same amount as the big names like Lebron James and Aaron Rodgers. In the end, average American workers make the same amount, just over a longer period of time.

Having said all of this I still believe that the big name professional athletes should not be getting paid as much as they do. I understand that they have put countless hours of hard work into perfecting the sport they play, but that is only going to get you so far in life. They get paid millions of dollars to entertain fans and wear out their bodies while there are kids dying every day from starvation. It just does not make any sense to me, but who is really to blame for that? As my dad said, “ We have created a monster and we continue to feed it.”


Featured Image by: Rob Villalta


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