When The Wolf of Wall Street was released, it made a total gross of $392 million. Leonardo DiCaprio made $25 million for his role as Jordan Belfort. Without a doubt, the movie would not have been as great without DiCaprio, and it only seems fair that he earned a good piece of the enormous profits the movie generated. Well the exact same thing could be said about athletes. Last March, Tom Brady, the legendary New England Patriots’ quarterback, signed a $60 million deal for the next 4 seasons. That seems like too much money, but did you know that the New England Patriots made $523 million last season? Teams make more money when they win, so the $60 million spent on Tom Brady is a small price to pay for a 4-time Super Bowl champion quarterback.
Before we can accept that athletes are fairly compensated for their work, we need to accept that the sports market itself is not its own industry. It is part of the much larger, multibillion dollar entertainment industry where the stars are making just as much, if not more. Let’s take a closer look at Leonardo DiCaprio. At 41 years-old, he has a net worth of $217 million. Tom Brady’s net worth is $180 million at 39 years old. You’ll notice their value is fairly close. This is because both professional sports teams and movies yield high returns for their investors. In the cases of professional sports and movies, there is a high demand for them which is why they make so much money. If people didn’t care, athletes and actors would not make as much.
My next point as to why athletes aren’t paid too much is linked to demand. Whether or not the Montreal Canadiens spend $70 million or $40 million on player’s salaries the Bell Centre will still be sold out on Saturday night… and Tuesday night… and Thursday night. If Geoff Molson, the owner of the Montreal Canadiens, was suddenly able to slash all of his players’ salaries by half, ticket prices would remain largely unaffected because fans would still want to see games. So, who really deserves to make $5 million? Fan favourite Brendan Gallagher? Or should we put another $5 million into Geoff Molson’s infinitely deep pockets? Since we live in a capitalist society, that $5 million will still be earned by someone. My vote is that it should go to Brendan Gallagher, Carey Price and Shea Weber and not to the Molson family.
Finally, to provide an overview of the whole situation, Jim Parcels wrote an article in January 1999 about how hard it is to make it in the field of professional hockey. In 1991, there were roughly 30,000 hockey players that were born in 1975 (in Ontario). Of those 30,000, only 232 were drafted into the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). Only 105 ever played in the OHL. Only 90 actually played 3-4 seasons. Only 48 were drafted into the NHL. Only 34 signed contracts with NHL teams. Only 22 ever played in the NHL. Only 11 were still playing in the NHL 5 years after the draft. Of 30,000 players, 11 made it to the NHL. With such a high probability of failure, the players that do make it benefit greatly, but it is definitely well deserved.