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Rethinking the superstar athlete model in the COVID-19 era

The coronavirus descended on our fragile planet in December 2019 and the devastation has affected every aspect of our lives. No country, population or industry has proven itself immune to the deadly virus; and sport is no exception. Team or individual, amateur or professional, scripted or unscripted, no sport has escaped this pandemic.

Concrete example, let’s look at the salaries of NBA players. NBA players are well paid. No doubt about it. The average gamer earns $ 7 million a year. But As May draws closer and NBA paychecks stop being sent, since there is no more season, what happens to players on the rosters who are not in the top of the pay scale? The median NBA income is only $ 2 million per year. For this group of players, going without pay for an extended period could have serious economic ramifications.

“I would say over 450 players, 150 are probably living paycheck to paycheckPortland Trail Blazer star CJ McCollum said in a recent ESPN interview. It came as a shock to the casual sports fan in a league of millionaires and superstars. Obviously, LeBron, Steph, Russ and KD won’t mind car payments and mortgage insurance with the postponement or cancellation of a season. Superstars are often the voices we hear, but are they really the representatives of the players we? should listen?

James, one of the most savvy businessmen in professional sports, who surrounds himself with the best professionals, has said he will not play in an empty arena. But what happens to the 150 paycheck-to-paycheck-to-paycheck players? Is LeBron and his $ 90 million in annual earnings the best voice for gamers? What about players who don’t have huge guaranteed contacts and enough assets to provide comfort for life or more? This is the group that must advise the league and its fans on when and under what circumstances players are ready to return.

What about those low-league athletes, recent recalls, the NFL practice squad player or even No.126 on the official PGA Tour earnings list?

Recently, superstars Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka gave the green light to the newly arrived Premier Golf League. The PGL could have guaranteed a level of compensation for all player members, which could have posed a serious challenge to the long-standing meritocracy of professional golf. The PGA was also quick to say that any player who joined PGL would not be able to play on the regular tour. This might spark a separate discussion on the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, but that’s for another day. “Rors” earned nearly $ 23 million in the 2018-19 season – along with an additional $ 30 million in sponsorship income – which is worth well over $ 50 million for the year. Meanwhile, the No. 60 player on the Tour earned just under $ 2 million and possibly another $ 200,000 for endorsements. Take away federal taxes, a slew of state taxes, commercial flights, mortgages, and a myriad of expenses the non-superstar has to deal with every day, and suddenly a budget means something. Now take away a third of a season, with no chance of making up for that loss of income and Ponte Vedra we have a problem. Yes, the PGA has said it will let players and caddies “borrow” funds – up to $ 100,000 for top players – to be counted in future earnings. How reassuring.

When superstars speak for a league, is that the best grassroots voice? When Rory says no to $ 240 million guaranteed to be split among 50 players over 18 weeks, how can his interests be aligned with the journeyman playing around 25 weeks on average without a guaranteed endorsement to rock his bank account?

Steph, Russ, KD and James might just be the reason fans fill the stands and networks pay billions for viewer rights. But, the NBA has 450 players, 35 of whom are the highest paid athletes in the world, and sadly 150 of them live in check-to-check and cannot afford to lose a third of the season and introduce financial difficulties. Should a select few speak for an entire league? As leagues, tours and federations contemplate cancellation, suspension or restart, sound bites and opinions need to be more inclusive of all union members. For team sports, the best teams work as a cohesive unit. The same principle should apply to individual sports. When the entire membership is involved in the decision-making and not just the superstar royalty, the sport itself will be better off.

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Margarita W. Wilson

The author Margarita W. Wilson