Should professional athletes be paid more than public service workers?

Cover art by Anderson Lopez Aguilar

This past NFL offseason, Quarterback Patrick Mahomes signed a contract worth half a billion dollars, or roughly 125 billion Big Macs. This record-breaking deal turned heads and again raised questions about whether professional athletes deserve to be paid as much as they are. While athletes provide entertainment for the masses, jobs like teachers or doctors are much more important to the vitality of society. While I’m not saying teachers should be getting paid hundreds of millions of dollars, there shouldn’t be such discrepancies between the salaries. 

The Education Association regularly releases its analysis of teacher salaries.  The national average public school teacher salary for 2017-18 was $60,477. By contrast, the minimum NBA salary is $898,310, according to hoopsrumors.com. For years people have been advocating for better pay for teachers, especially because their role is crucial in society. They have to educate our youth to build up a better generation, while on the other hand, someone who might never play a minute in the NBA will earn $900,000. The bottom line is teachers, and other public service positions, should not make 1/9 of a minimum contract in the NBA. 

Doctors save lives on a daily basis and perform miracles to improve the quality of life. Even professional athletes would fade out of the league without surgeries for a  torn ACL, or treatment for a sore ankle, and so on. You could argue doctors are one of the most critical jobs in the world. And still, the average salary of a neurosurgeon is $616,00 as reported by nomadhealth.com. A doctor who operates on humans’ brains makes less than a player who is more of a practice player than someone who makes an impact. 

 Should people who provide entertainment receive a higher paycheck than the people who save and educate? Some will argue that the sports industry generates much more money than the education and medical fields. While this may be true, it shouldn’t mean the minimum NFL salary is nine times the one of a teacher. Or that a doctor who operates on the most complex and important part of the human body gets paid $200,000 less than the minimum contract in the NBA. 

Public service jobs, in general, deserve better compensation and treatment. Construction workers might work for ten hours a day picking up 50 pound bricks and placing them, over and over. Mindless, arduous work for atrocious pay. Meanwhile in the NBA or NFL, while they work on their bodies constantly, they make their own schedule. They play their games for half the year, then can go on vacation and exercise until the next season. They are the ones sipping wine and chilling on the couch while the workers in the backyard are building their new hot tub. These jobs are the backbone of our country and our world. I’m not arguing for the pay to be equal, but I am arguing that these important professions contribute much more to society than sports players scoring touchdowns and hitting three-pointers.

The quality of life for many public service jobs can also be very rough. Due to the lack of money, many low-paying jobs such as teachers or construction workers are struggling to live off the meager paychecks. Depending on the profession, countless people are drowning in student debt. This is not a concern for professional athletes. Many don’t go to college for more than one or two years and or just don’t go to college at all. As soon as they get in the league, they are automatically well-off. While this isn’t a professional athlete’s fault, it just goes to show that more essential professions are already at a disadvantage.

Change isn’t going to happen with complacency. If we want to change, we have to act. It’s utterly outrageous that the jobs and people we rely on to make the earth go round aren’t properly compensated for the significant sacrifices they make every day. Athletes receiving hundreds of millions of dollars for inconsequential things shouldn’t be the norm. 

A quote I often think about is, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” Teachers teach us how to read and write, how to act as members of society. Construction workers build everything we have. Your parent’s business is only possible because construction workers literally built it from the ground up. Doctors save lives every day. Professional sports players do not have an ounce of importance compared to these public service jobs, and I think it’s about time everyone realized this.