What Do Pro Athletes Earn?

professional-player-payWith all the blogs, tweets and status updates in today's world allowing people to voice their opinions, it's tough to find anything that is universally agreed upon. That doesn't mean there aren't any exceptions, as you won't find too many people who think professional athletes' salaries are too low. Collective scorn of pro athletes' salaries is one of the few topics that can single-handedly unite a room filled with Democrats and Republicans, evolutionists and creationists, and Yankees and Red Sox fans.

With that said, we figured we'd provide you with a look at the true earnings of players across a number of the pro sports played in the U.S., taking an interest in both the minimum salaries and highest individual earners. Whether you still think the wages of these players are far too high is up to you, but at least now you'll have the stats support your stance. Keep in mind that these figures do not include endorsements and other potential avenues of income for the athletes.


The National Football League is the biggest money maker in American professional sports right now, as its 32 teams earned a combined $7.6 billion in revenue last season. The average team is worth $1 billion, with the Dallas Cowboys ranking No. 1 at $1.65 billion in net worth.

League minimum salary: The league minimum in 2009 was $310,000. That figure will rise to $325,000 in 2010.

Highest-paid player: San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers earned the highest total salary in 2009 at $25.56 million, though $19.5 million of that came via a signing bonus. If you exclude signing bonuses, the Carolina Panthers' Julius Peppers (now with the Chicago Bears) had the highest annual salary in 2009 at $16.68 million.


Major League Baseball wasn't too far behind the NFL in revenue last season, just $1.7 billion below at $5.9 billion. What's $1.7 billion here and there, anyway? Well, it is just slightly more than what the New York Yankees, the most valuable team, are worth at $1.6 billion. The average team is worth $491 million.

League minimum salary: The league minimum for this season is $400,000.

Highest-paid player: Alex Rodriguez will earn the most money this season at $33 million, though the annual salary over his 10-year contract is $27.5 million. Three of the next five highest-paid players are also Yankees (C.C. Sabathia, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira), along with the Phillies' Ryan Howard and the Twins' Joe Mauer.


The final numbers have not been released for the 2009-10 season that just concluded, but the National Basketball Association made $3.8 billion in revenue the season before. The Los Angeles Lakers are the most valuable team, worth $607 million, and the average team is worth $367 million.

League minimum salary: The league minimum for the 2009-10 season was $457,588 for rookies.

Highest-paid player: Tracy McGrady earned the most money over the 2009-10 season at $23.24 million.


Like the NBA, the 2009-10 season just finished and the final numbers haven't been released, but the National Hockey League made $2.82 billion the previous year. The average franchise is worth $223 million, with the Toronto Maple Leafs ranking No. 1 at $470 million.

League minimum salary: The minimum salary was $500,000 for the 2009-10 season.

Highest-paid player: Vincent Lecavalier earned the most of any player at $10 million, exactly $1 million more than Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin, the three players tied for second.


Exact numbers for the Women's National Basketball Association's value are tough to come by, but it's no secret that the league is struggling. Attendance is down 20 percent from when the league first started in 1997, and there are only 12 teams right now, compared with the 16 that existed in 2000.

League minimum salary: The minimum salary for players with zero to two years of service is $35,190. Players who've been in the league for at least three years can earn no less than $51,000.

Highest-paid player: The maximum salary for a WNBA player is $99,500, a figure that a number of players earn.


Unlike the leagues for the other major sports in America, Major League Soccer is far from the most lucrative league in its given sport around the globe. Still, it's managed to stay afloat since its inaugural season in 1996.

League minimum salary: The minimum salary this season is $40,000.

Highest-paid player: David Beckham will earn the most money of any player this season, $6.5 million, despite the fact that he's been out all year with a torn Achilles' tendon. Landon Donovan ranks second at $2.13 million.

Golf, racing, tennis and boxing are all lucrative sports as well, though they're each individual based, with earnings based on performance at given events. Thus, no annual salaries exist.

Next: What Would Don Draper Do? Mad Men Vs. Today's Workplace

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Wolf Lover

personally I think farmers should get more money than that, you know why? Farmers are the ones who give us food to eat. a farmer only gets 19 cents out of $1 we pay for groceries. WHY IS THAT!!! If farmers did not exist the human race probably wouldn't be as big as it is now. How about you dear reader, do you agree?

February 10 2015 at 4:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I guess MLS players ought to get paid something extra for all the fake 'acting' they do out there on the field when they're barely touched and they then fall down holding their knee or shin or foot with their faces agonizing in fake pain. I mean what sissies. Put them in the NFL for just 1 quarter or the NHL for just 1 minute then they would have something to cry about. "Look at me, I'm a world MLS star but if you touch me, I'll fall to the ground and cry like a 3 year old little kid." Makes me sick to even watch the sport. Then, even when the game ends 0 to 0 the fans still go nuts like they've been to the Super Bowl or something. What kind of silly A-zzed game is that. Not that they don't have skill. It's just too boring. That's why I quit playing it. Watching drunk dudes play softball is more fun.

August 02 2010 at 7:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think it is ABSOLUTELY ridiculous how much money professional athletes make! No one person is worth that kind of MEGA salary...I don't care who they are! Then expect everyone to feel bad for them when they don't get the money they're "holding out" for...P L E A S E...give me a break, will ya. You know, if every professional athlete in the United States would donate just one million dollars to our government the deficit would be wiped out!!! That includes paying back all the countries we owe money to...wiped clean. Building incredibly huge homes, owning 15 cars, what a waste of money. Granted, I don't know what they do with all their money...but I've seen enough of them display their goods on TV, magazines, billboards, etc. to know they are not sitting around living from paycheck to paycheck like most of the citizens of this country, that is if they are lucky enough to have a paycheck.
Hope some of those professional athletes read this post. It might do them some good.

August 02 2010 at 7:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think the money that athletes earn is crazy. I would like to see the athletes change paychecks with those men and women fighting in the wars for our freedom. They are more deserving than the athletes.

August 02 2010 at 6:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
King David

The Yankees are not the "most valuable team" -- they're the most OVERPAID team!!! (of non-Americans).

August 02 2010 at 6:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I find it funny that for MLS they mentioned Beckham as the highest paid player even though he is injured. How come they didn't mention that for Tracy McGrady. He has earned alot of money not playing ball at all.

August 02 2010 at 6:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I wonder how many of these "high $" sports figures voted for Obama because they thought he "was de man"?

I wonder now how many of these same "high $" sports figures would still vote for Obama considering that he's getting reading to wack the crap out of their grossly enormous paychecks?

Vote for 'De Man' .....get 'De Man'. Now you reap what you sew. And the funniest part of it is that the pay you're going to lose is all 'your' pay. Your not a company that hires other people that contribute to society, buy cars, homes, pay social income taxes for neighbor upkeep, etc.

August 02 2010 at 6:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
michael washington

Unfortunatly, if the athelets did not make some big money, the owners would make a totally unreal money. But to answer the question: What do athelete make? Answer: TO DAMN MUCH! They are, by no means worth it. For those who wish to defend it by saying how they may get hurt and then no more career. keep in mind: they should have graduated with and education and another skill. Plus, insurance for them cost the same as for us. The difference is it is a far,far less painfull deduction for them than it is for us. For the money they make, instead of pushing sports gear on us, i should be able to call my local sports star along with the fire department when my house is on fire, or call my local pro athelete along with the police when a crime is in progress. If they were teachers, would my children learn? I think not.

August 02 2010 at 5:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to michael washington's comment

I work in the opertaing room and are constantly having to hear the cries of the doc's on how they save lives and don't make nearly as much as the professional athelets. I got tired if hearing it one day and said, " Look in the yellow pages and see how many plastic surgeons there are. ( in my area there are about 30) There are only 32 first string quarterbacks. Supply and demand". The doc replied, " But I couldn't play football." ANd I replied, "I rest my case".

August 02 2010 at 6:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think even the bench warmers have had a better year than the President:)

August 02 2010 at 5:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Steven R. Russell

Who cares?

August 02 2010 at 5:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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