With 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.