Let me start off by assuring you that I am not a socialist–but let’s talk.
Two-time NBA MVP, Steph Curry, just signed the largest contract in professional sports history–$201 million over 5 years. I feel like we just crossed a line and it reflects one of America’s biggest problems.
Before I go on, let me state that I don’t begrudge professional athletes making big sums of money. I get that they are the best of the best at what they do. As a former basketball player who attained more success than the average player, having played at the small college level, I am well aware of just how unbelievably good a player has to be to even get a sniff at the NBA, let alone becoming two-time MVP and leading your team to two championships. These guys, as they say, are good, and Steph is currently at the top of the sport. He helps create big money, so he deserves big money. But where do we draw the line?
Curry’s unprecedented contract, in my opinion, sets a dangerous precedent. When I heard the figure $201,000,000 for 5 years, my jaw nearly hit the floor. Then I began to do the math, that is more than $40 million per year. There are 82 games in an NBA season. That means Steph Curry will be paid about a half a million dollars for each game he plays over the next 5 years. And guess what? Since Steph is getting paid, so will every other big star in the league, that’s the way it works. They will all line up behind their agents and demand bigger contracts. Can even higher ticket prices be far behind? How much more will fans be asked to pay? What about concessions? Are you ready to pay $15 for a hot dog and $25 dollars for a beer? Where will it end?
As I reflected upon Steph Curry’s astounding windfall this afternoon, I began to see just how out of whack it all really is. I began to see it as a reflection of America’s big problem–a problem found at the root of most of our other problems–the disease beneath our national symptoms, as it were–wealth distribution and income inequality.
Steph Curry’s salary alone easily puts him into America’s 1% club–the wealthiest of the wealthy, and it doesn’t even weigh in his many millions of dollars in endorsements. Estimates vary, but according to President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address, America’s wealthiest 1% control 40% of our nation’s wealth. The bottom 80% control only 7%. Those numbers are astounding. The fact that a high percentage of that bottom 80% were instrumental in getting Donald Trump elected is no less astounding–particularly since President Trump’s proposed policies only figure to widen income inequality.
Many of you reading this are probably like me, somewhere above that bottom half, but not even within sniffing distance of the 1 percenters. I am a teacher by trade. I have a master’s degree and have taught for 16 years. My wife is a college graduate and a 25 year veteran professional in the health care field. We both make a modest but comfortable living. Combining our incomes puts us into the class with the wealthiest 20% of American households. While we have comfortable lives, the thought that we are better off than more than 80% of American households is hard for me to wrap my mind around. I wonder how families down in the statistical categories well below the 50th percentile manage to get by. I cringe to think of the drug and crime infested areas in which they are forced to live–of their struggles to get health insurance–of their search for their next meal–of their strained relationships with law enforcement….
Let’s bring this back to Steph Curry’s contract. My little family is doing ok, it seems, but then I do some math and realize that, when Steph Curry plays his first basketball game next season, he will have earned what it will take my wife and I nearly 4 years to make. We have multiple college degrees and respectable professional jobs. We could retire today and live out the remainder of our lives quite nicely on about what Steph Curry will make by playing 3 or 4 basketball games. Yet I, and millions of other Americans like me, will continue to shell out a very painful chunk of what money we do make to buy tickets to watch Steph Curry rake in a half a mil a night.
Steph Curry’s new annual salary is more than the entire annual budget of most school systems in the U.S.
What’s wrong with this picture?