The aftermath of an entertainer, especially an athlete, receiving an enormous contract worth more than average Americans will see in their entire lifetimes often causes some pretty opinionated responses. Thus, it was no surprise that this was the case when Golden State Warrior’s point guard Stephen Curry received a new contract for five years totaling 201 million dollars. This is currently the richest deal in NBA history. To earn this type of payday, Curry has won two MVP’s and two NBA Championships over his past three seasons.
As it turns out, the Charlotte Observer’s Scott Fowler is not so thrilled about Curry’s new deal. A recent article of his is entitled “Is Steph Curry really worth $201 million? Is anybody.” Fowler makes a number of statements in the piece disapproving of the contract. Let’s take a look at these claims in order to debunk the totality of his argument.
Let’s start with this: No human being on the planet needs to be making a guaranteed $201 million over five years, including Steph Curry.
Of course, “needs” is a relative term. If the true necessities of life can be reduced to food, water, clothing and shelter, then anything outside of basic subsistence is something that an individual does not “need.” Although I don’t profess to know how much how much Scott Fowler is paid by the Charlotte Observer for his services, I’m quite certain that he makes enough to afford things that he doesn’t necessarily “need” for his survival. Therefore, someone living an impoverished life in a third world nation would view his comfortable, middle class life in America the same way that he views the life lived by Curry. So if Fowler can legitimately criticize Curry’s contract on the grounds that it enables him to make much more than he “needs,” then it would also be legitimate for a third world resident to criticize the amount that Fowler is paid given that he is comparatively compensated as a sports journalist to a degree that also enables him to live far above an individual living at the subsistence level in an underdeveloped country. Fortunately for Fowler, those who make so much less than he does do not have the means to go online and criticize him for his comparatively lavish salary.
When some public school teachers are fortunate to make $40,000 a year, no athlete needs to average $40 million (which, at that rate, would fund 1,000 school teachers a year).
What Fowler has done here amounts to choosing a popular, presumably underpaid profession that garners sympathy from the public and highlights the massive gap between their salaries and the salary he is demonizing. A closer look at both teachers and star athletes in popular, American sports shows why this gap appropriately exists. After all, the number of people willing to spend money on tickets to watch a teacher perform his/her job would not be enough to fill a sports stadium. In addition, there isn’t a market for televised teaching to the point that advertisers are willing to spend money to put commercials on during a televised teaching session. Since the athletes are the ones that people are paying to see and advertisers are willing to spend money in order to advertise to those who watch via television, it makes sense that those athletes should be compensated for the revenue that they bring in. In fact, due to the NBA “max salary” format and the league’s salary cap, one could argue that the game’s best players are actually underpaid.
This criticism gets even more absurd when considering that the owner of NBA teams (in Curry’s case it’s Joe Lacob) is worth more than any of the team’s players. If NBA stars like Curry weren’t able to make this much money, then their wealthier owners would get to keep more of it. In addition, money isn’t zero-sum. Simply because Curry receives a gargantuan contract for his abilities, that doesn’t mean that teachers or other professions have less as a result. In fact, given the amount of taxes that Curry will pay on his new salary, he will be sending more money to the local educational system (not that there is any connection whatsoever between spending on education and student performance).
Lastly, let’s not succumb to the myth that the state can simply “take” from someone who makes an “unfair” salary and just give it to someone that society feels deserves it. We’ve seen this through anti-poverty programs where it takes the government many times more dollars to actually spend on those programs than what actually reaches the intended target. So it then looks highly unlikely that this same government could seize a huge portion of Curry’s income and seamlessly distribute it among teachers (despite The Ringer’s Michael Baumann claiming that we would be better off if we did this). Sorry, but the track record of the state strongly suggests otherwise.
So don’t be upset at Curry, Lacob, the NBA or anyone else for this situation. NBA players are justly compensated for the audiences they attract and the value that they create. Teachers are not undervalued or underpaid as a result of large athlete contracts. The quicker we realize all of this, the quicker we can stop this misguided blame for society’s ills.