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Paul’s Perspective: Should Olympic athletes get paid to represent their country?

Sports Columnist

Published: Monday, April 16, 2012

Updated: Monday, April 16, 2012 12:04

Last week both Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat and Ray Allen of the Boston Celtics suggested that Team USA basketball players should be compensated for their play in the upcoming Olympic Games.

Wade quickly clarified his comments soon after his initial answer to the reporter’s question on the issue, saying that money was not his motivation for playing in the Olympics. The fallout of the issue has been very interesting to me.

Just like college athletes should be paid for all the money they bring into their respective universities (a star player brings in much more than the value of his or her scholarship), I believe Olympians should be paid as well. However, the problem comes down to feasibility. It always sounds great on paper, but I don’t think it would ever work out.

Does everyone get paid the same? Do the more popular athletes make more than the less popular ones? Do the most-viewed events pay out more to their athletes? People buy No. 3 jerseys with Wade’s name on the back and wear them with pride, but I’m not sure a lot of people would buy Speedos with Michael Phelps’ name on the back. Yet, who was the bigger athlete in the last Olympics? Based off this logic, should Wade get paid more than Phelps? These are all questions that would have to be answered.

Even the USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo said paying players isn’t possible. The money the USA basketball team brings in gets distributed among all Olympic sports.

While I believe that it would be nice for all Olympians to get compensated. I don’t have a problem with the current setup. If giving back to the country that has allowed you to become as famous and rich for playing a game isn’t enough, I don’t know what is.

The athletes do get paid. Direct payment comes through cash-paid medal winners ranging from $25,000 for a gold medal and $10,000 for a bronze medal. They also get paid through Olympic bonuses in their equipment contracts with companies like Nike and Adidas. For players like Wade, this is probably a very substantial amount of money. Athletes also get the opportunity to display themselves on a global market which can have immeasurable financial benefits and increase endorsement opportunities over the course of the athlete’s life.

Everyone knows what they are getting themselves into when they are striving to become Olympic athletes. They don’t have to participate if they don’t want to (another freedom the United States provides). For every rich megastar like Wade, there are others who are just normal people with incredible gifts. These people don’t have leagues like the National Basketball Association that made them rich like Wade. These people play for the love of the game and that is very honorable.

We never heard the greats like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson complain about getting paid to represent their country.

If the Olympic Committee knocked on my door and asked me to suit up for the red, white and blue, I wouldn’t think twice before signing up. I think it is the least I can do for being lucky enough to call myself an American and a great way to give back for the opportunities the country has given me.


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