Paid to Play?

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Recent comments about U.S. participation in the Olympics have set off a hotly contested debate. More specifically, NBA members Dwayne Wade and Ray Allen have condoned the notion that professional basketball players should be paid to participate in the Olympic summer games, a sentiment shared by owner Mark Cuban. Cuban was interviewed about the subject, and in a recent ESPN article, he voiced his displeasure with the NBA players “playing for free for corporate America so the U.S. Olympic Committee can make billions of dollars.” No one ever likes to do anything for free these days, but should players be paid for the Olympics, on top of their already multi-million dollar salaries?

The biggest issue in this debate is injury. Anytime a player steps foot on the court to compete, this risk is in full effect. If a player is indeed injured, it has drastic effects on their respective teams. Being that the Olympic roster is packed with superstars, these effects are amplified. Another factor is fatigue; athletes need rest to be at peak performance, and while summer competition upkeeps form, it can have adverse effects on their stamina (especially those superstars who are playing late into the postseason).

Clearly, these athletes should be compensated to cover for expenses accrued during this time, right? Not necessarily. Let’s look at the salary of Dwayne Wade, in which most of the roster is comprised of players of his caliber. This year alone, he will be pulling in $15,691,000, not including extraneous endorsements, according to ESPN.com. Is this not enough to cover ANYTHING? I mean, I am almost certain that any of us would be more than happy to play as much as possible with an income like this.

There is a solution that can save headaches for everyone involved. If a player is injured, this doesn’t hurt them financially. Even though some teams have contract stipulations that enable them to void a contract in case of injury from outside competition, most probably won’t use this on a star player. The athlete still gets their money from their club when it’s due. What is harmed, however, is the team. With little room in the salary cap, it is hard to compensate for player injuries. Instead of player compensation, there should be team compensation. The Olympics committee can provide organizations with an agreed upon sum of money in order to protect them from uncontrollable circumstances. In the event that a player is injured, more compensation can be given; if the NBA jumps on board, they can even award these teams more cap room, giving them more options in rectifying the situation. Paying players could lead to a decline in the quality of the Olympics; more athletes from other sports would be bound to speak up about their own compensation sooner or later. The pride in representing one’s country should continue to be the main dynamic, as it presents more camaraderie between athletes and fans.