Why are the salaries of some professional athletes higher than those of athletes in other sports?
Among professional sports players, the salaries of players in some sports are generally significantly higher than the salaries of players in some other sports. How does this make sense using supply and demand in a market in equilibrium?
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With sports, the main driver of salaries is demand. The greater the demand for a particular sport, the higher its participants' salaries generally are. Demand for sports is (in today's world) generally measured by the size of the television contracts those sports can command. This must also be measured, of course, against the number of players in a given sport and some other factors.
For example, in the United States, there is a high demand for football and basketball players, a rather lower demand for soccer players, and essentially no demand for rugby players or cricketers. Therefore, players in the NFL and NBA get much higher salaries than those in MLS and there are no professional rugby or cricket leagues to provide salaries for those athletes.
In any sport, the supply of truly top athletes will be relatively low. Therefore, the demand for a given sport in a given country is the main determinant of salary levels for the various sports.
It mostly depends on what sport the majority of the people in that country are watching and getting involved with. Right now in the United States, NFL and MLB are the two sports with the most fans. Inevitably, those players get paid more than say, US soccer players, simply because more people are watching them, which means the organizations and teams have more money to spend.
Along with that, time can also change the popularity of a sport, which in turn changes the salaries. Throughout many decades of the 20th century, baseball and boxing dominated the sports industries, while professional football was not watched nearly as much until the later half of the 20th century. Therefore, the boxers and baseball players were paid the highest, once again because of the popularity of the sport.
Hope this helps!
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