Should Olympic Athletes Be Paid?

In Olympics, sports on 04/14/2012 at 22:54

No, of course not. But recent comments made by NBA’s Ray Allen and Dwayne Wade seem to think so (D-Wade obviously back tracked on his comments as soon as they gathered some negative feedback):

“It’s a lot of things you do for the Olympics — a lot of jerseys you sell,” Wade said after the Heat’s practice on Wednesday in advance of Thursday’s game against Chicago. “We play the whole summer. I do think guys should be compensated. Just like I think college players should be compensated as well. Unfortunately, it’s not there. But I think it should be something, you know, there for it.”

Wade’s misunderstanding of what the Olympics are is mirrored in his inability to understand what college is about. Yes, the top college athletes usually pull a one-and-done or two-and-screw, and there is no illusion that they are going hard at a degree, but seriously? Athletes should be PAID to go to school? While the rest of us go bankrupt despite superior GPAs? Give me a break. The free ride athletes get to top schools IS compensation.

The Olympics is a whole other deal, and Ray Allen explains why he feels athletes should be paid:

“Everybody says, ‘Play for your country.’ But (NBA players are) commodities, your businesses. You think about it, you do camps in the summer, you have various opportunities to make money. When you go overseas and play basketball, you lose those opportunities, what you may make… If I’m an accountant and I get outsourced by my firm, I’m going to make some money somewhere else.”

Now I’m a Celtics fan, and I love Ray, but he is so off the mark here. First of all, I think he’s implying NBA players specifically should be paid at the Olympics. Not the shooters, not the volleyball players, not the crew team. But what about Rafael Nadal, Ray? What about Usain Bolt? These guys are world-famous athletes, much more well known than Ray and D-Wade. I wonder how much more “compensated” they should be.

But that’s not the point, nor is it a point that basketball is barely, if at all, in the top 10 most globally popular sports played at the summer games. The point is, while Allen’s reasoning is sound (and he has the guts to stand by his argument, unlike Wade), it omits the glaring fact that no NBA player is forced to play. The comparison to being “outsourced” is ridiculous. Athletes aren’t prevented from making money during the Olympics, they choose to compete.

Everybody does say “Play for your country,” and that’s all the Olympics are, and all they’ll ever be. Athletes from different countries trying to prove they, and by proxy their country, is the best. The US Olympic basketball team is straight fire, so when they hoist the gold, know what everyone in the world is going to be forced to admit, at least until 2016? America is the best country in the world at basketball. That’s all the compensation any Olympic athlete should be seeking.


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