NBA players Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen believe that players should be paid for their time playing with Team USA in the upcoming London Olympics, according to ESPN.com. “We play the whole summer,” Wade said. “I do think guys should be compensated. Just like I think college players should be compensated as well.”
Many have found Wade’s comments in poor taste, considering the Heat guard’s huge income and the fact that representing one’s country in the games is generally considered an honor. According to Forbes, however, Wade and the other members of Team USA are already compensated for playing in the Olympics, just not officially.
Wade earns over $10 million a year from his sponsorship deals with Nike-owned Jordan, Gatorade, Hublot, and many other companies that serve many foreign markets. Considering Nike earns nearly 60% of its revenue from markets outside of North America, a portion of Wade’s Jordan sponsorship money can probably be tied to him playing on the world’s stage at the Olympics. Olympic participation can also lead to international endorsement deals, like Kobe Bryant’s endorsement of Smart cars following the 2008 Beijing games.
Maybe compensating Olympic athletes is the next logical step in the Olympics’ evolution from an amateurs-only event to a competition dominated by professional athletes.
Throughout most of the 20th century, only amateur athletes were allowed to participate in the Olympics. The rules were strictly enforced, and in 1912 Jim Thorpe was stripped of medals earned in track and field when it was discovered that he had accepted money for expenses incurred while playing baseball.
Over the years, however, the regulations were relaxed. In 1978, the U.S. passed the Amateur Sports Act, prohibiting national governing bodies from having more stringent definitions of amateur status than required under international regulations. In the 1990s, rules prohibiting professional athletes from participating were phased out, except for in boxing and wrestling where only amateurs are allowed to participate.
While players like Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen may feel slighted, others find the chance to compete on an international level compensation enough. “I love representing my country, man,” LeBron James said. “As far as [pay], I don’t know, man. It doesn’t matter. I’m happy to be a part of the team, to be selected again.”