Blue Flower

An essay on the ethics of paying athletes (or anyone) millions and millions of dollars while half the world lives on less than two dollars per day.

by Dada Vedaprajinananda 

A lot of eyebrows were raised when it was announced that David Beckham would be leaving Real Madrid and that he had signed a contract with the LA Galaxy of the US league, MLS. There had been speculation earlier that Beckham’s next move would be to the U.S. so the actual move to LA was not unexpected.

What has shocked everyone is the size of the contract that Beckham signed up for. If he manages to reach all his performance targets, he could be earning $250 million dollars over the next five years, or one million dollars per week.

Is it right for anyone to receive so much money? We are of course used to movie stars being paid $20 million to make one movie, and Beckham is a bit more like a movie star than an ordinary soccer player. However, from the point of view of other footballers it doesn’t add up.

The average player in the MLS makes $100,000 per year, and the minimum salary is $11,700. Each club has several players making the minimum salary. Beckham will make that minimum salary in only two hours. One of Beckham’s former teammates, Terry Cooke, called the contract a “disgrace.”

But it is not only in football where the “stars” make hundreds of times more than other employees. In corporate America, CEOs (chief executive officers) are paid huge salaries. According to the Forbes business magazine, in 2006 the average CEO of the top 500 corporations was paid $10.9 million dollars. That’s 200 times what an employee with a fairly decent salary of fifty thousand dollars earns. When a CEO is compared to someone making the minimum wage, then the differential soars.

Salaries however are only the tip of the iceberg of inequality in the world today. It is the accumulation of wealth by some individuals that is really shocking. Once again Forbes provides the data. Their recent survey found that there are 793 billionaires in the world with a net worth of $2.6 trillion or an average of $3.3 billion each.

Less than 1000 people own more wealth than billions of people who struggle to avoid malnutrition and poverty. According to, half the world — nearly three billion people — live on less than two dollars a day.

Does the accumulation of wealth by a few have anything to do with the impoverishment of billions? Rich people never want to admit there is a relationship. They say that they got their money through hard work and perseverance and that if others followed their work ethic then they too could raise themselves out of poverty. The wealthy are also fond of saying that the results of their enterprise will trickle down to the whole society. But the poor people of the world have been waiting a long time for the wealth to trickle down and it never seems to happen.

The present gap separating the richest and the poorest people of our human society is what Beckham’s former teammate called a “disgrace.” It is disgrace to all of humanity that in this 21st Century we have still not managed to organize ourselves properly so that each human being can enjoy a fair share of the Earth’s bounty.

What do you think would be a fair wage for a top football (soccer) player? What do you think would be a fair differential between the top ‘performer’ in a company, (say, the CEO) and a minimum wage, full-time employee? Or between the top execs and the lower level managers, secretaries, etc?

And if we’d do something dramatic like limit the top earnings, what sort of incentive could replace money?”

Dada Vedaprajinananda is the founder of New Renaissance magazine and currently serves as the webmaster of