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US Olympic Gold Medalists Are Not Paid Nearly Enough

The amount of money the United States pays its Olympians for this monumental achievement is downright shameful, says Boardroom’s Shlomo Sprung.

As the Winter Olympics continue in Beijing, the world’s top athletes fight for gold on the planet’s grandest stage.

Most of the athletes have worked their entire lives for this moment — to compete for a gold medal and a memory they’ll never forget, and for the whole world to look on in awe. For most, this is the dream, the pinnacle, and the highlight of their lives.

And the amount of money the United States pays its Olympians for their monumental achievements is downright shameful.

Multiple reports indicate that the U.S. Olympic Committee, in addition to grants and benefits like health insurance, pay American athletes just $37,500 for winning a gold medal, $21,500 for a silver, and $15,000 for a bronze.

Our CJ McMahon delved into how much a gold medal is worth back in August.

To put that dismal sum into perspective, here’s how much cash other regions reportedly pay their champions for winning gold (h/t Forbes):

  • Hong Kong: $642,000
  • Turkey: $380,000
  • Malaysia: $238,000
  • Italy: $201,000
  • Cyprus: $168,000
  • Latvia: $159,000
  • Hungary: $156,000
  • Bulgaria, Lithuania: $143,000
  • Kosovo, Estonia: $123,000
  • Czech Republic: $110,000
  • Slovenia: $84,000
  • Romania: $78,000
  • France: $73,000
  • Finland, Portugal, Slovakia: $56,000
  • Chile: $54,000
  • South Korea: $52,000
  • Switzerland: $43,000
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Though the Olympics are receding in relevance in America, with U.S. TV ratings down 50% from the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, the profit made off Olympic athletes is still staggering. Despite it being the lowest-rated Olympics in the Nielsen era, NBC reported $1.76 billion in revenue for last year’s 2020 Tokyo Games — making a handsome profit off the $1.45 billion rights fee, even if you factor in additional production costs.

And yet, the USOC decides to pay its top athletes next to nothing?

The fleeting feel-good nature of Lindsey Jacobellis and Nick Baumgartner becoming the oldest pair to win gold in the debut final of mixed team snowboard cross, for example, fades considerably with the knowledge that their compensation is far less than they deserve.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported a median household income of $67,521 in 2020, well above what our gold medalists are paid. And with inflation at its highest rates in 40 years, that paltry sum is even more glaring.

Some athletes, such as Chloe Kim, will boost their income from winning gold with lucrative sponsorship opportunities, but not every Olympian is so fortunate. NBC and sponsors make so much money off of these athletes’ sacrifices that the way they’re paid for achieving world-class excellence seems exploitative in a similar vein to how the NCAA exploited and, in some ways, continues to exploit student-athletes.

The easy solution is to just pay our Olympic heroes more. These are the people children across the country and around the world will idolize. Their achievements will be transformed into posters plastered on kids’ walls, celebrated and feted in their hometowns, and promoted on TV or social media.

It’s a shame that America’s champions aren’t paid nearly what they’re worth.

It’s a greater shame that this is all too preventable and even more predictable.

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About The Author
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung is a Senior Staff Writer at Boardroom. He has more than a decade of experience in journalism, with past work appearing in Forbes, MLB.com, Awful Announcing, and The Sporting News. He graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2011, and his Twitter and Spotify addictions are well under control. Just ask him.