How the makeup of the top 100 highest-paid athletes changed throughout the pandemic

The world’s highest-paid athletes list changes in various way every year. New athletes enter while old ones exit. Athletes secure one-time contracts, easily shooting their annual earnings over the $100 million mark, if not even higher. But amidst all of this change, professional sports have long been quite recession proof which carries high viewership throughout natural and economic disasters, and even war. But when it came to the Coronavirus pandemic, the possibility of dangerous contagion collapsed sports leagues’ matches and games. Different sports handled the financial fallout in varying ways, for example, players within Major League Baseball salaries were sharply cut, some players in British football refused pay cuts, while the Spanish football league, specifically the La Liga saw salaries drop by up to 70%!

2020 versus 2021 rankings

At the onset of the pandemic, the top 100 highest-paid athletes list featured 35 Basketball players, which was the sport from which players landed the most spots on the list. Football then took the second spot, which featured 31 players, up from just 19 from the previous year. On the other hand, for 2021, the NFL (American Football) took the highest spot, which saw 32 of its players in the top 100 list. In comparison to the previous year, Basketball saw 31 of its players featured in the top 100 list, while football (as in “soccer”!) had just 16, even lower than its 2019, pre-pandemic level. What can be seen is that the pandemic had a profound effect on the makeup of the top 100 highest-paid athletes, as well as total earnings. Depending on the methodology used and sources taken into account, the top 100 highest-paid athletes earned total earnings of around $3.6 billion in 2020, widely due to the falls in salaries and games played; whereas in 2021, according to research presented by Find Betting Sites the total earnings of the top 100 come to around $4.1 billion.

Volatile earnings, bonuses and pay checks

Athletes can get earnings resulting from pay-per-views, contracts or actually winning tournaments. So, when matches aren’t played, they can be won; and so paydays could disappear as quickly as they had initially appeared. This is really seen in the sport of Boxing where, because of the pandemic, boxers such as Canelo Alvarez and Anthony Joshua had not been able to cash in on a total of $30 million in paydays due to the cancellation of their matches.

Women in the Top 100 highest paid athletes list

In 2017, 2018 and 2019, no woman made the ranking, but in 2020, Tennis was the only sport with female athletes which made the rankings. Following the pandemic, and for the 2021 ranking, both of the same women featured in the previous year’s ranking also appeared again. Both Tennis players, Naomi Osaka at number 15 and Serena Williams at number 44 featured as top earners. Naomi Osaka’s earnings constitute a record payday for any female athlete – let’s hope to see more of this!

In conclusion

The differences between the top 100 highest-paid athletes between 2020 and 2021 are immense; very little was left unchanged. Since each sports league handled the pandemic in varying manners, such as by postponing or cancelling matches, while also cutting or keeping salaries the same, the athletes’ paydays varied significantly. Seemingly, the NFL salaries and earnings in general were maintained at pre-pandemic levels, while Football players saw immense salary cuts, like the 70% cuts as mentioned in the Spanish La Liga. The only similarity between the rankings is some similar names, like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, which both featured in the top 10 in both years, however, still only two female athletes entered the top 100 list.