By Prarthana Mitra
Among 100 sportsmen featured on Forbes’ list of highest-paid athletes for 2018, Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli is the only Indian to make the list. Ranked at 83 with gross earnings of $24 million, Kohli features on the list alongside NBA stars, tennis and soccer players on a list topped by 41-year old boxer Floyd Mayweather whose earnings stand at $285 million.
Basking in the afterglow of a recently unveiled wax statue at Madame Tussauds, Indian skipper Kohli now enjoys a privileged spot in the prestigious Forbes list.
Earlier this year the Indian national cricket board named Kohli as one of the five players to receive the new contract which guarantees an annual retainer of more than $1 million. However, Kohli’s big payday comes “off the pitch,” says Forbes, referring to the retinue of high-profile endorsement deals he has signed with brands such as Puma, Pepsi, Audi and Oakley.
Notable names on the list
40 NBA stars including regulars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant made the list this year. Argentine footballer Lionel Messi, who also plays for Barcelona is ranked second in the list, followed by Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo. Messi’s annual salary and bonus exceeded $80 million, making him the highest-paid player on the pitch this year. Ronaldo’s earnings stand at $108 million, trailing only Mayweather and Messi. Both stars have a slew of endorsement deals to further their hauls.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal feature the only racket players to feature in the top 20, which also includes notable golfer Tiger Woods.
In terms of nationality, 66 of the athletes on this year’s list are from the United States. The top 100 earned $3.8 billion, a 23% jump from last year, according to Forbes.
What can we do about the gender pay gap in sports?
However, the list is a glaring reminder about the lack of women athletes, which only serves to underscore the humongous gender wage gap in sports.
Forbes said tennis players Li Na, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams used to be list regulars until Li retired in 2014, Sharapova was suspended for the use of a banned substance, and Williams’ worth dropped from $8 million to $62,000 this year after giving birth.
Men’s leagues generate more revenue, often owing to higher ratings and attendance, which can be traced back to cultural and historical bias and a pronounced lack of support and validation for women’s sporting events. With insufficient funds and no legitimacy, it becomes difficult to demand equal pay. So, all of us switching the TV channel whenever a women’s tournament comes on is equally culpable for the all-male affair exemplified by this year’s Forbes list.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.