Forbes, an American business magazine, has published its annual ranking of the World’s Highest-Paid Athletes 2023. The list includes pretax salaries, bonuses, and endorsements for the 2022-23 season. Football, basketball, and golf players dominate the top ten list, with one representative each from boxing and tennis. Cristiano Ronaldo has topped the Forbes list for the first time since 2017 following his big-money move to Saudi Arabia. He earns a whopping $75 million per year for his on-field activities. During the time period under consideration, he earned $90 million in endorsements, appearances, licencing income, and other business ventures. This brings his total earnings to $136 million.
In one year, the ten athletes on the list earned an estimated $1.1 billion. According to Forbes, the Middle Eastern money flowing into golf and football has sports stars making more money than ever before. The oil-rich Middle East is not known for its technological innovation or industrial prowess. The majority of the countries in the region are attempting to establish themselves as service and tourism hubs. Putting money into sports helps their cause. However, this is only one side of the story. A lot of people hold the opinion that the investments are a form of sportswashing.
The Collins English Dictionary defines sportswashing as “the sponsorship or promotion of sporting events in order to enhance a tarnished reputation or distract attention from a controversial activity.” These countries host sporting events and buy or sponsor sports teams. They do this to divert attention away from violations of human rights and corruption scandals. Making so much money as a professional athlete is a validation that “do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men” (Proverbs 22:29). However, one should be watchful and consider the ulterior motives of anyone or any organisation paying so much money.